“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”
These profound words were written by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a great Doctor of the Church who was no more than 24 years old when she passed away. Living a life of charity, St. Thérèse did all things for her vocation.
Born in January 2, 1873 in Alençon, France, St. Thérèse was raised by her father and elder sisters after her mother died when she was four. She had always dreamed of being a missionary, an Apostle, a martyr. However, St. Thérèse still chose to be a nun in a quiet cloister in France. She entered the Carmelite Monastery at the young age of 15 and from then on, she devoted herself to living a life of holiness and doing all things with love and childlike trust in God.
A Life of Charity
How did St. Thérèse fulfil her longings for her dream? At the monastery she made an effort to be charitable to all. She performed little acts of charity and little sacrifices—not caring how unimportant they seemed. These acts helped her come to a deeper understanding of her vocation.
In her autobiography, St. Thérèse said that “Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places…in a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my Love…my vocation, at last I have found it…My vocation is Love!”
Wise Beyond Her Years
In 1896 St. Thérèse started to notice the first symptoms of Tuberculosis – the illness which would soon lead to her death. It came a year after she offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God. Recognizing in her illness the mysterious visitation of the Divine Spouse, St. Thérèse welcomed the suffering as an answer to her offering. She also began to undergo a terrible trial of faith which lasted until her death a year and a half later. “Her last words, ‘My God, I love you,’ are the seal of her life,” said Pope John Paul II.
The Little Way
Since her death, millions have been inspired by St. Thérèse’s ‘little way’ of loving God and neighbour. Many miracles have been attributed to her intercession. She was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997, 100 years after her death. She is the third woman to be so proclaimed, after Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa of Avila. But despite her great acclaim, St. Thérèse always just thought of herself as the “little flower of Jesus” who served God simply by being her beautiful self—one among the millions of other little flowers of humanity in God’s garden.