Tribute to 'Little Flower' Therese

St. Therese of the Child Jesus inspires old and young as they find meaning in her words over modern-day problems
Tribute to 'Little Flower' Therese

A Filipino girl portrays St. Therese of the Child Jesus during a parade of saints in Manila. (Photo by Maria Tan)

A bunch of golden shower flowers (cassia fistula) fell on my head, dewdrops and all. I jumped with joy, this was St. Therese's "yes" to a petition in my novena (devotional nine-day prayer).

On the ninth day, I was desperate for an answer and it came as I walked to attend daily Mass. The question was, "Will my boyfriend help me go to heaven if I marry him?"

This is one of the many memories I have.

Now, at 76 and still learning, we know that we should not seek signs, nor attribute weight and attention to such signs, because they may come from another source. Rather we focus on the Word and the teachings of our saints.

We do not deny though that it consoled me immensely to receive a bouquet of yellow roses from a stranger on the 40th day after my husband died.

On her feast day, Oct. 1, we honor St. Therese of Lisieux with memories.

Our earliest memory of her was 65 years ago. Seeking someone to confide in, family problems brought me to her.

I went to see her at lunchtime when the main doors of our parish church were closed, and I had to pass through the sacristy. The church, just across from our school, was empty and silent, except for a few lively sparrows.

I did not even know her name but I chose her from among the many statues in the church because she looked young and was beautiful with her roses. Somehow, talking to her helped.

Today, a grandmother nine times over, Therese is still the teacher we run to.

A granddaughter was often piqued by small irritants in school, a group mate who didn't do her share, a grumpy teacher, a friend who clung to her.

These irritants dealt with a dose of St. Therese's medicine became blessings after some time.

The classmates? "I was thinking regretfully that our conversations were not attaining their desired purpose. God made me feel that the moment had come and I must no longer fear and speak out or else end."

It results in tender expressions that started a friendlier attitude toward each other. That's Therese as quasi novice mistress on in broken friendships.

The grumpy teacher? Remember the cranky old nun that Therese had to endure? "Ah, I understand now that charity consists in bearing with the faults of others, in not being surprised at their weakness ... above all, charity must not remain hidden in the bottom of the heart."

Jesus has said "No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel basket, but upon the lampstand."

Even families today with modern-day problems like dealing with the rising cost of food, coping with a tension-filled office environment, satisfying a demanding partner, staying awake to help the kids with schoolwork after a graveyard shift, Therese can.

She wrote: "Up until this time, I had suffered without loving suffering.... I have no other means of proving my love for You [Jesus] than that of strewing flowers, that is, not allowing one little sacrifice to escape, not one look, one word, profiting by all the smallest things and doing them through love."

And the most beautiful thing about Therese's "way" is that it is "little." It, in fact, requires ordinariness to accomplish. Thus, all of us can cope within our capacities. No excuse to hide behind the "because they are saints and I am not" reason.

Doing little things with love can help us move forward to that eternal goal. "To pick up a pin for love can save souls," said Therese of Lisieux.

When done with love, everything assumes a value, not for the very act itself but a higher spiritual value, whose worth we cannot even try to measure.

Looking back — as a young teacher, a mother of a growing family, a wife to a journalist fighting a dictatorship, a student in her postgraduate studies, the eldest daughter of a poor family and eldest sister to her siblings, all within the same period — in the sunset of my life, I wonder how I was able to cope.

This helped me understand: "Consider your life, and you will see that it consists of countless trifling actions. Yet God is satisfied with them, for doing them as they should be done is the part we have to play in our striving for perfection" (Abandonment to Divine Providence, Jean-Pierre de Caussade).

"And perfection is not beyond our grasp," wrote Marc Holey. What is perfection then?

"Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be," wrote Therese. And what is His will? Simple. For all of us to go to heaven.

I am a widow seeking justice for a lost son, a struggling provider, a student of Therese. All these I am. My prayer is "My Jesus as I live these minute particulars allow me to love with Your love. And if I fall short, lend me your "arms."

Therese assured us "It is your arms Jesus which are the elevator that will bring me [and my loved ones] to heaven."

Edita Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Gunmen believed to be soldiers abducted her son Jonas Burgos in Manila in April 2007. He is still missing. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of ucanews.com. 

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