St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus (of Lisieux) died, a victim of tuberculosis, at the age of 24 on September 30, 1897. Every year her Memorial is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church on October 1st. She was later named a Doctor of the Church because of her extraordinary spiritual insights and witness to God’s love for us.
Those drawn to her life and spiritual perceptions desire to know the basics of her “Little Way” to union with Jesus. Many desire to understand her procedure to “the arms of Jesus'” love before they read her short autobiography entitled The Story of a Soul.
John Nelson in his excellent book and fine introduction to the Little Way of St. Thérèse provides us with some very helpful steps. He says, “The core elements of the Little Way are:
- Joyful humility as a little child of God [that is, understanding of the need for our awe of God, and persistent love of God and neighbor; our willingness to work and pray to achieve the virtue of humility];
- Bold confidence in God’s mercy and loving kindness;
- Tranquil trust in the actions of God’s limitless love;
- Persistence in prayer as a simple raising of the heart to God;
- Daily practice of the little way of love.”
He continues,“The Little Way to spiritual health is that of a child of God who humbly welcomes its utter inability, weakness, and poverty as a little one.”
The phrase “little one” refers to the person as a spiritual child that needs to learn from Jesus as they continually seek to be embraced within His loving arms.
The soul that commits to this process “…is boldly confident in its total dependence on the goodness, limitless love, and action of its Heavenly Father. Such a child of God desires only His Will, and to live solely through love [of Jesus] and for love” [of God and neighbor].
“Since love drives out fear [fear is the foundation of all anxiety], it never fears the justice of God, knowing that He comes to save His little ones.” (all quotes above are from the book by John Nelson, The Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux – Into the Arms of Love. Liguori Press, 1997).
As a Carmelite nun, St. Thérèse of Lisieux lived an extremely virtuous life of humility, evangelical simplicity, and trust in God. Besides her contemplative prayer, and communal obligations, she devoted her short life to teaching these virtues to the novices in her community.
The late 15th century contemplative, Thomas à Kempis, in his masterpiece on spirituality and the path to God, The Imitation of Christ, also helps us understand how to put the “love” that St. Therese speaks of into practice: “A good deed done without love goes for nothing, but if anything is done for love, however small and inconsiderable it may be, every bit of it is counted. God considers what lies behind the deed, and not what is actually done” [that is, accomplished]. (Book 1, section 15, page 48; edited by H.C. Gardiner, S.J.; Doubleday Image Book, 1955).
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