Therese of Lisieux

“Jesus does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty as at the love with which we do them.” These words were written by Therese of Lisieux, an inspirational nun who lived in the late nineteenth century. This week at Vintage, students gathered at the Bonhoeffer House for a time of reading and discussing passages from Therese’s autobiography. Therese of Lisieux was born in 1873, and she lived a life of complete devotion to God until her early death at age 24. When she was just two years old, Therese decided that she would one day be a nun.  Despite being refused at age 9 for her young age and again at age 15 for her illness, Therese never gave up. At age 17, she appealed directly to the Pope and was finally admitted to the monastery. This young woman faithfully followed the monastery’s daily routine of 2 hours of prayer and 5 hours of liturgy along with cleaning and serving.  Because of her profound love and quiet devotion, Therese became known as “the Little Flower of Jesus.” At age 22, she wrote her autobiography The Story of a Soul, which became a popular spiritual book. At just age 24, Therese died of tuberculosis.

In the passages of The Story of a Soul that we read today at Vintage, Therese writes about the importance of “simple” and “small” souls, which she claims herself to be. She believes that these souls are just as significant and loved by God as the “excellent” souls that exist in the world. Therese explains that she often wondered why some souls seem to be given more graces by God than other ones. While comparing the world to a garden of flowers, she came to the conclusion that God’s love is revealed as perfectly in the “little violets” of the world as the grand roses and lilies of the world. According to Therese, “if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.”

Today at Vintage, Therese reminded students of the truth that “perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.” Jesus does not demand great deeds, but rather love, self-surrender, and gratitude. Therese claimed that “if people who are as week and as imperfect as I am only felt what I feel, not one of them would despair of scaling the summit of the mountain of love.” Therese of Lisieux’s words are a reminder that true significance is found in loving and surrendering to God rather than focusing on ourselves.