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 the Holy Father 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" (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 1981, #38). Modeling the way for the child, as Proverbs 22:6 admonishes, is rewarding.
From her parents, now Saints Zelie and Louis Martin, Thérèse witnessed 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. For the Little Flower, it is “doing ordinary things extraordinarily with love. This spiritual model sounds simple, but it is profound. It’s a 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. It is in them that God is glorified.
Simple acts such as housecleaning, making our bed, keeping the restroom better than we found it, a genuine smile to a stranger, proper use of time, not wasting food and giving somebody a listening ear, may have great impact. So also simple acts of charity, spontaneous prayers in response to a prayer-burden, generous gift of our time to help someone else, etc., could mean much in our spiritual life. In doing such simple things as these with pure love, we lead 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 (Prov 3:34; Mt 23:12). Pope Pius X called her “the greatest saint of the modern times.” It wasn’t because of her unusual ascetic life, exceptional academic qualifications, physical beauty, mind-boggling ideas or innovation, or material success. It was for her pure love and audacious simplicity. Her heart was like that of a child, the kind the Lord presents to us as a model (Lk 9:46-48).
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
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.