Live in the Moment Like the Little Flower
St. Thérèse of Lisieux reminds us that peace starts with a simple smile.
The modern world, for all our astounding technological advancements that purport to make our lives easier, more convenient and more connected, often feels like a complicated, chaotic place. We, as a nation, are experiencing higher rates of anxiety and depression and greater alienation than previous generations. Something has been lost. But what is it? And how do we get it back?
As I point out in my new book, Woke-Proof Your Life, the more our country abandons the Christian values and traditions America was founded upon, the worse our collective mental-health crisis becomes. Though this observation may be apparent to the faithful flock, what to do about it remains a daunting question for many.
As we celebrate her feast day Oct. 1, let us invoke St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose “Little Way” is perhaps more relevant now than ever, reminding us that making a big difference often begins with something as small and simple as smiling at someone.
It is easy, with the omnipresent news cycle spouting stress-inducing sensationalism, social media inciting a 24/7 war of words, and our fast-forward culture incessantly sparking new debates, to feel overwhelmed and defeated by the spirit of division that pervades our society. Yet the Little Flower urges us to turn from the fruitless distractions that assault our senses and instead abandon ourselves to Jesus’ love with the confidence of “the little child who sleeps without fear in its father’s arms.”
We must remind ourselves constantly that the devil, whose very name, diabolos, is rooted in the Greek word meaning “to divide,” does his best work amid chaos. When we feel our hearts and minds growing anxious, let us strive to adopt the habit of St. Thérèse, who was a pioneer of the trendy “live in the moment” ethos: “If I did not simply live from one moment to another,” she said, “it would be impossible for me to be patient; but I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future.”
As we make it a habit to slow down and set aside quiet moments in which to commune with God, St. Thérèse instructs us also to ask Our Lord for the strength to be leaders of love.
“You must practice the little virtues,” she said. “This is sometimes difficult, but God never refuses the first grace — courage for self-conquest; and if the soul corresponds to that grace, she at once finds herself in God’s sunlight.”
Following St. Thérèse’s advice means that the gloom and doom that sometimes seem inescapable will give way to Christ’s light. Free from the false fears perpetrated by modern culture, we can focus on what truly matters: asking Jesus, as St. Thérèse did, to help us “to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be and becoming that person.”
To learn to lead a life focused on loving Our Lord by serving him and our neighbor, St. Thérèse is again a fountain of timeless wisdom. She recognized her nothingness without God — a feat that is especially challenging in a social-media-driven culture that encourages everyone to seek followers, “likes,” “viral moments” and “influencer status” online. Yet what St. Thérèse reveals to us is that by humbly embracing our defects, acknowledging our complete childlike dependency on God, and handing over our wills to the one who created us, we are freed from the meaningless pressures the world places upon us.
“It pleases him to create great saints,” St. Thérèse wrote, “who may be compared with the lilies or the rose; but he has also created little ones, who must be content to be daisies or violets, nestling at his feet to delight his eyes when he should choose to look at them. The happier they are to be as he wills, the more perfect they are.”
When we read headlines and observe disheartening behavior that appears rampant in our world, it can be tempting to dismiss so many souls as hopelessly lost. But just as she identified her own weakness and put her trust in Christ to lead her to holiness, the little saint also realized that every human is on his or her own spiritual journey, and we are all desperately in need of compassion. Recall that, for the Little Flower, virtue was attainable in something as simple as a smile, an antidote she prescribed often, writing:
“When something painful or disagreeable happens to me, instead of a melancholy look, I answer by a smile. At first, I did not always succeed, but now it has become a habit which I am glad to have acquired.”
“A word or a smile is often enough to put fresh life in a despondent soul.”
“Miss 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.”
Finally, when the weight of the world tempts us to anger or despair, ask St. Thérèse of Lisieux to fulfill her promise to you “to send down a shower of roses from the heavens.” I can personally attest to the power of this practice. A few years ago, I was struggling with a big life change and felt very alone. Through a novena, I begged St. Thérèse to reveal a rose to me, so that I knew she was hearing my prayers. As the ninth day rolled around, I was making my bed and dwelling on the despondence I felt at not having received a rose. I then looked down to realize that the pillowcase I had been sleeping on during the duration of my novena was littered with (flannel) roses, and a voice told me, “They’ve been here the whole time. You just didn’t see them!”
Let us pray to St. Thérèse of Lisieux for the grace to see the rose-filled, simple path to heaven through the myriad distractions our busy world lays in our way.
Teresa Mull writes from Pennsylvania.
- st. therese of lisieux