Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Little Flower

"Thérèse of Lisieux is the patron saint of people with AIDS, aviators, florists, illness(es) and missions."  (An odd mix indeed!) According to one of her biographers, Guy Gaucher, after her death, "Thérèse fell victim to an excess of sentimental devotion which betrayed her. She was victim also to her language, which was that of the late nineteenth century and flowed from the religiosity of her age." Thérèse herself said on her death-bed, "I only love simplicity. I have a horror of pretence", and she spoke out against some of the Lives of saints written in her day," We should not say improbable things, or things we do not know. We must see their real, and not their imagined lives."

I always regarded devotion to "the Little Flower" as a sign of soppy piety, but can accept Gaucher's analysis as a reason to look beyond my gut reaction and take her insights more seriously.  These are some of her thoughts I agree with.

"Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles, surrounded by a crowd of illusions, my poor little mind quickly tires. I close the learned book which is breaking my head and drying up my heart, and I take up Holy Scripture. Then all seems luminous to me; a single word uncovers for my soul infinite horizons; perfection seems simple; I see that it is enough to recognize one's nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God's arms. Leaving to great souls, to great minds, the beautiful books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because 'only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.' "

"For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. . . . I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers.... I do like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me." 

"O Father in Heaven, Who through St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, dost desire to remind the world of the Merciful Love that fills Thy Heart, and the childlike trust we should have in Thee, humbly we thank Thee for having crowned with so great glory Thine ever faithful child, and for giving her wondrous power to bring unto Thee, day by day, innumerable souls who will praise Thee eternally.

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, remember thy promise to do good upon earth, shower down thy roses on those who invoke thee and obtain for us from God the graces we hope for from His infinite goodness. Amen"


  1. I have always found St. Therese to have some kind of weird mythology surrounding her. I understand why people seem to be drawn to her, but every story I have ever read of her life (mind you, I have never read Story of a Soul) she always comes across as an impertinent child.

    Maybe that's the draw of any of the Saints, though, they're all wonderously flawed people who happened to be able to attain holiness. I guess there's hope for us all!!

    I did take Theresa as my confirmation name, so I do hope she's praying for me anyway!!

  2. I printed this 2 years ago on Therese:

    "We have grown used to the idea that just as there are people with talents for sport or scholarship, and the rest of us can only admire them without trying to keep up, so there are people with a talent for holiness and heroic virtue, and the rest of us can only bumble along as best we can. We can’t do better because we’re not designed to do better, so there’s no point in trying. We sink into a consoling mediocrity.

    Thérèse wrecks this. She was physically weak and psychologically vulnerable. For her the great saints were giants, they were inaccessible mountains, and she was only an “obscure grain of sand;” but she was not discouraged. St John of the Cross taught her that God can never inspire desires that cannot be fulfilled. The Book of Proverbs told her, “If anyone is a very little one, let him come to me.” If you only look, Scripture is permeated with images of our littleness and weakness with respect to God, and of his care for us in our insignificance."

    Thérèse’s “Little Way” means taking God at his word and letting his love for us wash away our sins and imperfections. When a priest told her that her falling asleep during prayer was due to a want of fervour and fidelity and she should be desolate over it, she wrote “I am not desolate. I remember that little children are just as pleasing to their parents when they are asleep as when they are awake.”

    Still seems right - especially her feeling of insignificance. And Teresa suggests to me the far more robust Carmelite lady of Avila - a very different kettle of fish indeed!