St. Thérèse of Lisieux is undoubtedly one of the Church’s most cherished saints. All of the saints are precious to us, but there are things about the Little Flower that makes her personable, relatable, and understandable. One could write volumes about her – indeed, there already are volumes written about her. Right now, however, I’m thinking of three things in particular that we can learn from her an implement in our own lives

First, a question. Why is St. Thérèse known as the “Little Flower?’

She saw herself as like the simple wildflowers in forests and fields. They’re often unnoticed by others, yet they grow and give glory to God. She saw herself as simple and hidden, but blooming where God had planted her.

In her autobiography, “Story of a Soul,” she wrote:

Jesus set before me the book of nature. I understand how all the flowers God had created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. So it is in the worlds of souls, Jesus’ garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when he looks down at his feet. Perfection consists in doing his will, in being what he wills us to be.

And so what can we learn from the Little Flower?

 

Childlikeness

In referring to herself, St. Thérèse used the image of a child’s ball. She yearned to be the little plaything of the Child Jesus. “I told him not to use me as a valuable toy children are content to look at but dare not touch, but to use me like a ball of no value which he could throw to the ground, push with his foot, pierce, leave in a corner, or press to his heart if it pleased him.”

The Little Flower’s childlikeness was a mature one, born of great strength, self-surrender, and selflessness. Her childlikeness was tested and purified in the hard struggles of life, a heroic sanctity. From her childlikeness sprang her “Little Way,” her method of doing the ordinary things with extraordinary love. Additionally, St. Thérèse’s prayer life was uncomplicated. Instead of long involved prayers, she preferred to speak plainly and directly to God and Mother Mary.

 

Joy

The Little Flower rejoiced in her imperfections, embracing them as a means by which she could draw closer to God. For this, she used the image of an elevator. In her imperfections, she was too small to climb the stairway of perfection and so she needed an elevator – Jesus’ arms – to raise her up.

Despite her advancing tuberculosis, St. Thérèse maintained unaffected cheerfulness, using puns, tricks, mimickings, and jokes about herself and the doctor’s inability to help her as a way of bringing cheer to others. Her concern was for the pain of others rather than her own.

 

Love

St. Thérèse didn’t just love, she loved “unto folly.” Her love for God and for others had no limits; she lived for Jesus alone.

In “Story of a Soul,” she wrote:

It seems to me that if all creatures had received the same graces I received, God would be feared by none but would be loved to the point of folly; and through love, not through fear, no one would ever consent to cause him any pain.

In her childlike, joyful love, St. Thérèse truly became the Little Flower. She left her “Little Way” as a testimony and also as an example for us to follow as we make our own little way to the arms of Jesus.