At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Yesterday Oct. 1 was the feastday of St. Therese of the Child Jesus aka the Little Flower! She has had a wonderful influence on me and is one of my closest friends.
Therese was born in Alençon, France in 1873 to Louis and Zelie Martin (both of whom will both be beatified on October 19th, 2008). She was the youngest of and was very dear to her father. When she was four years old her mother died of breast cancer. Pauline, her 2nd eldest sister became mother to her.
After Pauline left for the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux, Therese became ill almost to the point of death. She completely recovered when a statue of Our Lady smiled at her.
On Christmas 1886, Therese received a special grace of conversion. Subsequently she wanted to enter the Carmelite monastery at the age of 14, but was told that she was too young. Her father took her on a pilgrimage to Rome. While in Rome, she found the holy audacity to ask the Pope if she could enter. Pope Leo the XIII smiled at her and told her that she would enter but she should obey the superiors’ decision. Soon after that, the local bishop authorized the Carmelite prioress to receive Therese as a postulant at the age of 15.
As a Carmelite nun, she led a very seemingly ordinary life behind the cloister until her death at the age of 24. On the morning of Good Friday 1896 she was bleeding from the mouth due to tuberculosis. She suffered much before she died on September 30, 1897.
St. Therese is one of the most beloved Saints of the Catholic Church. A few years after her death, Pope Pius called her the greatest saint of modern times. What made her great? It is very simple – her greatness lies in her littleness.
The elevator had just recently been invented when St. Therese wrote that she was looking for a spiritual elevator that would take her to the heights of heaven. She was well aware that she could not climb the stairs (the great deeds of the great Saints) because she was too little to do so. The elevator? Jesus. And dependence on him. “Apart from me you can do nothing”. Jesus Himself was her greatness. She knew that he would carry her to the heights of heaven.
As a little child is dependent on his parents for everything, St. Therese was dependant on God for everything. That is the basic idea behind spiritual childhood. Not childishness but childlike trust and confidence in the Father. St. Therese knew that at the Foot of the Cross that God became her Father, her brother—in Jesus, and her every need—the Holy Spirit. There too, Mary became her very own mother.
St. Therese believed with all her heart in God’s great love for her and in her love for him. So consumed with Love she was transformed into love by Love. The smallest of deeds became great by the love put into them…even greater when she did not feel like doing them at all. St. Therese offered everything to God and when she had nothing to offer, she would offer that ‘nothing’.
Please read her autobiography, written under obedience, Story of a Soul. It will change your life!
I end this post with two excerpts from a prayer she wrote, an act of oblation to Merciful Love made on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, June 9th 1895:
Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Saviour and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness, begging You to look upon me only in the Face of Jesus and in His heart burning with Love.
In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved! Time is nothing in Your eyes, and a single day is like a thousand years. You can, then, in one instant prepare me to appear before You.