A Gem of a Book: Trusting God with St. Therese

Trusting God is easier said that done, at least for me. I always seem to think I know better. Or that I can do it myself, which puts me at about the same level as my three-year-old.

Over the years, I’ve become quite a St. Therese fangirl, though I will admit that I struggle sometimes. Her Little Way doesn’t seem little in terms of effort or difficulty. Her philosophy trumps me. And yet I keep coming back to her.

So I was intrigued by Connie Rossini’s new book Trusting God with St. Therese (Four Waters Press). Rossini seems to be a highly practical person, so I didn’t expect a lot of flowery advice that I won’t be able to follow anyway.

In the first chapter, she says this:

[This book] is geared toward people who are already doing the basics of following God, but who want something more. People who want to be saints. And it is written with the average reader in mind, not scholars or theologians.

Until a short time ago, I too was overwhelmed by the number of things I had to think about in my vocation and in my spiritual life. I was angry, fearful, disappointed, and distraught. I expected my way to be smoother. I expected to reach higher stages of spirituality more quickly. I did not know how to get out of my rut.

Then I began to focus intently on trusting God. What did St. Therese teach about trust? More than that, how did she live it out? How could I take her example, the example of a nineteenth century Carmelite nun, and apply it to my life as a twenty-first century wife and mother?

Rossini manages to make St. Therese, the great Doctor of the Church, into someone accessible, and she does it in part by sharing her own story in conjunction with Therese’s. Suddenly the Little Flower becomes not just a saint who either bordered on whiny or who was so perfect I stand no chance of being inspired, but someone who I can turn to in prayer and maybe even hear speaking to me as I read about her.

Are we weaker than Therese by nature? Only God can answer that question. In the early stages of following God, it’s difficult for us to understand how weak we are. We think we can do anything, now that we’ve decided to follow him. We don’t understand why the people around us are still struggling with sin. We grow impatient with them. We judge them for their abrasive personalities and annoying habits. We imagine we are so strong!

But we will not become saints that way. We need to acknowledge our weakness and littleness and see them as assets, not detriments, to holiness. The littler we are, the easier it is for Jesus to pick us up and carry us.

Whether we struggle with anger, fear, sadness, or worry, each gives us the opportunity to own our need for God. Each time we are tempted by uncharitable thoughts about someone, or wish we could avoid them altogether, we have an opportunity to grow in humility and trust.

At the end of each of the 13 chapters, there are reflection questions that would be ideal if you were using the book for a study group or even for journaling inspiration. Rossini has also included at least two, and sometimes as many as four, practical suggestions at the end of each chapter, too. For example, on the chapter about facing fears, we’re given these practical suggestions:

  • Choose a quote to memorize from below one of the chapter headings of this book. Make sure it is one that speaks to your particular anxieties and fears. Repeat it to yourself throughout the day as needed.
  • Pope St. John Paul II began his pontificate by proclaiming, “Be not afraid!” Read a short biography of him. Meditate on the many ways he resisted fear: in traveling all over the world, in forgiving his would-be assassin, in confronting communism, in facing sickness, etc. How can you follow his example?

Reading about Rossini’s experiences through the lens of St. Therese was inspiring, true. Beyond that, though, it also motivated me to consider how my own experiences can be viewed in light of the saints who impact and inspire me.