“What pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy.”
In the previous reflection we learned that “Manuscript B” of Story of a Soul is Therese’s masterpiece to us. It was originally written as a letter at the request of Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart, one of her own blood sisters in community. Sr. Marie recognized the unusual spiritual maturity of her younger sister and requested that Therese explain her doctrine to her once again in writing.
However, after Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart read the letter she was not only overwhelmed by its content, but she even misunderstood a very important and basic principle of Therese’s message. Lucky for us! We also have the reply that Therese quickly wrote back to Sr. Marie gently correcting her and explaining once again her “little way.”
This is perhaps the core of that reply, “What pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy” (Letters, Vol. II, p. 999).
Therese’s message to her Sr. Marie is the same message she still speaks to us today, that is, to recognize our weakness, poverty and total dependence upon God. In the world we are taught to be strong, self-reliant and strive to stand out. Therese turns all of this upside down. Her message is none other than Jesus’ message to us, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:18)
Our little saint, Therese, fully recognized and accepted her own weaknesses. She had been extremely sensitive as a child, prone to severe depression and emotional breakdowns, and had a propensity to be overly dependent on others. She was also clumsy and lacked a good formal education due to her inability to cope with being in a school setting.
Instead of giving up hope, she begged God to give her the grace to love Him in spite of her weakness, or in and through her weakness. Fully embraced, this very weakness became her means to God. She learned that to love God she had to accept herself as she was, love her littleness, and offer it up to God. “When I am weak, then I am strong!” declared St. Paul (2 Cor 12:10).
However, because she accepted her weaknesses, does not mean that she gave in to them. With patience and persistence she strove, with God’s grace, to overcome them. For example, when another nun irritated her or caused her distress, she smiled and gave a kind word, offering this small gesture of love up to Jesus, as a beautiful flower.
Since Therese did not rely on herself she could rely totally on God and abandon herself to Him as a child does in its mother’s arms. Because she loved her littleness, she was confident that Jesus would come looking for her and “transform (her) in flames of love…” (Letters, p. 999).
Lisieux, Therese of. Story of a Soul: the autobiography of St Therese of Lisieux. A new translation by John Clark. ICS Publications, Washington, D.C.: Third Edition Published, 1996.
______________. The Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux and Those Who Knew Her: General Correspondence, Volume I (translated by John Clarke)
______________. The Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux and Those Who Knew Her: General Correspondence, Volume II (translated by John Clarke)
______________. St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations (translated by John Clarke)
______________. The Prayers of St. Therese of Lisieux (translated by A. Kane)
______________. The Poetry of St. Therese of Lisieux (translated by D. Kinney)
Funk, Sr. Mary Margaret. Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life. New York: Continuum, 2001, 102-107.
Funk, Sr. Meg. What is Prayer?: A Reflection on Therese of Lisieux, Part 1. November 5, 2007. http://megfunk.com/entry.php?id=2
Funk, Sr. Meg. What is Prayer?: A Reflection on Therese of Lisieux, Part 2. April 15, 2008. http://megfunk.com/entry.php?id=3
Chowning, Daniel. Sleeping Jesus, Sleeping Therese: the Prayer of St. Therese. July 6, 2008. http://www.megfunk.com/entry.php?id=34
Chowning, Daniel. The Little Way. July 9, 2008. http://www.megfunk.com/entry.php?id=37