During our summer message series, Wonder Women: Female Heroes of the Bible, we highlight saints who exemplify the qualities of our biblical heroine for the week. This week’s heroine is Mary of Bethany. Listen to her complete story on our website. Her companion saint is Thérèse of Lisieux.
What irony it is that Pope Pius X called this woman “the greatest saint of modern times,” when her popularity largely stems from the attractiveness of her simplicity. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, is known for her “little way” of growing closer to God, which like the story of Mary of Bethany summarized in the article above reminds us to slow down and allow the presence of God to wash over us.
Indeed, a stark contrast is drawn in the biblical account between Mary and her sister, Martha. She rushes around stressed out about the preparations that must be made, while Mary chooses to recline at the feet of Jesus and listen to him speak. Saint Thérèse is a perfect example of sitting at the feet of Jesus, which for us is a welcome reprieve from the general notion that holiness is achieved only through greatness.
Thérèse entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux at the age of fifteen, determined to become a saint. But after six years, she found herself feeling insignificant in the stead of God’s greatness. How could she, a young French nun, sickly and confined to her convent, come into the unfailing love for Christ that she wished to practice? Yet through deep prayer and reflection, she soon learned that her very “littleness” would allow her to achieve saintliness because all things are great when done out of devotion to God. Thérèse reminds us that the importance of an act is measured not by its temporal grandeur, but by its intention.
Thérèse once wrote, “Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles, surrounded by a crowd of illusions, my poor little mind quickly tires. [So,] I close the learned book which is breaking up my head and drying up my heart, and I take up Holy Scripture. Then all seems luminous to me. . . . I see that it is enough to recognize one’s nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God’s arms.”
As a sickly woman, Thérèse came to know that heroic acts were not necessary to achieve favor in the sight of God. Little children, who Jesus dearly loved, are certainly not capable of great deeds, she reasoned, so there must be a little way to the Lord. She wrote, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers. These flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least of these actions for love.”
In doing what she could in devotion to God, Thérèse was a true heroine, like Mary of Bethany.
--Claire Kosewic, Parishioner
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