Note: I will be gradually expanding this blog to better reflect my own passions in life and so Tolkien will continue to be a main feature, but many other topics will be discussed that are dear to my heart.
“And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He willed to created great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these 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.” – Saint Therese of Lisieux
This quote from Saint Therese of Lisieux’s autobiography, Story of a Soul, gives great comfort to struggling souls. When we look at the lives of so many saints, like Saint Maximilian Kolbe or Saint Ignatius of Antioch, we see such heroism that it is easy to be discouraged. Most of us will never suffer martyrdom, which usually strikes fear within our hearts. Yet, the “little flower” teaches us a different way, the “little way” of perfection which “consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.” The “little way” is one in which some are called to be great “Lilies and roses” while others are called to be simple “daisies or violets.” Saint Therese shows that sanctity is possible to achieve as long as we follow God’s will and simply be what “He wills us to be.” In this post the “little way” of Saint Therese will be examined and encouragement will be offered to the soul who thinks he cannot attain sanctity. In the end, Saint Therese will demonstrate to the pilgrim soul, that it does not take heroic deeds to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but that perfection lies in being simple and trusting in God’s mercy.
The Beauty of a Garden
First, some are called to be great saints, while others are called to be simple. Saint Therese compares the variety of souls in the world to flowers in a garden. She relates how the different flowers within a garden all contribute to its beauty. Also, she states that, “if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with the little wild flowers.” Consequently, God desires to see great beauty when He looks down upon earth—the beauty found in a variety of souls. This is consoling, for it means that God does not require all souls to be identical. Rather, God is generous to both the great saints and the little souls, to whom He “lower[s] Himself” and shows His “infinite grandeur.” He is like a gardener who cares for each flower and is “occupied…with each soul as though there were no others like it.”
Saint Therese further expands upon this idea when she is struggling over what God is calling her to be. Saint Therese relates how she felt the “vocation of the WARRIOR, THE PRIEST, THE APOSTLE, THE DOCTOR, THE MARTYR.” Yet, while she felt all these desires, that was not what God wanted from her. Instead, God wished her to be perfect in “doing His will.” What that consisted of was not the grand heroic deeds of the great martyrs and doctors of the Church. What God truly wanted from this “little flower” was to be “LOVE.” She understood that “LOVE COMPRISED ALL VOCATIONS, THAT LOVE WAS EVERYTHING. THAT IT EMRACED ALL TIMES AND PLACES…IN A WORD, THAT IT WAS ETERNAL!” At last Saint Therese discovered her vocation and so she “found [her] place in the Church.” This is a great consolation as it shows that all are not called to be warriors or martyrs. Instead, we must all discover what God is calling us to be, which could be something simple, like the vocation of a husband or a teacher. What matters is not the apparent “greatness” of the vocation, but that we accomplish what God asks of us. For Therese, God had asked her to be “love” in the “heart of the Church” and she fulfilled that vocation from the solitude of a little monastery in France.
Lastly, it is important to know that in the “little way” Saint Therese is honest about her weaknesses, which gives strength to the soul who thinks he cannot become a saint. Saint Therese recounts that she is “far from being a saint,” because often she will be found sleeping “during [her] hours of prayer and [her] thanksgivings after Holy Communion.” Yet, even amidst her weaknesses, she is able to surrender herself to God and present to Him those very shortcomings. In doing so, Saint Therese recognizes that true sanctity does not involve being free from every fault, but humbly admitting that we are “too little to perform great actions” and abandoning ourselves to the Infinite Mercy of God, becoming a “little Victim worthy of [His] LOVE!” Thereby, instead of attaining Heaven by our own strength, like St. Therese, we beg our Father, “the Adorable Eagle [to] come fetch me, Your little bird, and ascending with it to the Furnace of Love, You will plunge it for all eternity into the burning Abyss of this Love to which it has offered itself as victim.”
A “Little Way” For All
To conclude, Saint Therese of Lisieux’s “little way” is a path to perfection attainable by all. Instead of relying upon our own strength to attain Heaven, we allow God to work within our souls. In place of a desire to be a great saint and being disappointed, Saint Therese teaches the pilgrim soul to simply be “what He wills us to be.” In addition, the pilgrim soul should realize that to accomplish the will of God, it means discovering our place in His garden, being content to be a daisy or violet at the feet of the Gardener. In the end, the “little way” offers great consolation to the pilgrim soul suffering in this place of exile and is a sure path to sanctity for anyone who wishes to be immersed into the unfathomable abyss of God’s infinite love.