Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.
St Therese of Lisieux
Known also as 'the little flower', this saints feast day is October 1st. Born in France in 1873, she was to have a very short life, dying of tuberculosis at the age of 24. Her full biography can of course be found online and it can be seen that she had quite the history prior to entering the Carmelite order at Lisieux. There might be lots of arguments against such a young and, in many respects, rather fanciful young lady. However, despite what might appear as a rather grandiose approach to her spirituality (almost certainly in modern times she would have aimed for priesthood), her decision on how to approach her rise up the spiritual ladder is the inspiration for daily living to many around the world.
The youngest of five sisters (four other siblings had died early), Therese was an emotionally labile child, with little stamina for dealing with any form of criticism, be it intended or not. Indeed, by all accounts, she might have been called 'spoiled'. Yet, she had a strong attachment to her faith and would spend a lot of time, even when young, in prayer and contemplative solitude.
Having two sisters already in convent, Therese decided at 14 years, that she also wished to take the habit. It was not straightforward but she was determined and eventually gained her place. After entering the convent, her beloved father had become seriously mentally ill and was institutionalised, which shocked Therese. This began a horrible time of suffering when she experienced such dryness in prayer that she stated "Jesus isn't doing much to keep the conversation going." She was so grief-stricken that she often fell asleep in prayer. She consoled herself by saying that mothers loved children when they lie asleep in their arms, so God must love her when she slept during prayer. She knew as a Carmelite nun she would never be able to perform great deeds. " Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love." She took every chance to sacrifice, no matter how small it would seem. She smiled at the sisters she didn't like. She ate everything she was given without complaining -- so that she was often given the worst leftovers. One time she was accused of breaking a vase when she was not at fault. Instead of arguing she sank to her knees and begged forgiveness. These little sacrifices cost her more than bigger ones, for these went unrecognized by others. No one told her how wonderful she was for these little secret humiliations and good deeds.
Therese continued to worry about how she could achieve holiness in the life she led. She didn't want to just be good, she wanted to be a saint. She thought there must be a way for people living hidden, little lives like hers. "I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by. Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new.
"We live in an age of inventions. We need no longer climb laboriously up flights of stairs; in well-to-do houses there are lifts. I was determined to find a lift to carry me to Jesus, for I was far too small to climb the steep stairs of perfection. So I sought in holy Scripture some idea of what this life I wanted would be, and I read these words: 'Whosoever is a little one, come to me.' It is your arms, Jesus, that are the lift to carry me to heaven. There is no need for me to grow up: I must stay little and become less and less."
She worried about her vocation: "... 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 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!"
Therese of Lisieux is one of the patron saints of the missions, not because she ever went anywhere, but because of her special love of the missions, and the prayers and letters she gave in support of missionaries. This is reminder to all of us who feel we can do nothing, that it is the little things that keep God's kingdom growing.