I'm so little, I missed the Day of the #LittleWay on Feb 4, 2014. Two Catholics from Image Books designed a Twitter campaign to share small stories of faith from Carmelite Saint, Therese of Lisieux. I promised I'd help do promotion on my blog but somehow misremembered the day as Feb 7.
This is so typical of being a Carmelite. I'd be even more embarrassed if I hadn't read the encouraging words from Bishop Patrick Ahern, author of "Three Gifts of Therese of Lisieux," who forgot to attend his own retirement party because he was so busy chatting with a friend in his apartment!
We are all little! We all make mistakes. We all fall sort of our goals. We all let people down that we love. St. Therese of Lisieux "gets us." She says "stop wearing a hair shirt and start embracing your own poverty as a Catholic." When we embrace the embarrassing flaws (mine is forgetfulness!) we are authentic. Our littleness invites God to come into our lives and love us.
I'm a Carmelite who studies St. Therese's autobiography, "Story of the Soul" with scholarly monks at the main American monastery in Washington DC. I opened my free copy of "Three Gifts of Therese of Lisieux" by Patrick Ahern with a bit of snobbery. "St. Therese is a friend," I thought. "I understand her best in her original words. What have I got to learn from this book?"
I was wrong! I became so absorbed into this book from the first page of the Introduction. In fact, I was 15 minutes late to photography shoot because I started reading this book at 5:45 AM and never looked back at my bedroom clock for over an hour. This book is that good! If you are already friends with the Little Flower, please buy this book. This book is written by a New York Bishop. He is so honest about his spiritual journey, I felt like I gained a new friend.
The Bishop also puts St. Therese's life in a context that makes her spirituality more accessible to others. One of the things that I thought about Therese was that she was raised in a "perfect family environment." Both her parents are recognized saints. I felt a little distant from that experience. The Bishop, who has alcoholism in his own family, talked about the severe trials Therese faced before her mother died at age 4. In my own words, the Bishop makes a persuasive cause that Therese suffered an attachment disorder from multiple maternal loses. ( In a basic summary, Therese was sickly and sent away from her mother for long periods of time as an infant. Then her mother died of breast cancer when she was 4. Then she loses two older sisters who were both maternal figures to the Carmel convent at key points in her adolescent development).
I was so moved by the chapter titled "The Wounded Psyche." Suddenly this Saint, who seemed so removed from my own childhood with her own perfect Catholic family background, seemed very similar to me. St. Therese words "All is grace" and "Confidence Always" meant more to me. Her extreme trust in Jesus was hard won. She's trustworthy as a Doctor of the Church because her early childhood experiences where not a seamless attachment to an everlasting God the Father. In our modern society, so many of us are wounded emotionally. St. Therese gives us hope that where we start out spiritually as young adults is not where we need to end up. She is a friend who can help us all heal!
If you love, St. Therese of Lisieux, please buy this book. If you've ever wondered about "what all the hoopla is about", please buy this book too.
All is grace!