Homily for the Memorial of St. Therese of Lisieux
It has often been said that holy vocations come out of holy families. That certainly was the case with the family of St. Therese of Lisieux. St. Therese was 1 of 9 children born into an extremely Catholic family. Her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, sought to instill in their children a deep love for the Lord and foster a desire to serve the Church. As a family, they would go to Mass each morning at 5:30, prayed in connection with the liturgical year, practiced fasting, and performed acts of charity for those less fortunate. Living out their faith was such a prominent part of their lives that it resulted in this great thirst for holiness in every single one of them.
Therese was not the only religious vocation to emerge from the family. Sadly, 4 of the Martin’s children did not live into adulthood. But the remaining five daughters all became religious sisters. Most of them entered the Carmelite order with Therese and her older sister Pauline.
From a very young age, Therese wanted to become a member of the Carmelite order but she was always refused because she was too young. But, she was pretty persistent. Even after everyone had told her to wait, she was determined to join the order. At the age of 15, while on pilgrimage to Rome, St. Therese even approached the Pope at an audience and asked him to give her special permission to enter. He told her that she would enter if it was God’s will. It was shortly after that pilgrimage to Italy that she entered the Carmelite order.
Throughout her time as a Carmelite nun, she believed that her mission and her vocation was “to save souls and pray for priests.” So she very much embraced the mission entrusted to all of us by the Lord in today’s Gospel to pray for the master of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. But she also encouraged others to live their lives by the Little Way. For her, this was the way for all of us to achieve holiness and attain the promise of Heaven.
The Little Way is not just about being small or childlike; it is also about doing the smallest actions with great love. St. Thérèse compared this method to using an elevator. She once wrote: “I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched, then, in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires.” She thought that we should bring God into our smallest actions rather than focusing on something grand to do in order to attain God’s favor. In other words, if we recognize who we are before God and embrace true humility, then we can let God have control over our lives – then, we allow God to work in and through us.
So today, I invite all of us to reflect on that aspect of the spirituality of St. Therese. Do we recognize who we are before God – his beloved sons and daughters, his little children? What is stopping us from embracing that childlike nature? Today, may our thirst for holiness be as prominent in our lives as it was in the life of St. Therese. And may we pray today, that she intercede for us and help us to embrace her Little Way.