I first learned about St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus when I was 15 years old, a sophomore in a Catholic high school. In English class, her autobiography, Story of a Soul, was one of the options on our required reading list.
As I read about her love for Jesus and learned of her “Little Way” of Spiritual Childhood, I couldn’t help but admire and desire to emulate this beautiful saint, who expressed so much joy in the midst of suffering. I cheered when this young woman, who was my age, acted with such strong faith and determination and did the forbidden, speaking out when she was told to remain silent, pleading with the Pope to let her enter Carmel. I was fascinated with the poetic way she expressed herself (being a poet myself), her love for flowers, her deep insights into the faith, her strong love for God and for others, and the humor she interjected into her personal anecdotes.
When I was preparing for my Oblature with the Community of St. John 11 years ago and going through a dark night of the senses, I entered the refectory at the monastery and was met by a very large, reassuring portrait of St. Therese as a child. I soon learned that she is one of the secondary patrons of the Community, which was founded by Fr. Philippe, a Dominican priest and philosophy professor from France.
As I was losing my own “French – American” family at this time (both my younger sister and my father to cancer and to their eternal reward, later followed by the death of my mother), St. Therese was helping me surrender my losses and was leading me to another family, in many ways similar to my own. It was the family of St. John, whose main charism is that of love, in imitation of the “beloved disciple.”
Through her intercession, St. Thérèse has worked many mini miracles for me, as well as for others to whom I have entrusted to her. One of these miracles involved a dear friend, Thérèse, from my Community, who was miraculously healed of a cancerous tumor through the intercession of St. Thérèse. Her healing is described in detail in my short story, “Joy in the Midst of Suffering,” which is contained in Elizabeth Ficocelli’s anthology, Shower of Heavenly Roses.
Approximately two years ago, St. Thérèse was the subject of my Master’s thesis in theology and one of my main intercessors throughout graduate school. She is the one who encouraged me when things got tough. Thank you, dear St. Thérèse!
I want to tell you what it is a special privilege to have someone in Heaven who cares so much about our most intimate needs – someone who can speak to us so powerfully by being an example of love through her missionary spirit – the spirit of love which profoundly impacted the world from her cloistered monastery walls.
What is her secret? Therese is known for her “Little Way.” In her search for sanctity, she realized that it was not necessary to accomplish heroic acts, or “great deeds”, in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. It is her humble and simple, yet profound way of loving God through small acts of love and sacrifice offered up to Him.
She has taught, and continues to teach me, in little ways, how to love, how to trust, and how to be humble (a difficult virtue for me). She tells us: “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”
It is a formula that any one of us can follow. It is a formula that I find do-able in my life – performing little things – making small sacrifices – to draw nearer to the Heart of Jesus. I have recently discovered how important little sacrifices are in accomplishing greater things for the Lord.
For ten years, I desired to write a book, which would be published by a Catholic publishing company. Beginning in the summer of 2013, I prayed daily to St. Thérèse for this intention. I knew that by praying for her intercession in this request that the proposal I submitted would be accepted only if it were God’s will.
In January 2014, my prayer was answered and my book proposal was approved. Although I had less than one month to write the book, I knew St. Thérèse would help me with this seemingly impossible task. Once again, despite many obstacles, Thérèse was there for me, cheering me on in the midst of the madness and the uncertainty, helping me to trust in Jesus to give me the strength to get through this and to triumph in spite of my human frailties and weaknesses.
She reminds me daily how small I am and how great His tender love and mercy is for me: “What pleases Him is to see my littleness, my poverty, it is the blind trust I have in His mercy…There is my sole treasure.” She also shares: “Our Lord has shown me the way that leads to love – it is the only way that leads to love – it is the way of childlike trust and surrender; the way a child that sleeps is afraid of nothing in its father’s arms.”
Thérèse also encourages me to strive for higher spiritual goals. Through her Little Way of Spiritual Childhood, she motivates me to follow in her footsteps by offering up my work — my little everyday sacrifices– not for any merit in heaven, but for the sole purpose of love, the desire to please God. She tells Jesus: “I want to work for your love alone, with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart; and saving souls who will love You eternally.”
Copyright 2014, Jean Heimann