When we are seeking deeper spirituality we often need a practical way to know how to love God in a deeper way. “The Little Way” of St. Therese tells us the secrets by showing simple ways to be a child of God in small ways every day.
How to pray this way:
1. Become friends with St. Therese of Lisieux and her “Story of a Soul.”
Therese’s autobiography was interesting, but what inspired me the most was her passion for Jesus. Her strong faith and holiness shone through in her writing. I felt drawn to her and read everything I could find about her.
But it was “Story of a Soul” that I returned to read over and over. I was especially drawn to the second manuscript that described her spirituality, her teaching, her “little way.”
St. Therese of Lisieux was born in France in 1873. She entered a Carmelite convent at the young age of 15 and lived there for 9 years until her death in 1897 from tuberculosis. She was 24 years old. Yet despite her short life, she became a saint in 1924 and 100 years after her death in 1997 she was declared the youngest “Doctor of the Church” by John Paul II. This high honor is only shared by 3 other women. In order to become a Doctor of the Church, the person must be a canonized saint who has given a theological and spiritual teaching beneficial to the universal Church.
Therese would have remained unknown to the rest of the world if not for her writings while in the convent. She wrote three different manuscripts that were all combined into one book – “Story of a Soul.” “Story of a Soul” has become a world wide bestseller, and has been translated into more than sixty languages and dialects.
2. Picture yourself on “The Little Way” as a child of God in prayer.
There are two images that come to mind when I think of the Little Way.
The Elevator. Therese wrote about needing to find some kind of elevator to lift her soul to God. She knew she was just a child in the spiritual sense and could not go to heaven on her own steam, so to speak.
One day Therese read Proverbs 9:4 – “Whoever is a little one, let him come unto me.” It was then that she realized that “...The elevator which must raise me to heaven is your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more.”
The Stairway. Another image that stuck with me was the stairway to God. Therese said that God loved us so much, that all we had to do was try to make that first step toward him. Then He would run down the stairs and sweep us up in His arms and carry us the rest of the way.
In other words, it is not our efforts that will bring us to heaven. It is grace. It is about being little and humble and surrendering to the arms of our Father.
St. Therese wrote that each of us needs to be like a little child, knowing we are totally dependent on God. We need to be totally confident in God’s mercy and love for us.
We need to be like little children that expect everything from our Father. A powerful image.
3. Live the “Little Way” through Trust and Confidence in God’s Mercy.
For years I did not trust in God’s loving mercy. After learning from St. Therese, I now can see God as a loving and forgiving Father as I live out Therese’s spirituality of the Little Way.
Now I pray to be able to trust in the Lord’s love, no matter what I do or say or think. Through prayer, I have become much more confident in God’s mercy and everlasting love for me, for all of us.
And now I try to bring that message to others.
I tend to be a control freak most of the time, but since reading about the Little Way, I try to surrender to the Lord. I try to let go of control and let Jesus’ elevator lift me up. I now know I do not have to be perfect. I just need to trust.
5. Live the Little Way by Reading and Studying God’s word.
Every day St. Therese read scripture and the “Imitation of Christ,” written by Thomas a Kempis. I read scripture daily but had only read the “Imitation of Christ” once and put it aside. Now I read a little of it every day. It contains much wisdom and inspiration.
6. Do Hidden Sacrifices Daily
St. Therese wrote about doing great things in small ways – little everyday kind of things. Hidden sacrifices that no one else knows about except the Lord.
For example, there was a grouchy old nun in her convent who needed help walking to meals and to the chapel. Therese would volunteer to help her and get yelled at while doing so! Therese offered up a prayer for the nun, smiled at her and went out of her way to assist her whenever she could.
It is about doing little things with great love.
“Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” – Story of a Soul, Chapter VIII
I try to do little things well, in my ministry, in my duties as church secretary. I sometimes offer little hidden sacrifices. Certainly I have my own encounters with people who try my patience. I think of St. Therese and try to imitate her, remembering that I need to do it all with love.
When it comes to charity or offering little sacrifices to God, I have always been a believer in not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing. Hidden offerings for the Lord is a way for us to try to remain humble. And little.
7. Talk to God like a child of God.
Spiritual childhood is about offering everything in our lives to God – happiness and joy, sadness and disappointments, laying everything at God’s feet including our mistakes.
None of this is as easy as it sounds. We cannot do any of this without grace. We need the elevator that lifts us to our loving Father.
Therese’s Little Way has touched many people. It’s no wonder that Pope Pius XI declared her “a word from God meant for the whole world.”
Copyright Colleen Spiro 2013. All rights reserved.