As a boy of fourteen years old, the life of one girl moved mine more than any other—showing me the way of love. The girl is Thérèse, from the little city of Lisieux in Calvados, France. She is popularly known as the Little Flower, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. To her, I owe an early exposure to what it means to embrace love as one’s primary vocation. And to her, I dedicate today’s daily reflection as we celebrate her Feast Day (October 1); providing you—my reader—an example to consider.
Freshly enjoying the first love of a personal encounter with the Lord, I started to look for more models of faith. The first that drew me in was Mother Mary—the Blessed Virgin. However, her story belongs to another class of influence, and I would pass on it for another time.
The second was Thérèse. She has remained my closest spiritual companion in the journey of the interior life.
I came to know Thérèse through conversations with fellow teens with whom I formed spiritual and rewarding fellowships. I wonder how the carelessness and nerviness of teenage life could have developed into a solid foundation of the love of God without the support from peers who share mutual passion for the Lord. Shortly after, I discovered Thérèse more in her work.
Getting to Know Her
One of the best ways to know a person is to listen to them talk. One of the truest accesses into people’s interior being is to glean the musings of their inner self through their words on parchment paper or digital pages.
Uttered words carry an aspect of the utterer. Scribed words translate those utterances across ages. The Lord says, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
Words matter. The utterances of the heart matter the most. So, I had to go to the access code into the heart of this beautiful girl who seemed to draw me into a relation of a unique kind. I felt we were kindred spirits.
The Story of a Soul
I purchased her autobiography—The Story of a Soul, the Tan Books version. It was a big dent in the budget for a little boy in a small high school in a rural village in a town in Imo State, Nigeria. But, for what one loves, one would be ready to spend anything to have it. The Lord’s Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13: 45-46) hints at this loyalty that requires sacrificing everything to purchase a pearl of great price.
I did not regret the cost, and have never regretted knowing this woman. Instead, when I started to read, I realized how much I had to learn. I also learned how much the soul was attracted to the same concerns.
I simply fell in love with the love this little nun had for the Lord. Her vocation, she says, “is to love.” For her, it included “real love for the most ugly and inconvenient things.” Love without boundaries. This rocked everything for me.
Then a year after—when the Lord brought me to a more profound encounter of mystic intimacy—I realized the words that kept popping into my head, and on my lips were: “Lord, I want nothing else but to love.”
It Means Everything
Nothing means more to the soul than to fall in love with its Maker, and love others in that light. Nothing makes the world more an ordered place but to be drawn into the center of the communion of love. It is empowering knowing that the Heavenly Lord loves us the most. Sowing the seed of love wherever we are is more healing, soothing, and invigorating to the troubled and turbulent times than anything else.
Living this in our relationships with others, and in everything, is the purest human aspiration. To love is to be in God, for “God is love” (I John 4:8).
Some might say, but I love anyway because I have biological, emotional feelings toward another. Or I have an affectionate connection with my family or my friends and country. All these reflect in some ways what is in God. But one can love even when there is no emotional connection.
The will chooses to love, despite. The truest meaning of love lives beyond mere impressions of our biological and physical experiences. Emotional connection sure feels good and is desirable, but that isn’t all there is to it.
Unlike the empiricists’ idea of love—bound only to impressions of the physical world—true love lives beyond material things. And the full measure of it isn’t us, but the one who has loved us first—God. The vocation to love is measured by Love itself—God. Hence, true love is the life of God in us. Agape expresses it pretty well.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Models the Way
On October 1, we celebrate one person who lived this love in ordinary ways because she made everyday life experiences moments of leading by way of love. She dotted every interaction in her daily life with those affectionate examples of divine agape, including living the seemingly unloveable.
The simple way of divine agape is all it takes. Spicing the world around us with the aroma of this agape suffices. One does not need much stuff to lead by this way of agape. It emanates from within, and one choses to live it by grace. And it is the best.
I want to live like that. Don’t you?
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, pray for us. Amen.