“Do You See What I See?” – St. Teresa of Liseux : A Friendly Saint
I met her many years ago in a small chapel in a Carmelite convent school. She stood on a pedestal at the side altar. After all, she was the “little” St. Teresa. The main altar was reserved for the “big” St. Teresa. The little one I was told was from Lisieux, France, while the big one was from Avila, Spain.
The chapel was out of bounds for us day students, except on special occasions, but I found myself quietly climbing the stairs to pray in silence. I was a young student following the curriculum to the best of my ability. However, the seeds sown in that chapel have sprouted flowers over the years, and she, I am sure, has been taking care of me all this time.
The saint who has touched my life is called the “Little Flower,” and is that name ever appropriate for her! In twenty four short years, she blossomed and bloomed where she was planted, even as she suffered intensely. Reading her autobiography The Story of a Soul has taught me the value of being simple and humble.
The stories I heard of this saint awakened in me a desire to know more. Thérèse was the youngest of nine children born to devout Catholics, Louis and Zélie Martin, on January 2, 1873 in Alençon, France. Her mother died when she was only four years old, and soon afterward her family moved to Liseux. Her father and four older sisters loved her dearly.
Raised in a religious atmosphere, she wanted to be a nun at a young age, and this desire intensified when her sisters Pauline and Marie became Carmelites. At just fourteen, she was adamant about entering the convent, and went all the way to Pope Leo XIII to allow her to enter when she was only fifteen years old.
Her determination has impressed me, because she had the ambition to become a saint.
Back then, I was an ordinary girl racing to school dressed in a cream coloured blouse, dark brown skirt, and dreaded maroon tie. While struggling to be a good girl, I realized that there was hope for me, because Thérèse’s sanctity was ordinary, but she did everything with love. She wanted “to love, to love Jesus with great passion,” and that rubbed off on me.
Over the passage of time, I have become more aware of how Thérèse experienced this love through the Gospel, God’s living word: “I only have to look at the Gospels, immediately I breathe in the fragrance of the life of Jesus and I know which path to take.” Reading, studying, and running Scripture courses have enriched my life as I grow in the love of God.
Thérèse’s keen desire to be a missionary in Vietnam was not realized, but from her cloistered home she prayed in her “little way,” and is now Patron of the Missions.
In my youth, I too had big dreams of doing missionary work in Africa, but God had other plans for me, and I now minister to the elderly through music, and evangelize in small ways.
What is astonishing to me is that this young woman is a Doctor of the Church! Hidden in her Carmel, she was a contemplative who intimately knew Christ’s love.
As I pray to her each morning, I echo Ephesians 3:18-19, that I may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length and height and depth, and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that I may be filled with all the fullness of God.
She who experienced the “dark night of the soul,” has helped me through some rough patches.
When the Lord seemed absent, she had to live on pure faith alone, and I have learned to do likewise. Jesus showed her a special road to divine love, and she called that road Surrrender.
As I unwrap the gift of each new day, I try to surrender, as my friend in the Lord did so faithfully.
A few years ago, I was in anguish because my father needed more care than his retirement home could offer, and had to be moved to a long term care facility. Late that night I opened Ralph Martin’s “The Fulfilment of All Desire” at random, and began reading.
Suddenly I smelled a fragrance in the bedroom. So I went to my dresser to check my perfume bottle. It was closed! I came back to my book puzzled. Then it dawned on me, the passage I happened to be reading, was the one describing St. Thérèse’s last moments on earth.
She was comforting me with the smell of roses. I was soon at peace, and my father’s situation was shortly resolved.
To pray with depth was a big learning curve for me. It was easy to rattle off prayers. However, I began to follow her example, for prayer to St. Thérèse was “an impulse of the heart; a simple glance at Heaven; a cry of recognition and love.”
I have discovered the power of praying always from this wise, friendly mystic, who forgave those who deliberately hurt her. St. Térèse’s promise to “let fall a shower of roses” on those who call on her, has prompted me to repeatedly say, “Little Flower, in this hour, show your power.”
She must be smiling every time she hears that! Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and Thérèse is a way leading me to Jesus, a truth reflecting the Gospel, and a life that witnesses to the Resurrection.