Reflection on the occasion of the Feast of St. Therese of Lissieux

Par Evans Masakhalia p.m.e

Therese was the last born of nine children borne to Louis and Zelie Martin. She was born on January 2, 1873 in Alencon France and lived only for 24 years. She lost her mother when she was about two years. The constant memory of the love she received from her mother created in her an inner turmoil and a longing for love.

During her catechism, Therese was taught that a Christian was not expected to make mistakes at all. She was taught that faults were offending to God and that if she made mistakes God would punish her.
According to the teaching of her time, God was always watching people to notice whoever sins so that He would throw such a person into the hell fire. To be a good and successful Christian during those days you needed to be holy (perfect) with no failures. She became increasingly fearful because she desired to be a good and successful Christian and respond to a call to holiness that is for all Christians.

By looking at her life, Therese realized that she was struggling to be holy but she wouldn’t look holy, she was afraid of being a failure and  of not being liked by the people; she wanted to meet the standards of success of her time.
 God that was portrayed to Therese was a reality to be afraid of and not befriend. Looking at her life, she noticed that she often made mistakes some of which are even embarrassing to her. This made her even more fearful and lose her hope in God.

While reading the bible, (especially the letters of St. Paul and the Gospels). She gained an understanding that contradicted what she had been made to believe. She realized that God of the bible is Love, Mercy and forgiveness. She found out that Jesus in the Gospel loves the people and He does not condemn them. She discovered that Jesus loves us unconditionally; He is not interested in the number of times we fall but is rather interested in the level of our awareness that we offend Him and our willingness to get back to Him. This was a great consolation for her and the beginning of an intimate relationship with God.

  Doing it all for Love
Now, aware that God is Love, she learnt that for her to be perfect she needed to be God-like. This meant that she needed to love the way God loves. In her autobiography, she writes ‘perfect love means putting up with other peoples’ shortcomings, feeling no surprise at their weakness, finding encouragement even in the slightest evidence of good qualities in them.’’ To love others was so important for her to extent of resolving not ‘to miss any single opportunity of making some small sacrifice always by doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.  She became loving, compassionate and forgiving person, doing simple and insignificant ordinary things with significant extraordinary love. This became her spirituality, famously known as ‘the little way of St. Therese.’ 

St. Therese is proposing to us her little way. We are being invited to do small ordinary things at our work places, our neighborhoods and our homes/communities with extraordinary love. To recognize that God has loved as so as to love, forgiven us so as to forgive, tolerated us so us to tolerate… He has given and continues to give us a second chance so that we can do the same to others.  His forgiving power has given us a love experience to love the way we have been loved. 


Love is our Vocation
Love is a decision, quite often, a hard choice to make. Just as one cannot give what he or she does not have, in the same way, You cannot love if you have never experienced love. You cannot forgive if you have never been in need of forgiveness, or be patient with others if you are Mr. or madam perfect. If we love the way we have been loved, no sacrifice will be too big to make for others, no mistake will be intolerable, no one will be a desperate case to correct, no one will be so stupid to appeal to our senses, no distance will be too long to travel so as to reach out to others, no place will be too dirty or dangerous for us to enter and reach out to others. If we call ourselves Christians, love is our Vocation. …let us love.