In honor of two newly canonized Saints, Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, I have for you a special letter. Written by the daughter of these two saints to a spiritual mother.
I have thought a lot lately about St. Teresa’s beautiful description of her little way. I can relate to St. Teresa when she describes herself as “a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passersby”. The inspiring part is that she chooses not to be discouraged, instead she finds her little way. Lets break down what she describes.
“God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint.”
Becoming a saint, living in holiness, takes determination. It does not happen by accident. Without thought we are tossed in the waves of our culture as St. Paul describes in Ephesians. We need to have perseverance and focus. In our humility we see ourselves for what we truly are but we can also aim towards what we can be. With God all things are possible. If you are reading this and feel like you are so far from sainthood, know that you could never be too far. Set your eyes on the prize.
“It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new.”
Find the small things you can do. Sometimes we see the saints and think we have to be big and do grand things like them in order to be holy, writing magnificent pieces of work, literally losing our life for Christ’s sake, or leading huge groups of people. While these are all great things that some may be called to, the truth is many more people reach sainthood through little ways. We know these people in our own lives. I am sure you can name a few. Their life is full of the simple things that bring them close to Christ. Don’t let the big things stump you up. Keep your focus and take baby steps.
“It is your arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven,”
Oh what a beautiful picture. This little way looks like peace to me. What do you think St. Teresa practically means when she describes being in Jesus’ arms? Living in prayer, resting in Jesus, making him your home, choosing Jesus in a simple child like ways? I imagine my little Anna running into my arms and burying her head in my chest. She does this move when she is joyful, scared, disappointed or just about any other emotion. She asks me to pick her up, not questioning whether I can, with absolute trust. This excerpt reminds me of both the fact that I need to be fully reliant on Christ and that burying myself in Christ’s arms provides peace on a road toward holiness.
“And so there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must stay little and become less and less.”
So there it is: become less. If you feel small, that is okay. Run to Jesus and own your smallness just like St. Teresa did. Be the saint you are made to be. I can almost hear St. Teresa reciting the words of St John the Baptist here. “He must become greater, I must become less.” A practical way I am trying to live this out lately is summoned up in a phrase, sparkle with self-forgetfulness.
So today I pray for God to give me the wisdom to know what truly matters and to shed all the excess that is not letting me be less. The world is telling me all the time that I need this, that, or the other thing. I am surrounded by advertisements and shiny pictures of other people’s lives. So much so that I am more passionate than ever to find the little way that brings me to Jesus. Our paths toward heaven all may look different, taking different adventures and different ups and downs, but ultimately as we walk towards the end there is one door, the man Jesus Christ.
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