Monday, March 16, 2009

The "Little Way" of Therese of Lisieux Part IV by Sr. Kathy Smolik, OSB

Learning the “Little Way” as a Prayer Practice

On September 26, 1897, just four days prior to her death this conversation between Therese and one of her sisters took place:

(Sr. Genevieve) said to her…: “You will look at us from up there in heaven, right?” (Therese) replied spontaneously:

“No, I shall come down!” (Therese, p. 228).

And an anonymous nun reported, “We asked her what name we should call her when we prayed to her in heaven”:

“You will call me little Therese,” she answered humbly (Therese, p. 270).

We have many saints in our Christian tradition to serve as role models for our own sanctification. St. Therese had a great desire “to spend her heaven doing good on earth” and made a specific promise to return after her death to assist those of us who need help in deepening our relationship with God and Jesus. But the most important lesson we can learn here is not “about” Therese; the lesson is to actually learn and practice her “little way of love and confidence” ourselves.

In this reflection we will learn a prayer practice that will enable us to love and serve Jesus better. This teaching will be especially helpful for anyone who needs help in managing his or her emotions and feelings. We can learn to notice our feelings and let them become the prayer by offering them up to Jesus.

Training the Mind and Heart

The following is a teaching from one of the nuns here at Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Sr. Meg Funk. The full teaching can be found on her website

There is story after story of conversions. Many priests and sinners attribute their new life of apostolic love to some connection with St. Therese. Her “Little Way” of using ordinary consciousness of feelings and relationships is prayer.

Now, lest this practice of the “Little Way” be just one more theory about prayer let me provide an example from life here today at Our Lady of Grace Monastery:

Today is the anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. Beech Grove is having a vigil but it seemed better to me if we have one here along with Vespers. So, I went to the Prioress who was not home. Then, to the presider who said to go to the Liturgical Director. I went to the Liturgy Director who said, “no” as it was the feast of St. Joseph and we had bell practice after Vespers that makes a long evening. So, I felt my anger rising and asked if at least we would have a petition to end this war incorporated into today’s Vespers.

I realized that in a monastery I should have started the planning earlier and that the horarium is set and sealed, but we did have a vigil four years ago to pray for peace. Now, that is the setting, but let me factor through with this real incident the practice of the “Little Way” as the prayer:

* I did not get my ego-idea met and felt angry.

* I expressed my anger to Sister Harriet, but then apologized as she was just expressing her view.

* I felt badly on several counts . . . no vigil, my anger expressed, causing dissention around the very issue of peace, etc.

* I now offer my feelings about the situation, all of them, and refrain from a lot of analysis.

* The feelings are the prayer for peace.

* I feel weak, powerless even over my own emotions so how to stop a war!

* I take those very feelings and send them to Our Lord as Little Flowers and ask them to be the prayer for peace.

*I offer my sad, angry feelings about the war and my causing stress around here trying to initiate a vigil at such a late date as my prayer for peace.

*I exchange my emotions as substitution for those who are suffering in this war.

*I call on St. Thérèse to intercede for me on behalf of this prayer so that my energies of anger are transmuted into prayer for those who are victims of this war.

* I offer these flowers (emotions) as many times as they rise and as many times as I feel them. It feels like a steady chant of offering, this “Little Way” that becomes a prayer.

* I refrain from any self-centered thoughts about how to justify my anger or to take parts of the war picture and restart my anger.

*I use this way of being little as a prayer of sacrifice knowing in faith that God hears my prayer.

*In faith I know that my practice of the “Little Way” really is more effective than if I got a large Vigil service planned and executed to our usual perfection. God knows me better than I know myself.

Conclusion: The "Little Way" is a practice that becomes prayer when made into one's way of life. Prayer is lifting up the heart to God.


Therese of Lisieux. Her Last Conversations. Translated by John Clarke, OCD. Washington D.C.: ICS
Publications, 1977

Funk, Sr. Mary Margaret. “What is Prayer: A Reflection on Therese of Lisieux, Part 2.” April 15, 2008.

No comments: