“We read of Saints who left absolutely nothing at their death, not the least thing by which to remember them, not even a single line of writing; and there are others like our holy Mother, St. Teresa [of Avila], who have enriched the church with their sublime teaching, and have not hesitated to revel ‘the secrets of the King,’ that He may be better known and better loved.
Which of these is more pleasing to Our Lord? It seems to me that they are equally so.”
St. Therese of Lisieux
There are two kinds of saints.
The first is what most people think of when they think of the saints.
We think of the many great men and women who have started movements or become martyrs. We think of the saints who wrote many great books like St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas. We think of the people who endured extreme poverty like St. Francis of Assisi or the Desert Fathers. We think of the Christians who sacrificed their lives in the Roman Coliseum.
That is one path to sainthood.
Should we receive the call to do these great things, I pray that we step up to the challenge.
There is another way, though, to become a saint.
It’s called the “little way” and it was inspired by a young nun, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, better known as St. Therese of Lisieux or The Little Flower.
She continues the passage from her autobiography quoted above writing:
“You know it has ever been my desire to become a Saint, but I have always felt, in comparing myself with the Saints, that I am as far removed from them as the grain of sand, which the passer-by tramples underfoot, is remote from the mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds.
Instead of being discouraged, I concluded that God would not inspire desires which could not be realised, and that I may aspire to sanctity in spite of my littleness. For me to become great is impossible. I must bear with myself and my many imperfections; but I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new.
We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection.
I have sought to find in Holy Scripture some suggestion as to what this lift might be which I so much desired, and I read these words uttered by the Eternal Wisdom Itself: “Whosoever is a little one, let him come to Me.” (Prov. 9:4.) Then I drew near to God, feeling sure that I had discovered what I sought; but wishing to know further what He would do to the little one, I continued my search and this is what I found: “You shall be carried at the breasts and upon the knees; as one whom the mother caresseth, so will I comfort you.” (Isa.66:12,13.)
She is greatly revered today for the wisdom found in her autobiography, but other than that little book (which she reluctantly wrote), she did very little that was remarkable. She didn’t start a movement. She wasn’t a martyr, though she did endure great sickness and suffering.
How to Live the Little Way
I find three consistent themes within her autobiography that describe how to live the Little Way:
- Have faith like a child.
- Do and endure little things for others.
- Accept all suffering (physical and emotional) as opportunities for sanctity.