I didn't always like St. Therese. I'm embarrassed to admit it but she kinda bugged me, you know? Despite the fact that my very own mother chose her as one of my patrons via my middle name it was hard for a long time for me to feel any sort of friendship with the well known little French girl. Growing up I didn't know much about her except that she was called the Little Flower and had something to do with roses and that was enough to repel a self avowed tomboy such as myself. It was in college that I finally started to learn a little more about her other than her association with tossing floral arrangements from the heavens. And I still didn't like her. I couldn't shake the idea that she was kind of a spoiled brat. She admits in her own biography how her father considered her "his princess" (ugh.) and that she pretty much got whatever she wanted. Oh, I felt bad that her mother died but I just didn't click with this girl who had servants and a doting father and was the stereotypical baby of an upper middle class family. That wasn't me.
Until she got me. I finally read her biography The Story of a Soul the first time and was entertained but still borderline annoyed by it.
I read it again and enjoyed it.
I read it again and identified with it.
I read it once more and reveled in it.
This "little way" she described, her simple way of holiness finally stuck with me. And now more than ever I thank God that He can make a simple and spoiled little girl like me holy.
My life isn't glamorous. It is not a life I ever would have envisioned for myself as a young girl who idolized Nancy Drew and MacGyver and Dana Scully. I was going to do big things and see big things and experience big things and be a big thing. I would impress people, all right. After I had my reversion to the Faith I simply applied that drive toward holier pursuits. I would still do big things but now they would be for Jesus.
God took me somewhere else. He took me to a little life of mothering and homeschooling and spending the majority of my time in a little suburban cloister. It was here that He wanted me to become holy. Here, where there is no glamour, no accolades, no fame, no glorious martyrdoms. Here in this little place God presents me with the opportunity to become holy in little ways. Just like her.
St. Therese was like that. Her burning desire was to be either a missionary or a martyr, preferably both. She longed to do big things for Jesus. Yet God called her to spend the entirety of her short life in a convent becoming holy through the little way. Even picking a piece of paper off the floor, if done with great love, the little saint says, can be an opportunity to unite ourselves to our Father. The little everyday tasks, the small mortifications, the normal boring chores - those things we mothers have plenty of - those are our chances to become a saint. And to sainthood we are most definitely called.
The little things matter. This is especially true when it comes to the vocation of motherhood where the little things affect the most vulnerable among us. There seems to be a trend responding to the ugly and divisive mommy war (oh my, I hate myself for using that term) that swings to the other extreme. It doesn't matter. As long as it works for you (with no real definition of what "works" means), it's all good. But our goal is not just survival or finding the path of least resistance to what "works" (though there is totally a time for that and lessons to be learned there as well). Our ultimate goal is sanctity. What works is what gets us to heaven.
It was a little French nun who taught me that the little things are important for they are my path to sanctity, the path to Love. The nursing of the baby at 3 a.m. The seventh diaper change of the day. The patient response to the toddler who walks and puts his shoes on ever so slowly. The smile at the little boy who is
pounding on practicing the piano while mama is trying to blog. The choice to spend more energy making a nourishing meal. The choice to not make that healthy meal once in a while and treat them to something special. The deliberate and thoughtful process when making birthing/feeding/schooling/discipline choices for our children always erring on the side of love. Even the most mundane of choices can be an opportunity to live love. That is, of course, not to say that all of our lives and decisions will look exactly the same but simply that every one of those decisions can be an invitation to live love and become holy. It is okay to sweat the small stuff because for a whole lot of us little unglamorous people it is the small stuff that will make us like Him.
I like her much more now. Instead of a spoiled young French daddy's girl, I see a spoiled American suburban mom who has so very far to go in this journey toward heaven but one who has been given a surefire way to get there however little and unglamorous it may be. I see a woman who can teach me a thing or two about how to love the ones He has given me and who gives me hope that even a spoiled American suburban mom? She can become a saint, too.
St. Therese, pray for us.