The “Little Way” of Saint Therese

The “Little Way” of Saint Therese

I was in high school when I first read The Story of a Soul. I was unimpressed. I was more interested in saints who did great deeds of valor. Therese, on the other hand, did small, mundane, everyday things. Things no one would notice or comment about. She was simply behaving in a quiet, unassuming, friendly way. What that cost her was documented in her diary. Many years later I read that her sister had edited the original work to make it sound more “holy.” One example of the editing was Therese irritation with an old nun who sat behind her in choir sucking on her dentures. Her sister changed the irritant to clacking rosary beads. To my mind, hearing someone constantly sucking their gums would be far more irritating than rattling beads. So I was not impressed.
Yet so many people raved about the book and the difficult decisions she made every day. I just could not see it.
One anecdote she shared has stuck with me over these decades. There was one particular nun Therese could not stand. The woman irritated her constantly. Yet, after her death, that same nun was dumbfounded to hear this. She said, “But Therese always treated me as if I were her best friend!” This confused me. Was Therese being hypocritical in her treatment of a woman she did not care about? Or was she practicing a form of charity? Loving a person she did not care for?
The “Little Way” described by Therese simply meant doing all the little things required each day with patience and contentment. She was always cheerful. Not responding angrily to someone who attacked or belittled or disagreed with her.
As I read her diary, I was not sure I would like her. She came across as insipid and lifeless. She seemed flaccid to me.
But the older I became, her Little Way made more and more sense and seemed harder and harder to follow.
When someone criticized me, or otherwise attacked me, I wanted to strike back. Holding my tongue and ‘taking it’ without retaliation was hard. Even harder was not to obsess about it for hours afterward.
When I was kept waiting on the telephone for what seemed an interminable period, finding something positive to think about rather than becoming more and more annoyed was an application of the Little Way.
Yes, her “little way” is the hardest way of all.
God bless you little Therese

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