It is a custom in all contemplative life monasteries that when a sister passes away, a written account of her life is made. In the case of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, when she died at the age of only 24, a sister commented that she didn’t know what to write about her because she had only lived in the monastery for nine years and hadn’t done anything extraordinary. Yet, when Mother Agnes, the monastery superior, compiled all the writings and letters of St. Thérèse into a notebook titled, Story of a Soul, this work became a program for life. This “little way,” as she called it, constituted a new way of making holiness accessible to everyone.
According to Saint Thérèse, this path of spiritual childhood consists of three essential elements:
- Abandonment: “It is enough to recognize one’s own nothingness and to abandon oneself like a child into the arms of its Father.” For her, trust is the safest way to lead us to God; trust in the goodness of the Father, who only wants us to love Him and let ourselves be loved by Him. To achieve this, one must stop focusing on oneself and instead always keep one’s gaze on God, emptying oneself so that He can enter fully into us. Jesus does not ask for great things, only gratitude and surrender.
- Humility: “What pleases God is that I love my littleness and poverty; it is the blind hope I have in His mercy.” She found it impossible that there could be another soul weaker and poorer than hers, but instead of disturbing her, this brought her great peace and trust. For Thérèse, holiness does not consist of performing certain works, but in the readiness of the heart to become small and humble. When one falls, one must immediately get up, ask for forgiveness, and throw oneself into the arms of the Father. Certainly, this requires humility, and many of us may not like that, but when the humiliation of knowing ourselves weak and imperfect is accepted joyfully, God immediately returns to the soul and lifts it up.
- Fidelity to small details: “Since my soul is surrendered to Love, all my actions, even the smallest ones, bear the divine seal.” It is preferable to do something apparently insignificant but with love, than do something heroic with less love. She did not want to waste even a small sacrifice, a word, or a look, doing everything out of love.
In today’s world, where the common and simple have lost their value, and only what makes noise and attracts attention matters, it is advisable to take up the “little way” of Saint Thérèse to achieve peace and holiness: “Doing ordinary things with extraordinary love.”
All the above quotes are from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
Mother María Elena Martínez is a nun, born in Mexico City, where she still resides today. She has had a consecrated life for more than 30 years. She is currently a member of a community called María Madre del Amor which is dedicated to evangelization through Emmaus retreats in parishes and prisons and Sicar retreats for young people.