The Little Flower Teaches Us
Following are choice selections from the life and writings
of St. Therese of Lisieux, dearly loved and known by all
as “the Little Flower”.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face was proclaimed a Doctor of the Universal Church on October 19, 1997.
She gives a simple example to all of us; that we can all achieve a closer union with God through our small everyday offerings to Him- as St. Therese calls it, her “little way”.
“After My Death I Will Let Fall a Shower
St. Therese interrupted a Sister who was speaking to her of the happiness of Heaven, by these sublime words: “It is not that which attracts me.” “What is it, then?” asked the Sister. “O! It is Love! To love, to be loved, and to return to earth to win love for our Love! One evening when Mother Agnes of Jesus went to the infirmary, Sister Therese welcomed her with an extraordinary expression of joy: “Mother!” she said, “some notes from a distant concert have just reached my ears, and there has come to me the thought that soon I shall be listening to the sweet melodies of Paradise. This thought, however, gave me only a moment's joy, for one hope alone makes my heart beat fast—the love I shall receive and the love I shall be able to give! I feel that my mission is soon to begin—to make others love God as I love Him ... to teach souls my little way ...”
“I Will Spend My Heaven in Doing Good
“This is not impossible, for the Angels keep watch over us while they enjoy the Beatific Vision. No, there cannot be any rest for me till the end of the world—till the Angels shall have said: ‘Time is no more'. Then I shall take my rest, then I shall be able to rejoice, because the number of the elect will be complete.”
“And what is the ‘little way' that you would teach?” asked Mother Agnes of Jesus.
“I want to point out to souls the means that I have always found so completely successful, to tell them there is only one thing to do here below—to offer Our Lord the flowers of little sacrifices and win Him by our caresses. That is how I have won Him, and that is why I shall be made so welcome.”
“It Is the Way of Spiritual Childhood,
the Way of Trust and Absolute Self-surrender”
"How can a soul as imperfect as mine aspire to possess the plenitude of love?
“O Jesus, my first, my only Friend, You Whom I love solely, tell me what the mystery is. Why do You not reserve these measureless aspirations to great souls, to the eagles flying in the upper air?
“I see myself as a feeble little bird, with only a light down to cover me; I am not an eagle, yet I have an eagle's eyes and an eagle's heart, for in spite of my extreme littleness, I dare to gaze upon the Divine Sun, the Sun of Love, and my heart feels within it all the eagle's aspirations.
“The little bird wants to fly toward that radiant Sun which charms its eye; it would imitate the eagles, its brothers, as it sees them mounting up to the Divine Fire of the Blessed Trinity. ...
“Alas! All it can do is to lift up its little wings, but to fly—that is not in its small power.
“What will it do? Die of grief to see itself thus impotent? Oh, no! the little bird will not grieve at all. With reckless abandon, it wants to stay gazing upon its Divine Sun; nothing can affright it, not wind, nor rain, and if dark clouds come and hide the Star of Love, the little bird does not move, it knows that beyond the clouds its Sun shines still, that its radiance is not for a single instant eclipsed.
“Sometimes, of course, the little bird's heart is beaten upon by the storm, it feels as if it believed that nothing exists save the clouds wrapping it round. ... Then is the moment of perfect joy for the poor feeble little creature. What happiness for it to stay there just the same; to gaze steadily at the invisible light which stays hid from its faith!
“Jesus, so far I understand Your love for the little bird, for it has not gone away from You. ... But I know, and You know too, that the imperfect little creature—though it stays where it is (that is under the rays of the Sun)—does let itself be distracted a little from its sole business, takes a little grain on this side or that, runs after a small worm ... again it finds a little pool of water and wets its barely-formed plumage; it sees a flower that pleases it, and its little mind is occupied about the flower. ... In a word, not being able to soar like the eagles, the poor little bird still bothers with the trifles of this earth.
