“If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals,or the storm bruised its stem, if it knew that such were not the case.”
― St. Thérèse de Lisieux
The flower in the photograph above is a white amaryllis. Each year at Christmas, the stores are full of vases and pots containing various color shades of amaryllis as they are easy to care for, quick bloomers and rather showy as far as flowering is concerned. Did you know that a well cared for bulb can actually bloom for 75 year or better?! In Greek, amaryllis means “to sparkle” and I imagine that is in part due to the star like quality of the flower. Quite the show stopper.
Our quote this morning, by St Thérèse de Lisieux, is a lovely reminder to us concerning the multitude of blessings God graces upon our lives daily–many of which we either take of granted or acknowledge rather awkwardly. St Thérèse de Lisieux,the tiny Carmelite nun, who died at the young age of 24, is known to us today as “the little flower”. Thérèse would certainly not be of the showy amaryllis blooming flower variety as she was a small quiet novice who lived in a tiny cloistered community in France. It was always her wish, however, to live and to die doing something big for God. She wanted to be a martyr, or wanted to go on far flung missions, just something important in order to accomplish much for the God of her heart. Given her circumstance, however, of living a sheltered life in a tiny cloistered community, such big dreams seemed quite impossible.
Her popularity grew tremendously following her death. One of her sisters, also a nun, had taken Thérèse’s journal postings, copied them and distributed 2000 copies–sending them to other cloisters and convents. Soon people were reading and discovering that this small tiny novice had the heart and determination of a giant (she was never allowed to make her profession as a true nun due to her sister’s insistence—her sister was prioress and thought it would be in poor form if all 4 sisters were nuns at the same Abby–therefore she asked Thérèse to step aside, as it were, remaining always but a mere novice–of which Thérèse agreed)
Thérèse had fretted over how she, in her most small and insignificant life could ever do anything great for God. This troubled her heart tremendously. She prayed constantly yearning for God to tell her how she could best serve Him. One day, the epiphany came. Thérèse is quoted as saying– “I am but a small and insignificant individual how ever could someone of such little importance ever do anything great? 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. 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!”
Thérèse made the conscious decision to do everything out of and for Love, to greet everyone out of Love, to meet every challenge out of Love, to meet every insult and injustice out of Love. It was a conscious decision and a determination of great doing–which in turn required great inner strength.
Not long ago I found a small frail little book that had been my mothers. I was a bit perplexed when I found the book as it was a tiny read cloth bound book whose cover was hanging tougher literally by threads. The copyright is listed as 1925. A cost of 10 cents is penciled inside the front cover. The title of the book is An Hour With The Little Flower
The book was with some other things that had belonged to my mom. We were not Catholic. My mother had been tossed around a bit, as far as denominations were concerned, when she was growing up. Once she married, she and my oh so Baptist dad settled on the Episcopal Church as the best church of choice. Their reasoning was not so virtuous as the Episcopal church was liberal enough allowing them to drink and smoke—-Just great— what every kid wants to hear as to how one’s parents decided on what church to attend and where to raise their family—that should have been a clue to me early on about the Episcopal church, but I’m digressing as usual.
If you’ve ever read any of my posts regarding my growing up and family you know that ours was certainly a convoluted mess. Sometimes I often wonder how I ever got to this point in my life, but I am most thankful that I am here–now much the older, the wiser, and I perhaps admit, the better for it all–but then I know it is truly by Grace and by Grace alone.
But mother and this tiny book—now that’s the mystery.
To read Thérèse’s story, it is not the type of story or life that you would imagine could or would catapult one to sainthood, fame or significant importance. . . and yet, ironically . . . it did. In twenty five short years following her death, Thérèse was declared a saint. Her simplicity and huge determination to do great things through a very quiet small life, as well as through very small acts, had mass appeal to ordinary people. I think we all have dreams in our heart of doing something for the betterment of mankind and / or for God on some sort of grand scale—yet how many of us ever rise to such a status?
I think on so many levels my mom could identify with Thérèse and of her smallness and seemingly insignificance. My mom was very quiet and shy. I think she, like many women who did not work outside of the home, dreamed of one day going and doing something grand. She struggled to raise a child, my brother, who suffered from mental illness in a time when such was taboo to admit or even talk about as very little help was available. It is no wonder that St.Thérèse, the little flower, would appeal to someone who felt as if she too was “little”.
So I will leave you today with the words and wisdom of a young woman who dreamt of doing great things. Who chose to do so in small, steady and seemingly insignificant ways. Who rose from that of a spoiled young girl, to a quiet and demure novice, to a great saint—who became the living embodiment and example of someone who chose the course of Love over glamour and glory, quiet and steady over boisterous and hurried, kind and courteous over self-centered and rude. . .
“To dedicate oneself as a Victim of Love is not to be dedicated to sweetness and consolations; it is to offer oneself to all that is painful and bitter, because Love lives only by sacrifice and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love, the more we must surrender
ourselves to suffering”
― St. Thérèse de Lisieux