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PRAY | THE ‘LITTLE WAY’

St. Thérèse of Lisieux saw even that the smallest of actions could be lifted to God as a prayer

St. Therese of Liseux
Photo Credit: Illustration by Abigail Witte
“My whole strength lies in prayer and sacrifice, these are my invincible arms; they can move hearts far better than words, I know it by experience.” — St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Known for simplicity and practical approach to the spiritual life, St. Thérèse of Lisieux understood from an early age the importance of prayer, which was manifested through her “Little Way.”

Marie-Francoise-Thérèse Martin was born in Alencon, France, on Jan. 2, 1873, and baptized two days later. She felt an early call to religious life, and after overcoming several obstacles, she joined the cloistered Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy, at the age of 15.

In her life as a Carmelite, St. Thérèse often felt incapable of the tiniest charity, the smallest expression of concern and patience and understanding. So she surrendered her life to Christ with the hope that He would act through her. In her prayer life, St. Therese said it was her conversations with God that dominated her prayer life:

“I have not the courage to force myself to seek beautiful prayers in books; not knowing which to choose I act as children do who cannot read; I say quite simply to the good God what I want to tell Him, and He always understands me,” she wrote in her autobiography, “Story of a Soul.”

St. Thérèse translated her “Little Way” through a commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives. She saw her assignments at the convent as ways of manifesting her love for God and for others. She worked as a sacristan by taking care of the altar and the chapel; she served in the refectory and in the laundry room; she wrote plays for the entertainment of the community. Above all, she showed a love for all the sisters in her community.

She gave of herself even to the difficult members. For example, an older nun was known for making clacking noises in the chapel. The noises bothered St. Thérèse, but rather than growing frustrated, she made a concert out of the clacking and offered it as a prayer to Jesus.

St. Thérèse died from tuberculosis at the age of 24 on Sept. 30, 1897. She was canonized on May 17, 1925, and named a Doctor of the Church in 1997. Her feast day is celebrated Oct. 1.

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