Last winter I was in a rough spot. I felt broken in my life and my relationships, and that if I couldn’t do something “world changing” then I wasn’t living out my Christian duty the right way. I brought this feeling and many other struggles to Confession with me one Saturday, thinking that the only way to be satisfied with what the Lord is currently doing in my life is to lay everything before Him, feel His grace and love, and receive some sound advice.
As I poured my heart out to my priest, these words slipped out of my mouth: “I just feel like I don’t know who I am.” Shocked, I realized that was the truth.
Knowing Who We Are
Who am I? Who is this woman that God shaped and molded as part of His creation? I felt like this quiet girl from a small town in Michigan needed to be setting the world on fire in order to get approval from God and feel some kind of satisfaction from life.
Eyes filled with love, my Priest looked at me and said, “Only God knows who you are and what He plans for you.” Suddenly his expression changed. He caught me off guard by asking, “Who is your favorite saint?”
I can state facts about a lot of different saints, but I never felt deeply connected to anyone in particular. I could only respond with a helpless, “I don’t know.”
Meeting St. Thérèse
He asked me if I knew St. Thérèse of Lisieux. I vaguely remembered something about roses and Carmelites, but that was it. Father continued, “God is making her present in my mind very strongly. I feel that she is so close to you, it’s like she is standing right behind you”.
My eyes widened. A Saint? Close to me? I didn’t think I was worthy of such patronage. He told me to pray to her and listen to the gentle whispering of what this great saint brings to my heart.
As I left Confession, I saw a wall hanging of St. Thérèse that I never noticed before. She looked determined, holding bunches of roses (my favorite flower). A quiet resolve burned in her eyes and I could tell she was truly a woman who lived close to the Lord. I resolved to learn what I could from her.
Story of a Soul
That is the beginning of how I discovered this beautiful Saint. Not long after I received a gift of her autobiography Story of a Soul. Compiled of two sections dedicated to her sisters and one to the prioress of the Carmel, Thérèse delves into the story of her life. I found a connection between myself and this small, quiet French girl. She longed to complete every task for the Glory of the Lord and developed her own “little way.” St. Thérèse is a woman who seemingly lived an ordinary life as a young girl and later a Carmelite nun. But her humility, steadfast love, and knowledge of her own shortcomings put her far above the rest. She followed Jesus by doing the smallest tasks with grace. In her teaching I have found peace in how I can live my life for God.
Sainthood Isn’t Easy
When I used to think of Saints many years ago, I would imagine heads crowned in bright golden halos with eyes lifted to God. I imagined a life filled with peace and prosperity. Because they had such a close relationship with God, surely they never faced any hardships or troubles. Wow, was I wrong!
From the very beginning of Story of a Soul (and from the lives of many other Saints), we learn that Thérèse’s life as a child was filled with great suffering. Some of these trials might be some that you face, too sisters, such as the death of a family member, life-threatening illness, and finding out the path God plans for you in life.
From the first part of her autobiography I learned that the early life of most Saints are filled with hardships and tears. What makes them great is what they do in the aftermath of despair that makes them truly great. It is so simple, but sometimes so hard to do at the same time when feeling lost, confused, and even angry. Lean on Jesus, and lean on Mary. It is that time you feel great love the most.
Vocation of Love
Have you ever really thought about the concept of love? I find myself meditating a lot on what it means to give and receive this beautiful virtue. To really get a grasp on what love entails, 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 outlines the basics. But at the same time, those basics are tough to uphold all the time!
We all have moments when our patience is pushed over the edge or when we angrily snap at a family member for words they said in haste. In our darkest moments, and also with the stress of daily life, love can be hard to uphold. St. Thérèse realized this. She knew what a daunting task vowing to do everything in love can be. Yet at the same time she proclaimed love as her vocation in life. Even when other nuns at the convent talked about her behind her back, when she was made to do the most menial tasks day after day, when she confronted sickness with no cure: she showed love.
The Little Way
I was amazed at her resolve. What was her secret? St. Thérèse shows that the closer you are to the Lord, the more strength and peace he will give you to show His love. Because of her strong faith and close communion with God, He used her as a vessel to pour out His divine love on Earth. She didn’t do anything that attracted the crowds of thousands, either. She simply created The Little Way. The way of those who are ordinary people with ordinary lives. Those who want to serve God their loving Father through their littleness and simplicity and love.
In other words, St. Thérèse knew that she was not capable of great sacrifices or of performing great and mighty works. Rather, she chose to remain as a child in the eyes of God. She performed all of her duties with love and obedience, no matter how small and insignificant they were.
The Story of a Soul is a Love Story
For those looking for a genuine love story, the autobiography of St. Thérèse tells the story of how one heart drew ever closer to the gentle heart of God. He drew her in with all the shortcomings of human nature and simply showered her with His affection and watched her blossom.
St. Thérèse is an inspiration for daily life and her philosophy is one that many people can imitate. This Saint helped me to fall deeper in love with the Lord. I now realize that God made every single person with a purpose in mind. The challenge comes in recognizing His love that surpasses all understanding, and then being motivated by it to do good in the smallest of ways.
As St. Thérèse herself once said that we are beautifully and wonderfully cared for by a compassionate God. I think of any small act done in love as a bouquet of flowers being offered to the Lord. Every day my own love story is still growing, and so is yours.
I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our lord’s living garden. -St. Thérèse
Have you read Story of a Soul? What was your biggest takeaway from it?BIS Reads: Story of a Soul #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Kayla McBride is a Nursing student at the University of Michigan. Like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, she believes her vocation is one of love, and strives to show the love of God to others in her daily life. When not studying you can find her involved in her Christian sorority, spending hours at a local coffee shop, or reading anything from Jane Eyre to the Hunger Games (preferably with a strong cup of coffee)!