Memorial of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus,
Today is the feast of Thérèse of Lisieux.
She died at 24 of tuberculosis, unknown to anyone but her family and her
sister Carmelites. “The Little Flower” became a household name and
the most popular saint of the 20th century a very short time after the publication
of her autobiography, which she had written at the request of her directors.
Her story exposed her extraordinary spiritual insight that she brought to
a life that was by any standard ordinary. Thérèse of
the Child Jesus offers up spiritual ideals that are realistic and attainable.
Millions of people become aware of the possibility of ordinary people becoming
saints. At the heart of her “little way” is the powerful metaphor that
in our relationship with God, we are very small children. In fact,
it is essential that we never try to be anything else. In all other
aspects of our lives self-reliance, control and worthiness are hallmarks
of our growth and rightly so, but not in our relationship with God.
Thérèse tells us surrender not achievement is what our lives
should be about. Jesus tells the would-be disciples in today’s Gospel
that there is a cost to discipleship. For a disciple, family, society,
even their own comfort and very lives must be subordinate to God’s plan.
I think it is very informative to look at the similarities in the words disciple
and discipline. They come from equivalent Latin roots meaning ‘to learn’
and ‘to train’ respectively. (Not punishment as we westerners are prone to
think.) By disciplining our will to the will of God we become disciples.
Ordinary people are called to be disciples, but we must accept with the full
trust and confidence of little children that all that we need to accomplish
our task will be provided for us.
Thérèse ardently desired to be a missionary. Though she
never traveled outside of France, she was one, to the point that she could
be proclaimed patroness of the missions. Jesus himself showed her how
she could live this missionary vocation: by fully practicing the commandment
of love. Thus she achieved what Vatican Council II emphasized in teaching
that the church is missionary by nature (cf. Ad Gentes, No. 2.) Not
only those who choose the missionary life, but all the baptized are in some
way sent ad gentes.
St. Thérèse, help us to hear the Word of God, to be
changed by the Word of God, to be directed by the Word, empowered by the
Word, making a difference in the world through the love that IS the Word.