I was in High School when I read The Story of a Soul. I found it boring and thought Therese was also boring. I was not interested in her small sacrifices, such as trying not to be irritated by the nun behind her clacking her false dentures (her sister edited it to be “rattling rosary beads”). I wanted saints who did heroic things, like Joan of Arc. Why would I, a crass teenager, appreciate just how difficult Therese’s “little way” really was?
Later still in high school, I read Thomas Merton’s “The Seven Storey Mountain” where he described Therese as “a great saint.” I wondered what he saw in her.
Yesterday, after Mass, a woman who is an interminable talker approached me. She assumes that I am as intensely interested in her as she is, so she produces minute details -without taking a breath. I stand there listening to her–bored–wondering how to get away from her politely. Not listening.
I am a woman of small patience for stupidity and for these kinds of women.
I wrote an email, in my head, to a woman we both know, describing my experience, and asking if she had the same experience and response.
Oops! Isn’t this gossip? Oops!
Saint Therese popped into my head. Didn’t she talk about being patient and kind toward those who are irritating? Didn’t she talk about listening patiently to bores?
Yet, here I am sharing my impatience and irritability for this woman and another just like her that I avoid as if she was a COVID-19 carrier.
I have had a similar experience with one man.
I had called a friend of mine – it was a coast-to-coast call – but the phone was answered by her husband. He talked non-stop for thirty minutes. I never did get a chance to talk to my friend. When his daughter suggested recently that I call him for a chat I had trouble knowing what to say to her. I had no intention of calling him for another “chat.”
Saint Therese would not have behaved the same way. She would have called him knowing he would talk without taking a breath. I just couldn’t do it.
This is when “the Little Way” makes sense. AND IT IS HARD TO DO! I want to gossip and share my impatience and irritability; Therese says to smile and listen patiently as if it were the most important thing I would hear all day.