“For he knows our frailty, He remembers we are only dust”--St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Since Lent of 2022 is already upon us, I would like to pause and reflect on how Lent is a deeply penitential season that can bring us closer to Christ through our love of Him and those around us. I want to consider this by examining St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, and the concept of Merciful Love.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux was deeply attuned to Jesus’s love and mercy for all mankind, especially when it came to little souls who had a repentant heart. St. Thérèse expresses her devotion to the Divine Mercy across her many writings, and her insights shaped her “Little Way” into Jesus’s merciful heart as it is poured out to sinners. However, many reject Christ’s mercy, not believing it to be the free gift it is. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest realities to accept in the spiritual life because of its ubiquitous nature. As humans, we are constantly anxious that we are offending God, inadvertently hurting those around us, and making mistakes in our day-to-day lives at work or in school. But no matter the situation, anxiety, or fault, Christ’s mercy enters that space and works to heal us, even if we do not acknowledge it or if we reject it outright. Jesus comes to us and can live in us no matter what.
St. Thérèse points to Jesus’s Infinite love and mercy as a model for our own love. In Story of a Soul, she writes, “How good is the Lord, his mercy endures forever! It seems to me that if all creatures had received the same graces I received, God would be feared by none but would be loved to the point of folly; and through love, not through fear, no one would ever consent to causing Him any pain.” Lent is a time of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving that is focused on love of God and love of neighbor. The three core pillars of Lent are not ends in themselves; they are a means to grow closer in relationship to Jesus, the Church, and those who live in our communities. Christ offers us his love and mercy so that we can extend them to those around us, and once we accept His gifts, we are changed forever. Nevertheless, one must trust God in His love, and we must see ourselves as reflections of His love.
Much of St. Thérèse’s writings and spirituality revolve around being a small child before God. Our littleness allows the Lord to love and minister to us as He intended since we cannot attain the heights of the Christian life on our own. Instead, Jesus and the Holy Spirit draw near to illuminate the darkness in our lives with their love. Yet, despite the presence of Christ in our lives, we turn away from Him, and this then allows us to run back to Him as the Prodigal Son did. This turning back to God fosters deeper trust in God within our hearts. St. Thérèse enunciates that we have to receive and accept our brokenness and the reality that we will never be perfect. Once this occurs, we gain a relationship with Jesus. Through His love for us, we see ourselves as a vessel for His love. We value our own selves as well as helping those around us. We Christians move outward to love the world as Jesus called us to do through God the Infinite Love and Infinite Mercy.
To learn more about the saints, visit our Catholic Feast Days Website by clicking here.