Grace to you!
Thousands of pilgrims were in attendance at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome on Sunday, October 18, 2015 to witness the canonization of Marie-Azelie and Louis Martin, the parents of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, by Pope Francis.
During the homily in the serenity of the solemn Eucharistic celebration, the Pope stated:
“The holy spouses, Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin, practiced Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters, among whom was Saint Therese of the Child Jesus." They are the first-ever married couple with children to be canonized in the same ceremony.
History was made. It is people who make history. The Martins did, and in a big way – the way of sanctity. It is in this context I always look at the story of Saint Theresa (January 2, 1873 – September 30, 1897), popularly known as The Little Flower. Her appreciation and practice of virtue started in the home – the church of the home. Modeling the way for the child, as Proverbs 22:6 admonishes, is rewarding.
From her parents, now Saints Zelie and Louis Martin, Thérèse saw pure love, and felt God’s enduring love. In that home, she never heard voices raised, hate discussed, materialism promoted and immodesty approved. Love and kindness trumped. She saw beauty as it is and realized how God was seen in all life and activities of the family. Suffering and sickness were not to take away the joy of that home.
So for the girl Therese, the home nurtured the saint. It’s important for us to pay attention to the impact our examples could have on children. Children practice what they learn from home, just as they practice at home what they learn elsewhere, including what they copy from the media. Watchful care is important. Tender, pure and loving example is key.
The Little Flower’s example of “the little way” is spiritually brilliant. “Doing ordinary things extraordinarily,” sounds simple, but it is profound. It’s a spiritual model that could permeate every aspect of our lives today, if we live up to it. Often, it is in those little acts of love that holiness of life flourishes and God is glorified.
Simple acts like housecleaning, making our bed, keeping the restroom better than we saw it, a genuine smile to a stranger, proper use of time, not wasting food, giving somebody a listening ear, simple acts of charity, spontaneous prayers in response to a prayer-burden, etc., could mean much in our spiritual life. It’s in doing these things with purest love that we find the way of perfection.
The temptation to be known, to be famous or to do incredible things is huge for many. Nonetheless, we learn from the Little Flower how true it is that exaltation comes from God to the simple and the humble. She was called, “the greatest saint of the modern times” by Pope Pius X. It wasn’t because of exceptional academic qualifications, physical beauty, mind-boggling ideas or innovation, or material success. It was for her purest love and audacious simplicity.
Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus (I take her as my girlfriend) has taught me many things as she taught another Father Maurice, a French Missionary in Africa, who was her penpal and friend, how to love God above all else. I owe to her some aspects of my spiritual journey.
Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, pray for us.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.