Thérèse, our big sister and companion in our weakness

September 26, 2023

Born at the end of the 19th century into a close-knit, deeply religious family, Thérèse Martin entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux, France, at the age of 15. There, she led a simple life of prayer and work: she looked after the sacristy, painted pictures, looked after a few novices... She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. How might her life touch us?

Thérèse is close to us because she is frail in her humanity and knows she is incapable of perfection. Intelligent and delicate, she described herself as "unbearably sensitive", and was deeply marked by the premature death of her mother. All her life, Thérèse remained vulnerable; all her life, she was aware of being weak and small. Yet nothing could hinder her "giant's race" towards holiness. How did she strengthen herself in her human and divine life? We can identify four "paths of hope" for the little souls that we are:

1- Thérèse is not afraid of her weaknesses. Instead of envying the strong, she accepted her littleness. She even understood, alone with the Holy Spirit, that each weakness she accepted and offered allowed God to draw her more deeply into his mercy: "The poorer you are, the more Jesus will love you"... "We must consent to remain poor and without strength... Let's love our littleness, then Jesus will come to seek us; however far away we may be, he will transform us into flames burning with love".

2- Thérèse is a realistic person. She understood that the imagination was a source of anguish, and that looking to the past was a trap; she clung to the present moment: "An instant is a treasure!" "To love you, O my God, I have nothing but today". She's attentive to the little joys of everyday life, and doesn't try to escape reality. When something exacerbates her sensitivity, instead of running away from it, she first welcomes it and then offers it. She likes the truth, she likes to be told things such as they are.

3- Thérèse is a conqueror. Her little path of abandonment is not one of complacency! Intelligent, Thérèse makes no distinction between trust in God and active cooperation. If she falls down, she gets right back up: "I'm not always faithful, but I never get discouraged". She knows how to take the first step, however small. One day, when asked how she managed to strengthen herself, she replies: "Let people do what I did: a great effort!”

4- Finally, Thérèse restored order between love and duty. While those around her insisted on acquiring virtues by force of habit, on justice and scrupulous respect for the Rule, she understood that formalism would only bring her temporary security, and that God was asking even more of her. Instead of looking at herself and living in constant fear of doing the wrong thing, she turned her whole life towards loving God and her Sisters: "Love can do anything; the most impossible things don't seem difficult to it". It was this "effort of love" that strengthened Thérèse from within, and sanctified her.

Read full article