Daily Reflection
October 1st, 2002
 Andy Alexander, S.J.
University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Memorial, St. Therese of the Child Jesus  -  Isaiah 66:10-14c; 1John 4:7-16; Matthew 11:25-30 or 18:1-4.
Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23
 Psalm 88:2-3, 4-5, 6, 7-8
 Luke 9:51-56

I feel drawn, by a grace deep within, to reflect upon the life of Thérèse of Lisieux, the "Little Flower".  Her "little way" of holiness attracts me so much today.  Her compelling life and simple message seem to fit so wonderfully with the cry of Job and the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. 

How is it that this simple, young nun, who admitted that she almost always fell asleep during community prayer, was named the third woman Doctor of the Church by John Paul II, along side Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena?  How could it be that someone who describes herself as such a difficult person, and who seemed to have so many difficulties with those around her, became the co-patron of missionaries with Francis Xavier?  How did this woman, whom so many thought was a whiney, self-absorbed, spoiled princess, become the person so revered by her family and community, and regarded by many as one of the great saints of the 20th century?  Why did thousands gather, in city after city around the world, just to see the small casket with her remains?

With Thérèse, as with so many great saints, the mystery is revealed in her simple embrace of the gospel of Jesus.  She heard his invitation to follow him to Jerusalem and she said, "yes."  She saw, through the powerful grace of God, that the journey for her would be the journey of surrender of self to God.  Her powerful missionary witness of her companionship with Jesus was to smile when her spirit felt dry as dust and she was not able to pray.  Her revolutionary embrace of the Gospel was to be kind to the crabby sister next to her, who treated her badly.  To put it most simply, her little way of holiness was to give herself over completely to love.  Joy after joy filled her heart as she discovered the truth of Jesus' words: she found herself in dying to herself.

She is a saint for people of simple faith that leads to heroic love.  Though almost everything about her life is different from ours, she is a saint for us today.  She is a challenge to me as I struggle with how impatient my vulnerabilty leaves me.  She is a model for us in our marriages when all we can do is die to self more, and love the other more self-less-ly.  She is a delightful inspiration to all of us who grow weary of trying "new" ways to get something out of prayer.  She just fell in love with Jesus and found so much joy in loving others.

She learned that love doesn't work in the midst of self-pity, conditioned by a concern for my needs.  She discovered that she wasn't loving while she was upset that others weren't loving her the way she wanted to be loved.  Love simply means love.  The more she let herself be just a "little flower" she was no longer envious of others.  At peace with herself - loved by God and in love with Jesus - Thérèse gave herself over to loving, in the simplest of ways, holding nothing back.

Imagine if we tried to love more completely today.  For today, let's leave our "what about me?" questions behind.  Today, let's try to love the self-absorbed or wounded person closest to us.  There must be somone in our day who is insecure and feels very small - so he/she barks like a dog and tries to look tough or manipulate others with power-stuff.  Let's love that person by simply understanding their pain, their journey, their need for love and healing - without any demand or expectation of anything in return.  Thérèse certainly didn't get good at it in a day, but perhaps if we try to love each day, God's grace will bless our desires to love, and we might find our way to the joy of her little way.

Taken in 1896.
"Jesus set before me the book of nature. I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. So it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be."

The Society of the Little Flower has a short version of her life story and many quotes from her writings.

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