Saturday, 1 October 2011

St Therese - Little before God

St Therese of Lisieux, whose feast day is celebrated today, is one of my favourite saints; her message continues to be as relevant as the Gospel.  Unfortunately, her 'little way' is often presented in a pious manner that robs it of its depth.

St Therese’s approach to the Christian life could be named as a spirituality of imperfection. She was a woman who experienced profoundly her own powerlessness, the reality of human brokenness. Therese suffered not only great physical pain during her short life, but also mental anguish coming from her sensitive personality. She could so easily have ended up an obsessed neurotic.

Persistent experiences of her weakness put her in the position either to despair of wholeness and holiness or to surrender herself entirely to the Lord. In the light of God’s mercy, she came to grasp the truth that God is not concerned about the limitations of being human, but about love.

As she sought to open herself fully to love, Therese was ruthless in recognising religious vanity. She resisted the narcissism of self-absorption. To a novice who spoke of her desire for more strength with which 'to practice virtue' Therese answered: 'And suppose God wishes to have you as feeble and powerless as a child? Do you think that would be less worthy in God's eyes? Be content to stumble, or even to fall at every step; consent to bear your Cross feebly. Love your weakness. Your soul will draw more profit from that than if, sustained by grace, you vigorously performed heroic deeds which would fill your soul with self-satisfaction and pride.'

For Therese her imperfections became an essential part of her life with God. Instead of being obstacles, they were a privileged place to experience the powerful compassion of Christ. She was content to be little, vulnerable and open before the living God.

There is no despising or belittling of weaknesses in self or others because God does not belittle or despise.