Today (Oct 1) is the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, popularly known as the "Little Flower." Though her spirituality is derided by some contemporary Catholics for being saccharine and sentimental, her "little way" of doing small things with great love holds enormous appeal to millions of believers, who find in Therese a companionable presence. She is arguably the most popular of all modern-day saints, beloved by people as diverse as Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day (who penned a moving book about her), Pope John Paul I (who called her a "steel bar," for her resolve) and John Paul II. Here is my favorite of passage from her autobiography, "The Story of a Soul." Using the image of the garden, she reminds us that all of us are loved by God in our marvelous particularity.
"Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be."
Happy feast day to all our Carmelite sisters and brothers, and to all those who walk the "little way" to God.
James Martin, SJ