My Saintly Stalker: The Little Flower

As I have matured in my faith, several saints have become more and more real and have walked with me along my journey. Besides the Blessed Mother, none has been as influential in my life as the beautiful St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. Several of you have heard me talk about this spectacular woman, but many more have only heard "I'll tell you more! I promise!" So, I am going to write out a bit about my beautiful Saintly Stalker.

First, let me say that I did not go seeking her out as I did with a couple of the other saints that have become meaningful. I did not choose her. She chose me. God knew I needed her, and so, when I went to my Awakening retreat, He put me in a group where both of the group leaders had encountered her and her intercession, and they beautifully shared that devotion with us retreaters. At the end of the weekend, they gave us a prayer card, a card with a picture of St. Therese on one side, a short prayer on the other, with rose petals (I will explain the roses in a minute) and told us about a beautiful novena to St. Therese: a 24 Glory Be novena. A novena, for those who do not know, is a set of prayers prayed for nine days (usually consecutively) for a certain intention. It stems from when the Apostles waited in prayer for nine days after the Ascension of Our Lord to Heaven and the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I was at a time in my life then, were I needed to make a decision. There were two paths I could take, and one was a path I hoped and dreamed for, but the other was a path I was wondering if I may be being called down. Both are equally beautiful, and both would be beautifully rewarding, and I did not know which path to choose. The path I chose would determine my last year at school as well, so I wanted to make a decision. So, without telling a single person, for nine days, I prayed 24 'Glory Be's with the prayer above for guidance.

Now, those of you that know me know that I am not fond of ambiguity and of having to make decisions when two seemingly equally good options are before me, so when I did the novena, I asked for a very very clear answer, and for a pink or red rose if the answer was what I had wanted growing up, yellow or orange if the color was the other, beautiful path, or white if I was supposed to be patient and just not know yet. Now, why did I ask for roses? I did not necessarily think that I would get flowers, but often when people ask for prayer through the intercession of St. Therese, she gives them a rose - sometimes through other people, sometimes in random ways. She is well known for saying that  she would spend her time in heaven doing good on earth and that she would let fall a shower of roses. If I did not get a clear answer otherwise, but I did get a rose, I did not want to have to wonder what the rose meant. So, me being stubborn me, asked for very specific colors. And I started the novena. And from the very first day, God started working in me in ways I had not expected.

About halfway through the novena, I was in the adoration chapel, and I was signing out, and I saw a prayer card. I love prayer cards, so I picked it up. It was just a little piece of paper with a typed prayer on it that had been laminated, but as I read the card, I realized that the card not only told me which route I was supposed to take but also how I should be entering into the understanding of my calling. I thanked God and St. Therese, and then I went off, and I finished the novena, grateful for the answer I had received. I still did not tell anyone about the novena, for I felt that it was something that was meant for me and the silence of my heart at that point in time.

A few weeks later was Easter, and on Holy Thursday (before Easter), we process the Blessed Sacrament out to our Rosary Garden and have adoration out there until midnight, then we repose the Blessed Sacrament for Good Friday. Well, I stayed out there until really really late that evening just praying about different things, thanking God for many things, and so on. I went back to my dorm room late that evening, and everyone else (who had not left for Easter) was asleep, and I was greatly looking forward to also getting to sleep. But as I turned the corner to my room, I was frozen in my tracks, for the floor in front of my door was absolutely covered in pink rose petals! I dropped to my knees and was overwhelmed. I had almost forgotten that I had even asked for roses at all. I quickly ran around the dorm looking to see if anyone else had them, and no one else did. I had thought I'd been given my answer - and I had been! - and now St. Therese was affirming my calling by giving me what I, in my stubborn humanity, had asked for. For a long while, I just sat there, thanking God and St. Therese, then I picked up the flowers and put them in my room.

That was my introduction to St. Therese. Since then, I have not been able to go anywhere at all without her showing up. Despite her popularity, I had never run into a prayer card, a article about, or a story of her before my Awakening retreat. After that, every single place I go, someone has a story about her, someone has a daughter named after her, her prayer cards are everywhere, some speaker will ask for her intercession, people talk about her Little Way, or she will come up some way, some how. Her autobiography (Story of a Soul. Read it!) appeared in our Adoration Chapel the week after Awakening, and I started reading it, and quickly bought my own copy. This happened even this past weekend when I went to staff a retreat down in Plantersville. I had been told that there was a beautiful church about a mile from the retreat site, so on the way back, Matt, Rosa, and I stopped by the church and looked around. It was beautiful! I have a couple cell phone pictures on facebook to prove it! But we were walking in the gardens around, and St. Therese was there, reminding me, yet again, of her constant prayers. (The picture to the side is one I took while there. And notice the color roses behind her? Yeah, she's that awesome. ^.^). Twice now, when I have been debating about starting another novena to her, someone else has - not knowing about my devotion to her - invited me to join them in a St. Therese Novena. She has truly become a sister to me, a prayer warrior I know is always looking out for me. And she stalks me, making sure that I know that she is there and more than happy to continue praying for me, and reminding me to walk her Little Way. What is the Little Way, you ask? Well, let me tell you a bit about this amazing woman, and you shall see!

St. Therese, born Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin was born to two people who wanted to join religious orders but for one reason or another were turned away. They married each other and, eventually, had nine children - three of whom died at infancy, and the fourth who died when she was five and a half. Therese was the baby of the family, and she was a sickly child, so spent some of her time with her family and some time with a nurse. She was greatly loved and adored by all who met her. Despite being the light and joy of most she met and having a a pious spirit even as a child, she was incredibly obstinate, strong willed, and had a temper equal to that of any Irish woman. She was also incredibly sensitive and would break down into hysterical tears if anyone said anything that could be mildly critical of her. As she matured, she had to learn to deal with this temper and her spoiled nature for she realized how much it offended God.

When she was still young, her mother died, and her older sister became like a mother to her. But one by one, her sisters all joined the convent, and Therese, by that time so madly in love with God, wanted nothing more than to join them and espouse herself to Christ totally and completely. And after years of begging to be allowed in and being told that she was too young, she finally entered the Carmelite Convent. She did not live there long though, for her sickly nature remained with her, and she contracted tuberculosis which eventually killed her at the tender age of 24. (For a longer version go here or google her.... or even better - read her book!)

Therese lived her entire life knowing her calling was to love God and serve the church as a prayer warrior, she also longed to be someone who actively helped win souls for Christ - for that is what she longed to do.
"Love professes 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." 
This is the core of her Little Way. She saw that it was not in our great deeds alone that we brought joy to Christ. But rather, it was by the little things we did every day. She knew that she could never be a figure like Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, or Catherine of Siena. But she also saw that she did not have to be a "great" soul like them, for Jesus called the little children to him. The analogy she used was that of a garden.
"Jesus set before the book of nature. I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that 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. So it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at his feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be." 
So, she offered up the little things: making beds, mopping the floor, smiling and being kind to the sisters who annoyed her, being a servant, even suffering in sickness meekly and gently instead of complaining. She saw how each little thing, even if she saw no glory in it, was pleasing to God if it was done for Him.

So, she spent her short life writing - at the request of her older sisters and Mother Superior - and serving in little ways. She spent her whole life loving God, and she showed how we can love Him in the little ways, not just in the great deeds. If we are called to menial work right now that seems meaningless, offer it as a little flower to Jesus.

And for those wondering... Her feast day is on October First, so tomorrow starts a Novena to her. I would love for you to join me in asking her intercession. :) If you are interested, go here!

And, because this song so beautifully describes her life, I am going to post this here.


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