St. Thérèse teaches us that the littleness of our hearts is the catalyst that impels us toward the adventurous path of self-abandonment.
As I sat in prayer gazing at the framed picture of one of my favorite saints, Thérèse of Lisieux, a thought arose through my silent offering, “Gentle the soul, gentle the way.” This sentiment clambered its way toward my opened heart, and peace ascended upon my devotion.
The little way of a saint whose sweet gentleness radiates forth through the simplicity of a heart imbued with humility and self-abandonment into loving arms of the Father’s mercy. Her gentle littleness reflected an almost childlike innocence that was void of grandeur, yet this never became an obstacle. It propelled the saint to spread gentle waves of God’s love to little hearts like mine.
What I feel appeals to most is her simple approach to the spiritual way—unlike fellow Carmelites St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross—she never experienced such states of contemplative rapture or visions. She was a saint that we could easily relate to on many levels, an accessible modern saint for modern life whose little way ascended far beyond the confines of cloistered walls. She revealed that the Spirit’s indwelling presence is very much available despite life’s unruly waves.
St. Thérèse writes, “I will teach you how to travel…on the stormy sea of the world: with surrender and the love of a child who knows his Father loves him and cannot leave him alone in the hour of danger…The way of simple love and confidence is really made for you.”
St. Thérèse teaches us that the littleness of our hearts is the catalyst that impels us toward the adventurous path of self-abandonment. She reminds us that to make spiritual progress, one must descend to ascend; for God to increase, I must decrease. As soon as God sees us convinced of our nothingness, he stretches out his hand to us.
God’s love for us is tender and merciful. It lovingly enwraps our incompleteness within his infinite love. God desires the soul to abandon itself to love, like a little child who expects unconditional love from his mother or father. This is the basis of St. Thérèse’s teachings that over the past 20 years continues to appeal to my spiritual journey, but also has echoed through millions of hearts. I have no doubt her influence will reach future generations to come similar to the early desert fathers, whose teachings are still relevant today.
God’s timeless love emanates through the instruments of past saintly souls that cannot be diluted by the changing seasons of time.