Deacon Stu Dobson’s Reflection
October 1, 2021
Friday, Oct 1, 2021, 26th Friday in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St Therese of Lisieux
Is 66:10-14c, Ps 79:1b-5, 8-9; Mt 18:1-4
Today is the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as the St. Therese of the Child Jesus, or the “Little Flower.” St. Therese is known for her writings, especially the “Little Way” which was the basis of her spirituality. The Little Way was inspired by her meditation on the scripture verse from today’s Gospel, “unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Regarding this verse, she said in her autobiography: I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way – very short and very straight little way that is wholly new. We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection. […] Thine Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To get there I need not grow. On the contrary, I must remain little, I must become still less. St Therese worked hard to perfect this attitude, and in fact would often rely on it during times of frustration and anger. It allowed her to have peace in her life even during the most arduous persecution or belittlement.
Born January 2, 1873, her parents were told she was so sickly that she would probably not survive. She was given over to a nurse to take care of her and at 15 months old was well enough to go back with her parents. Her parents themselves had lost several children previously, so they had prepared for the worst. Yet, Therese was a strong-willed child and was able to survive. Therese was the youngest of five surviving daughters and over time all five of them would become nuns.
When St. Therese was 4 ½ years old, her mother died of breast cancer. Therese took this very hard. At around nine years of age, her older sister, Pauline, entered the Carmelite convent at Lisieux. Therese had considered Pauline like a second mother and when she left, it left a hole in Therese’s heart. Therese then approached the Carmelites for permission to enter the convent, but at nine years old, was told she was too young. After all, but one of her older sisters, who was taking care of her father, had entered the convent, at around 15 years old, Therese was finally allowed to join. She entered the convent on April 9, 1888.
It was during her time at the convent she developed an even more intense desire to pray for those needing mercy and forgiveness. She had already prayed for a murderer who seemed to show no remorse. Therese prayed feverously for him and at the guillotine, God showed the man mercy, and he kissed the crucifix three times before his death. Therese took this as a sign to pray even more for those needing to be saved. Therese’s final years were marked by a struggle with Tuberculosis. She died on September 30, 1897, at 24 years old. On her deathbed, she is reported to have said, “I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me.” Her last words were, “My God, I love you!”
There is so much more about St Therese’s life to know and understand. We could spend hours learning and discussing her life. This is just a very short tidbit of that life. St Therese is also one of the doctors of our church and I encourage you to search out more about her life and her spirituality. How great it would be, if we all could end our life with the last words she spoke as well, “My God, I love you.”