When I think of a female saint I generalize that she 1) started a religious order, 2) lived a long life of evangelical holiness which 3) converted everyone around her to a devoted life of Catholicism, and 4) had a real-life, visible halo.
Isn’t there a saying about assuming too quickly?
St. Therese of Lisieux, whose feast day is celebrated October 1, was different from the saintly construct I fabricated in my head. She never started a religious order and never went on a mission trip. She didn’t have the pope on speed dial (or whatever they used back then), and her name was barely known around her Carmelite convent. Yet she lived a life overflowing with love and humility.
Therese joined the Carmelites at 15 years old and began to wonder how she would spread love in this cloistered environment…. What were you doing at 15? Hiding your MySpace? Me too. Therese writes, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show love?” She began to make small sacrifices of spreading flower petals where she walked and smiling at sisters she did not like. Her vocation “was to love,” and she carried her vocation out with anonymous humility.
Therese was not the evangelical with a microphone standing in the Wal-Mart parking lot, she didn’t write blogs that led people to the light, and she didn’t even mean to write a book. She was simple, humble, anonymous. In a world of Facebook and Instagram and the desire to post a picture of my coffee because the froth looks like a dinosaur, being anonymous is tough. We want the credit we deserve and the fame we desire… and the “likes” on our pictures. Therese encourages us to think otherwise. When she died at 24, no one around the convent really mentioned her name. Her inspiring minimalism whispers to us that we are here to love, not necessarily to be loved. She wants us “to love until we die of love.”
Let us take on each day with the simplicity and humility of Therese, “missing no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”