Inspirations along the way

33 Days to Merciful Love – The Little Way of St. Thérèse

I highly, *highly*, recommend Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Merciful Love, which is a consecration to God’s Divine Merciful Love following the spirituality of St. Thérèse and her “Little Way.”

I first came across St. Thérèse very soon after my conversion to Catholicism over thirty years ago. I discovered “The autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux” in a Catholic bookstore. I had no idea who she was, but the book seemed to leap out at me. I knew immediately that I wanted to read it, and so I did.

Thérèse’s writings were the most spiritually beautiful I had ever come across, a claim I make still even to this day. I love the writings of all the saints, but none ever stole my heart the way Thérèse’s did (and still does). There was only one problem I had with her book. I did not understand it. I knew that what she was saying was true. It was truth. I knew that it was beautiful. It spoke of beauty itself. Yet, I did not understand it. But I wanted it.

There began my journey with St. Thérèse along what I call the Trail of the Dogmatic Creed to the great Kingdom of God on the horizon. Eventually, she developed her thesis around another great saint (who was not yet canonized in Thérèse’s day), one who inspired her to new heights, Joan of Arc. In fact, Thérèse said that she considered Joan of Arc to be one of the greatest graces in her life, a sentiment I certainly share with my celestial sister. Unwittingly at the time, I found myself walking with two sisters and patronesses along the Trail, Joan and Thérèse. The only problem was, again, I did not understand. I wanted to take this trail, but I did not understand it. I simply let them guide me by the hand along the narrow but panoramic Trail, as we crossed rushing streams, peaceful meadows, and treacherous rivers toward the majestic mountains in the distance. I trusted even though I did not understand.

Joan of Arc 1.11
St. Joan of Arc, our faithful patroness and celestial sister.

Reading Fr. Gaitley’s book has helped me to understand even a little bit more of Thérèse’s Little Way. I am sure I will never grasp it fully, but this book has given me crucial insights that have opened my heart even more to the truth she speaks, which is nothing more than God’s Truth.

In brief, Thérèse’s Little Way is that of being ordinary, doing ordinary things, and living an ordinary life but with extraordinary faith, hope, and love. I have been living the Little Way all along, all these years, but did not recognize it. My life is ordinary in the footsteps of Thérèse. However, through the heart of St. Joan, my faith, hope, and love are extraordinary, or, at least they are extra-ordinarily more than they used to be. All this time journeying with St. Joan and St. Thérèse, and I only now see that this mighty duo has formed in my ordinary life the way of extraordinary faith, hope, and love. That has been the “Trail” to which I so frequently refer.

I still do not understand fully. To this day, and I hope continuing into eternity, I travel in trust with St. Joan and St. Thérèse. But I now understand just a bit more. I captured in poetry this notion of trustful surrender to God through Joan and Thérèse even though I seem incapable of fully grasping their magnificent holiness. I figured that if I cannot be as they are, if I cannot grasp what they grasp, if I cannot attain their holiness, then I will simply “tightly hold their hands” and let them carry me upward as Jesus lifts them up. I will arrive to Heaven’s gate as a stowaway. And this is “my” little way, that is, to reach to tightly hold their hands.

I reach to tightly hold their hands

Saint Joan of Arc and Saint Thérèse
Are gifts from God through Mary’s hands
I did not know the great extent
Nor just what Jesus really meant
When first Our Lady He bestowed
A love for her in me that flowed
Until I could not hold inside
The movements of this graceful tide
To love her so, I asked Him please
For pureness and humility
In me those things do not exist
Most sins I never could resist
So, Jesus sent as Mary said
Saint Joan of Arc and Saint Thérèse
To offer me in charity
A little of their own, you see
How could our mighty Lord now frown?
When Mary shows Him my new crowns
Shared by these saints who love me so
Who pulled them from their treasure trove
The best of all these graces be
To live in spiritual poverty
Though empty in myself I know
I walk with sweet and holy souls
As Jesus lifts them high, so grand
I reach to tightly hold their hands

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