“But even now, after all its misdeeds, the little bird doesn't go and hide in a corner to bewail its wretchedness and die of contrition, but turns to the Sun, its Beloved, presents its little wet wings to its kindly rays and ‘cries like the swallow'; and in its sweet song, it confides its infidelities, tells them in detail, thinking, in the audacity of its total trust, to win in greater plenitude the love of Him ‘who came not to call the just but sinners,' ...
“If the adored Star remains deaf to the plaintive twitter of its little creature, if it remains veiled by cloud ... in that event the little creature stays wet, it accepts to be numb with cold, and rejoices in the suffering, which of course it has deserved. ...
“O Jesus, how happy Your little bird is to be feeble and little! What would become of it if it were big? It would never have the boldness to appear in Your presence, to sleep before You. ... Yes, for that too is a weakness of the little bird. ... When it wants to gaze upon the Divine Sun and the clouds keep it from seeing a single ray, its little eyes close in spite of itself, its little head is hid under its little wing, and the poor little thing sleeps, still fancying that it is gazing upon its dearest Star! When it awakes, it is not all desolate, its little heart stays at peace; it resumes its task of love; it invokes the Angels and the Saints who mount up like eagles toward that consuming Fire, which it so much desires. And the Eagles take pity on their little brother, protect it, defend it, and put to flight the vultures that would devour it. These vultures are the demons, and the little bird has no fear of them; it is not destined to become their prey but the prey of the Eagle it contemplates in the very center of the Sun of Love.
“O Divine Word, You are the adored Eagle, I love You, and You draw me to You. It is You, descending into this earth of exile, Who have chosen to suffer and die to draw souls to the heart of the eternal Fire of the Blessed Trinity.
“It is You, ascending again to the inaccessible Light which is ever after to be Your dwelling-place, Who remain still in the valley of tears under the appearance of a White Host. ... Eternal Eagle, You will to nourish me with Your Divine Substance, me, a poor little thing who would return to nothingness if Your Divine gaze did not give me life from instant to instant ...
“O Jesus! Let me, in the excess of my gratitude, tell You that Your love reaches the point of folly! In face of this folly, how could You not want my heart to leap upward to You? How can my trust have any limits?
“Ah! For You, I know, the saints have committed follies too; they have done big things, because they were eagles. ... Jesus, I am too little to do big things, and my folly is to hope that Your Love may accept me as a victim. ... My folly consists in begging the eagles, my brothers, to obtain for me the favor of flying upward to the Sun of Love with the Divine Eagle's own wings.
“As long as You will, O my Beloved, Your little bird will remain without strength of wings; it will stay with its eyes fixed upon You, its desire is to be fascinated by Your Divine gaze, to become the prey of Your love. One day, so I hope, adored Eagle, You will come for Your little bird, and mounting with it to the Fire of Love, You will plunge it for eternity in the burning Abyss of the Love to which it has offered itself as victim. ...
“O Jesus! Why can I not tell all little souls that Your condescension is beyond utterance ... I feel that if, by an impossibility, You found a soul feebler and smaller than mine, You would take delight in showering upon it favors greater still, if it abandoned itself with entire trust to Your infinite mercy. ...
“But why desire to communicate Your secrets of love, O Jesus! Was it not You alone who taught them to me, and can You not reveal them to others? Yes, I know it and I conjure You to do it, I beg You to bend down Your Divine gaze upon a great mass of little souls; I beg You to choose in this world a legion of little victims worthy of Your love! ...
“Jesus has no need of books or of teachers to instruct our souls. He is the Doctor of doctors and teaches without sound of words. I have never heard His voice, yet I know that He is within me. Every moment He guides and inspires me. He shows me, just when I need them, truths that before were unknown to me. Generally it is not during the hours of meditation that I become aware of them, but in the midst of my daily occupations.
“My Beloved teaches my soul; He speaks to it in silence and in darkness.
“St. Therese in this hour show your power.”