Today is a feast day for St. Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower” and Doctor of the Church (due to her doctrine of “The Little Way.”) I say “a feast day” as today’s is from the Ordinary Form Calendar; on the Extraordinary Form Calendar it is October 3rd.
One of the more significant books I’ve read, and one that is I believe essential to any sober Catholic, is her autobiography entitled “The Story of a Soul.” I admit to having had great difficulty in first reading it; it took me three tries before I finally “got into it” and completed it. I’ve read it once more since. I highly recommend the ICS Publications edition of the book, especially the “Study Edition.” The Study sections opens wide the vistas of her teachings by placing things in the context of her life and times and how we can bring her “Little Way” into our contemporary lives. This book, along with St. Maria Faustina Kowalska’s autobiography “Divine Mercy in My Soul,” are mystical classics and every Catholic should read them, study them and apply their teachings. I’ve already raved about St. Faustina’s Diary before and how important it can be a to sober Catholic, “The Story of a Soul” should be right next to it on your bookshelf.
Some key points I gleaned from my reading of the Study Edition of St. Therese’s autobiography and her spirituality, based on the almost legible notes I scribbled in the back of it:
- Her zeal in receiving the Eucharist. I don’t remember at all the day I received First Holy Communion, nor the time preparing for it. For St. Therese, it was one of the singularly important Events (yes, capital “E”) in her childhood. She understood and knew that she was receiving her Saviour, all Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Him. If you ever get to feeling blasé about receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist, study her writings on her Holy Communion.
- Next to receiving the Eucharist was her devotion to adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. She found great solace in her solitude with Him.
- Her zeal in studying the catechism. The catechism in her day was the Roman Catechism, or the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Perhaps she also had a children’s adaptation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she read the primary catechism, at least after she entered the cloister. But her catechesis wasn’t just from a text such as a formal catechism; she also studied Sacred Scripture, especially the Letters of St. Paul (where she discovered her vocation). Books on the lives of the saints, especially her heroine, St. Joan of Arc, also formed her faith. The classic medieval book, “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis was important to her, so much so that she had it memorized. Stories are told in which her family would play a game; they would mention a Book, Chapter and Paragraph number to her, and Therese would correctly recite that selection. A pocket version of it was her constant companion.
- The Church Triumphant. She found great solace also in communication through prayer with residents of her Heavenly Fatherland. Not just St. Joan of Arc and other saints she was attracted to, but also her mother, who died while Therese was a child, as well as her deceased siblings (her parents had several children who died in infancy.) She received signal graces from them all, signs her prayers were heard. Heaven was real to her, a destination that life on earth was just a means to get to. It was not some hopeful fantasy. (Although she was stricken with doubts about it near the end of her life.)
- The book The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, by Father Charles Arminjon. A series of conferences or seminars given by that priest in France in 1881, the subject matter inspired a transformation in St. Therese, it “plunged my soul into a state of joy not of this earth.” Shortly afterwards she began her attempts to enter the cloister of Carmel in Lisieux. The book is available today in English. It is in print. I’ve read it. You should, too.
- Along with all of the above, the autobiography is priceless in terms of her teachings on the value of suffering, poverty and humility, all of which are wrapped up in her “Little Way.” (There are countless websites and books that explain her doctrine of the “Little Way,” I will be writing a post on it very soon after this. I intend to post it on her ‘other’ feast day of October 3rd.)
St. Therese of Lisieux is a saint for all of us. She is “little,” not impressed with the importance of secular things, she was yet another little person that God selected to shame the proud. Her “Little Way,” essentially being humble and doing ordinary things with great love and kindness, and finding God in such ordinary duties and things, is the antidote crucially needed for civilization in theses times of pride, identity and such insanity. But for Catholics who are seeking a way to holiness and a sure path to God and Heaven, the Little Way of St. Therese is the means to our ultimate destiny. By it we can all become great saints. It is also a way for us to cope with the situations afflicting the Church (any of them).
Make her your own. She loves everyone, even you, regardless of what you think of yourself. More importantly, regardless of what others think of you. She will lead you to God and help you become a saint. It is not an impossible task and she shows the way. Her Little Way is merely the Gospel of Jesus applied to everyday life. God is Love, Jesus came to do the Will of His Father, and the Little Way is how each of us can achieve that in our daily activities.
Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)