This brief description the little way of love of St. Therese of Lisieux, commonly known as the Little Flower, so perfectly captures the saint’s personality and central focus that they are read every year on her feast day, October 1.
Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St. Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.
I persevered in the reading and did not let my mind wander until I found this encouraging theme: Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others [I Cor 12:31]. For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.
When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognized myself in none of the members which St. Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favorably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation.
Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.
Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.
For a reflection on St. Therese’s Way of love by one of the 20th century’s leading Catholic theologians, read Hans Urs von Balthasar on THE LITTLE WAY OF St. THERESE
For another reflection by St. Therese herself, read her recollection of her FIRST HOLY COMMUNION
These words from the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux, are an excerpt from the Autobiography of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (Manuscrits autobriographiques, 1957, 227-229). This excerpt appears in the Roman Office of Readings for the memorial of St. Therese on October 1.
Banner/featured image by Zeina Kassem on Scopio. Used with permission.