This morning, I took part in the Cardinal Winning Lecture 2020, listening to Dr Rebecca Lamb speaking very eloquently about Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, ‘the Little Flower’. Her lecture was excellent and provoked a number of very good questions at the end. It was lovely, too, to see some of our Scottish Bishops and Archbishops online for the lecture. The lecture reminded me of a piece I wrote elsewhere about Saint Thérèse and which I will add below.
One of the great treasures of the Catholic Church are our Saints. These luminous figures who are now in eternal glory in the presence of God, obtain for us a little bit of that heavenly light to encourage and console us in life.
Each Saint is unique; while the broad message they propose to us is the same – for it is nothing more than the echo of the Gospel itself – still they do so in a way that is particular to each of them. And because of this, each of us will be attracted to particular Saints, who resonate with us in some deeper way.
Presently, our Diocese is being visited by the Relics of the Little Flower, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Already, she is drawing a great many souls to – or back to -the Lord. And this is quite astonishing; hidden away in a cloistered Carmelite convent in France for nine years before her death at the age of 24, how is it that we even know of her existence?
It is said that as she lay dying, she heard two of the Sisters, who had been charged with writing an obituary, saying they knew not what they would write, since she hadn’t actually done anything of note. And of course, they were right – she had done no great deeds, only a myriad of very little deeds in the humdrum of convent life. But this was to miss the point entirely – it was not about what she had done, but the way in which she had done them. And herein lay her secret, which she would call her ‘Little Way’. Little deeds, done with great love. It really was as simple as that.
This ‘Little Way’ is the very thing that attracted countless souls to her – for this was within the reach of all and appealed very much to all of us who live small, seemingly insignificant, quiet and hidden lives. We could, like Thérèse, do little deeds with great love. And this is her gift to us. That, and the shower of heavenly favours she promised to let fall like roses from Heaven – and how many have received such a rose!
Over the next few weeks, the Catholics of Scotland will gather beside her reliquary, pay her honour and ask for her heavenly intercession. While some of these prayers may well result in extraordinary graces, it is likely that most will result in smaller – but not insignificant – graces, the sort which enable us to live the good life just a little bit better than before, to follow her footsteps on the path of that Little Way and so, to help sanctify us. And this is precisely the purpose of the Saints – to remind us that the call to sanctity is for every soul without exception; and if we are called to holiness, then it is possible for us to become holy.
After all, if a young nun living a hidden life in a French convent can be holy, then there is hope for us all.