Thursday, September 21, 2006
Saint Therese of Lisieux
I first heard of St. Therese when my brother in law, a very devout Roman Catholic, came to RI on a pilgrimage from Texas to try and convert the rest of the family. Most of his siblings had left the Catholic faith on becoming adults and he had apparently received a vision or a calling to drive here and try and convert them back. As I was a non-believer, I was on the conversion list, too.
He had a series of photos he had taken of a concrete block he found in his yard with an iron cross embedded in it. It was a sign, he said. He told us about a town in Eastern Europe where some kids had seen images of the Virgin Mary. He told us about St. Therese. And he told us, at the dining room table of my house, that Catholicism was the only option if we wanted to go to heaven.
A fight broke out.
I went to hide in the kitchen.
My husband's family is a very stubborn and can be, shall we say, emphatic, about their opinions.
This incident occured at least 10 or 11 years ago. Since then, I was peripherally aware of this 'Little Flower' who had somehow managed to be canonized. I had heard about her, mostly in comparison with the 'Big' Teresa (of Avila) whose works I have read.
Sometimes God whacks me over the head with things. With the little flower, it was more gentle. A mention of her here... a comment about her there. My Spiritual Director recently suggested that the little flower might handle a situation in a certain way. A few weeks later I found out that Mother Teresa had named herself for her.
So, when I went to the church supply store to pick up a card for Fr. P's installation, I bought the "Story of a Soul" a slim autobiography which is the only writing St. Theresa did. And unlike most of the mystical writings I have attempted of late, I actually finished this one, in record time. I couldn't put it down. (And, incidently, Fr. P, your card wound up being my bookmark, which is why it hasn't arrived yet. I will put in the mail today and when you get it, you now know that it has been on a journey through St. Therese's book with me!)
Whenever I have read any spiritual treatise, the thing that always blows me away is that I can usually relate to something of what they say. I read and say, oh, I know what she is talking about. Or, yes, I have had that happen. With the little flower, I found myself nodding at every page. Yes. I understand this. I have felt that. I want to be more like that. It isn't that I am a saint in the making. No, indeed, just the opposite. It is that the saints are so... normal. At least in the sense that if you have any kind of interior life with God, it might very well look something like the relationship that someone else has with God. So, what feels profoundly unique to me is actually not that unique after all. Saints seem to be normal folks who have put their relationship with God at the very center of their lives. Which is really what all Christians aspire to, isn't it?
I loved reading The Story of a Soul. It reminded me that in my life, there are many opportunities to offer things to God. It reminded me that I can let go of many of the things which I used to find important and focus on the one thing that really IS important. And it gives concrete examples of how to do it.
This 'little' book packs a big punch.