Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897) was a Carmelite nun in Lisieux, Normandy. She had been devoted to Jesus since childhood and convinced her father and Church authorities to allow her to “take the veil” at age 15. She died of tuberculosis at age 24, but not before revealing simple yet profound wisdom about loving God. In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared this “Little Flower” a Doctor of the Church.
Thérèse discovered, for all of us, that any person can please and love God, through the smallest and most insignificant means. We don’t have to be big and important and heroic. We simply have to give God our love, and trust God to love us. This little way to spiritual maturity has opened up a grand thoroughfare for people longing after an authentic experience with God. . . . She was just a young nun with stars in her eyes for Jesus. Here’s a person we can walk alongside, a person to whom we can confess our own fears, weakness, and immaturity. (The St. Thérèse of Lisieux Prayer Book, by Vinita Hampton Wright, Paraclete Press, 2008).
At the urging of her Mother Superior, Thérèse wrote her autobiography, which at first circulated only among other convents and monasteries but within a few years of her death had been translated into at least nine languages and soon was known worldwide. Here are some quotes from The Story of a Soul:
How sweet is the way of love! Of course one may stumble and be guilty of small faults, but love, able to draw good from everything, will very quickly destroy all that displeases Jesus and will fill one’s heart with a deep and humble peace.
For me, prayer is an upward rising of the heart, it’s a simple glance toward heaven, it’s a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trials as much as in the midst of joys. In short, it’s something big, something great, something supernatural that expands my heart and unites me to Jesus.
How happy God makes me! It is so pleasant and easy to serve Him during this life. Yes, I shall always go on saying that He has given me what I wanted, or rather, that He has made me want what He wishes to give me.
If all the weak and imperfect souls felt what the smallest of all souls feels, the soul of your little Thérèse, not a single one would despair of arriving at the top of the mountain of love, since Jesus does not ask for great actions, but only for abandonment and gratefulness.
So you see, Mother, what a very little soul I am! I can only offer very little things to God. These little sacrifices bring great peace of soul, but I often let the chance of making them slip by. However, it does not discourage me. I put up with having a little less peace, and try to be more careful the next time.
It’s not Martha’s works that Jesus blamed. Those works are the ones His divine Mother humbly accepted to do her whole life, since she had to prepare the meals for the Holy Family. It’s only the anxiousness of his eager hostess that he wanted to amend.