Embracing the Little Way

the little way of st. therese

Picture this. A young girl is just starting to fall in love with the Lord and discovers that everyone on this earth has a call to sainthood. But that wasn’t enough for her. She wanted to do something great for the Lord, whether that meant slaying a spiritual dragon or the ultimate act of martyrdom. She wanted to be a great saint.

So this girl went through her life imagining all of the great things she could be doing for Him. But she made one major mistake. She thought she was supposed to do it on her own and without the help of God. This girl thought that being a great saint meant that she had to be independent. That our weakness was actually something that hindered the climb to sainthood. Because of this, she one day had to learn about her weakness and how essential it is in our relationship with God.

My Little Way

The girl in this little story is actually me, and maybe it sounds a little bit like you, too! For so long, I spent my days thinking that my weakness was preventing me from becoming a saint.

Sure, I heard about St. Therese of Lisieux and how she believed that it was her weakness that led her to sainthood. But that was not going to be the case for me! I wanted to climb the steep, hard staircase to Heaven. No one was going to help me get there because I was strong enough to do it on my own.

St. Therese actually bothered me, believe it or not, because I thought she was choosing the easy way out. There was so much more she could be doing for the Lord! As you can imagine, He set me straight in the most gentle and difficult way possible. After spending a year experiencing my own weakness, I too came to understand how much I needed to depend on God for everything.

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Becoming Little

This past year I served with Catholic youth missionary organization called NET Ministries (National Evangelization Teams). I spent the year traveling the country, putting on retreats for middle school and high school students. I was so excited because I thought that it was finally my chance to prove how strong I was and how much I could serve others. Boy, was I wrong.

From the very beginning, everywhere I turned I was hearing about St. Therese. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (My grace is sufficient enough for you…) was turning up all over the place. I couldn’t figure out what God was trying to say to me and why this idea of weakness was popping up so often.

Relying on Him

Before I knew it, my year of mission work had started off and I found myself in a leadership position with a lot of responsibilities. It wasn’t until I found myself crying at 7:00 a.m. in the back of a 15-passenger van because I was too tired and worn out to put on another retreat that I started to realize that I couldn’t do it on my own.

I wasn’t strong enough to lead my team, others, and even myself to Christ without the help of God. Very soon after that realization, I came across 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 again and actually decided to pray with this Bible passage. What I learned from that time of prayer has shaped how I live my life today.

I learned that God wasn’t trying to put us in our place or show just how little we are. No, He desires us to be weak. The lower we are, the more space there is for God to work in and through us. How beautiful is that? I don’t know about you, but I want Christ to fill every part of me. The only way He can do that is if I am brought lower and lower.

Embracing the Little Way

Here’s the thing though, how do we actually do that? How do we lower ourselves enough in order to give Christ the space to work in and through us? For me, it was the desire to be independent and strong that led me to shy away from my littleness. But maybe you struggle with perfectionism and the need to control the things and people around you. The first step is an acknowledgment and acceptance of our weakness.

Sometimes, Jesus allows us to be frustrated and overwhelmed in order to see that on our own we actually can’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, this is a huge step, because sometimes we are not even aware of the things that we are doing that could be keeping us from a deeper relationship with Christ. This is where we have the opportunity to pray for our eyes and hearts to be open to the barriers that keep us from holiness. Ask God to show you and help you accept your weakness.

Once we know these things and give them to Christ we are then able to move onto the next step, which is running to the open arms of Jesus every chance we get. The more we release and tell Jesus that we cannot reach holiness on our own, the more space and freedom we give Him in our hearts.

Before, I would try to get everything done on my own and end up frustrated and overwhelmed with all the things on my place. But now, I simply make an act of trust and ask for the Lord’s help before I get to that point. It’s that simple.

This is what St. Therese had been talking about all along! The path to sainthood doesn’t have to be this steep and hard staircase, but a loving embrace from the one who died and freed us from our sins.

Boasting of Our Weakness

As St. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians:

Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Like St. Paul, I will boast about my weaknesses and the strength of Christ, are you willing to as well?

How has St. Therese’s little way shaped your spiritual life?

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MaryKatherine Deschamp is an elementary music teacher who teaches in a small Catholic school in rural Minnesota. Other than finding new ways to be creative in the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her family and tasting as much pumpkin-flavored things as possible. She is currently on a mission to become an everyday ordinary saint who loves as she has been loved by the Lord.

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  • Reply
    October 1, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Wow! Thank you, MaryKatherine, for your post. I really enjoyed it. Recently, I have been writing about wanting to be a saint, and reading this today is perfect timing! I especially like the point that, “The first step is an acknowledgment and acceptance of our weakness.” This resonated with me. I think life with Christ is like a dance. We need to let Him lead. If we stubbornly say that we know all the steps and try our own way, we will fail and be out of sync with Him. When we let Him lead and fill in for us where we are weak, it is much easier to do our part. We are a team working together. When we acknowledge our weaknesses, we and others can see Christ’s light shine through us and know the work is His work and not ours.

  • Reply
    October 1, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you 😊 for such a beautiful and personal testimony about Theresian spirituality. What a blessing I was introduced to your site on her feast day. Therese is my patron and go to saint. My late father, a devout Catholic, named me after her. Thank you again for reminding me of how blessed I am to have such a beautiful and powerful patron saint !

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