This quote, from St. Thérèse of Lisieux, is written in blue ink on a small square of paper at my desk at work. I tacked it up a few months ago, next to another quote that I had heard on the radio around the same time as I read that: “The grass is always greener where you water it.”
I’ll leave that second quote for another column.
Before reading about St. Thérèse of Lisieux, I had never really felt any kind of connection with any saints. I was actually asked recently who my favorite saint was by someone teaching a religion class for young kids, and I didn’t have a good answer. Granted, much of that is my fault for not being terribly educated about our many saints — other than the saint I chose for confirmation, St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline order — but some of it is also feeling a great distance between them and myself. How can I be as virtuous or brave as the great martyrs of our faith history? I’m not holy enough to perform miracles.
But that’s what I love most about St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Her way, “the little way,” is an inspiration I can grab onto in my own search for holiness and hopefully my ultimate journey to heaven.
I pulled that quote on my desk from The Way of Trust and Love, a retreat guide written by Father Jacques Philippe that leads the reader through St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s writings chapter by chapter each night, exploring the ways she tried to live out God’s call to holiness in her very short life. It’s a goal she said is achievable to all because God does not present challenges we cannot meet.
She chose the little way.
“So I have always stayed little, having no other occupation than that of picking flowers, the flowers of love and sacrifice, and offering them to God for his pleasure,” she wrote.
Never at any point when reading about this young woman, who has been recognized as a saint even though she only lived to age 24, did I feel intimidated by her or her strides toward holiness. I should have been, probably, given her intense spirituality for such a young woman and knowing I have a long way to go before reaching that myself. She did become a nun at 15.
Rather, I found her little way so inspiring — albeit more difficult than it sounds — and something I wanted to think more about every day. Hence, the quote made it onto the desk divider at work.
Perhaps my favorite part about St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s little way is her recognition that we are not perfect and that we will make mistakes on the journey to holiness, but if we stay humble (or little) we won’t have as far to fall.
“[Being little] means not being discouraged by our faults, because children often fall over, but they are so little they don’t hurt themselves badly.”
Anna Jones is a writer who lives in New Haven. She and her husband are members of the St. Thomas More Chapel and Center Community at Yale University.