St Therese of Lisieux, when pondering the symbolism of the garden for which she has become so famous, wrote that she realised that we couldn’t all be roses and lilies. She personally identified more with a smaller, less significant flower, and she discovered beauty in being that flower rather than some of the others she had once longed to be.
The Little Way of St Therese is indeed a message of comfort to we former sisters, if only one can get past the contempt that comes with an over-familiarity with the general notion of The Little Way, and actually embrace it and live it.
In my former community I celebrated my feast day on the 1st of October and St Therese of Lisieux was my personal patroness. Anyone who knows me well knows that I tend to gravitate towards grand plans and big ideas… I really need a saint like Therese praying for me, teaching me to be who I am and flourish as such in the Father’s Garden!
Once, I dreamed I’d be a religious sister and I hoped I’d be a holy one. I longed to be a saint. I longed for union with God. I felt convinced that He had called me to be a garden enclosed – His sister, His bride. Some years on, I find that I am NOT a religious sister, nor am I holy – neither lily, nor rose, much less that garden enclosed. I still long to be a saint, and I still long for union with God… and thanks be to Him that through the life and witness of St Therese He has shown me that there is still a way… albeit a little way.
As I learn to live The Little Way out here in my “post-convent” reality, the 1st of October is still special to me.
I celebrate it almost as if it were my birthday… because any excuse for a party will do… but more seriously, because the day still has a significance that I can’t quite articulate. Unless you’re a close friend or family member, you may not notice anything different about the way I go about my day. OK… so I generally eat “solemnity food” (i.e. I indulge in sugar just a little bit), and if there are lunchtime meetings that interfere with my Mass plans, guess which one wins? I have a picture of St Therese in a cardboard frame that I received from one of my former sisters on the day I received the habit… I’ve kept that picture and it receives pride of place in my “prayer corner” on October 1st. I still think of it as “my feast day” and I still consider it a day to “ask big” with a trust in the Father so characteristic of St Therese… through her intercession. I pray in a special way for all my former sisters who shared that feast day.
All of these external things are so little… so little… but they help to make the day special internally. My friendship with St Therese has been such an important feature of my post-convent healing. She has been such a faithful friend and has helped to keep the lines of communication open with our Heavenly Father when my heart was hurting most and I was tempted to turn away.
I don’t know how successful this would be, but I’d love to open up some discussion here in the comments below, among you, the Leonie’s Longing readers. We’re a community, after all, and we share a life experience that unites us in Him. Each one of us once longed to be a part of that garden enclosed… perhaps lily, perhaps rose. Some of you will have been in religious life long enough to have had a religious name and/or feast day. Those of you who returned home before receiving a name, or who belonged to communities that retained Baptismal names, may still have had a particular saint you considered your patron. And so I ask you.. do YOU still celebrate your “feast day”? If so, how do YOU make it a special day?
This October 1st, my feast day, I will again “ask big” – this time for each of you, my sisters in Him.
How to deal with anxiety, from the pen of a paranoid schizophrenic.
By Stephanie Grace Cesare.
Jeremiah 29:11: Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you, Yahweh declares: plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Trust has been a major problem in my past, but if we believe in God’s goodness, how can we not trust in Him completely? Every second of our life God knows and allows to happen to us. “There is a spiritual world all around us, can you not see it?” – Jane Eyre.
Because of my condition I am always worried that the worst thing possible is going to happen at any second. The only way I could overcome that was to believe in God’s loving providence: to actually live second to second with a great belief that everything was in some kind of play book for my life. It is when the waves start crashing in on us, when we think we are alone and will drown, that God says, “O you of little faith”. In that moment the Apostle Peter cried, “Lord, we are going to drown, don’t you care?” Whenever we take our eyes away from God, that is when we become anxious, scared, feeling we are on our own and will drown in worries: that is when we need to cry, “LORD!”
This is where suffering must be understood.
Luke 11:11-15 says, “What father among you, if his son asked for a fish, would hand him a snake? Or if he asked for an egg, hand him a scorpion?” Suffering as the saints know it has infinite worth. God allows suffering to come upon us for this reason, that we may fill up what is lacking in the wounds of Christ, and that we may actually participate in God’s salvific mission for the world. God works through us when we accept life’s difficulties
2 Cor 12:7-10: “Wherefore so that I should not get above myself I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to batter me and prevent me from getting above myself about this. I have three times pleaded with the Lord that it might leave me but he has answered me, “My grace is enough for you.” For power is at full strength in weakness. It is then about my weaknesses that I am happiest of all to boast, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me, and that is why I am glad of weaknesses, insults, constraints, persecutions and distress for Christ’s sake, for it is when I am weak that I am strong.”
Some examples in my life… God is in the details. To let go and realize every detail of the day is God’s will, will give you an extreme amount of peace. One day I realized I wasn’t going to be able to have a job because it was so stressful so I gave it up to God. I am a cosmetologist and I am supposed to take the next person on the computer list no matter what they want done, so I said, “Lord, please send me the people that I would be able to handle.” This went really well. Every time I went to the list I had the confidence that the Lord would help me with the next customer. He must really want me to have this job so I trusted.
I was in a religious community when I was having signs of schizophrenia and had decided to leave. I went into an extreme depression that landed me in the hospital several times. I didn’t know how a good God could push me away from him and not want a girl who dreamed all her life since the age of reason to be his spouse; to be incapable of it! How could a good God abandon me like that? “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” – that just wasn’t true – or, “She has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” – hmm, what about that one? I was telling God how to make me holy rather than trusting that he knew the best way. Then one day, I read that God sent the man who had asked to be his disciple to go home and be a witness to his family and home town – “How can I do that?” I thought. Well, I have had the chance to help those in the world with me more than I ever had in the convent with my peers, family and customers. I am planning on volunteering at a nursing home so I can talk to the infirm about God while doing their hair. I never had this in the convent…the chance to get close to people and love them. To get to know them, unlike I would ever have in the convent. That’s when I realized I was called to the single life and so be a witness.
One night I was crying hysterically over the fact I left the convent when my parents came home from Louisville with a note from a homeless person on the street to me. It said, “I have chosen you to bear fruit.” That was the quote at my clothing in the convent on my card. It made me realize that I have a mission greater than I could ever imagine as long as I did God’s will.
I was chosen, but how and for what? The most anxiety you go through is not knowing your calling in life and the second is not trusting and giving up your will to God. Mother Teresa said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”.
The teenager days are usually the most arrogant. I’m going to be rich, I’m going to change the world, I’m going to be famous. There is nothing wrong with having these goals, as long as we give our will to God, but many do not and go into despair when they do not accomplish what they desire. This has caused many college-age students to commit suicide because their goals are so high. Many people come out of religious life and this can be devastating to live a humble life of a lay person or the married state. In Abandonment to Divine Providence, Fr. Caussade explains that it is not in seeking holy things or circumstances, but seeking holiness in all our circumstances, that makes saints.
We will never have peace unless we trust that doing what is in front of us is God’s will and that doing it well (little detail by little detail) will take away the anxieties of life and will lead to greater, wonderful things. Think, when you offer your life to God in your daily duties, of how much more God in his generosity will give you to accomplish in your life. He is all goodness, so do you not believe he will give you a grand adventure – one that will bring you to heaven?
In living each moment the way God calls (the little details) God will give greater things for you to do. I love St. Therese because she taught the little way to heaven. Doing every little thing because it is most humbling and therefore more meritorious in the eyes of God. Once we realize the great worth of these small details, the more at peace we will be. Believe in PROVIDENCE! Just realize that our daily duties are so important when done with love – how much more at peace. God will always outdo us with love, and the more we offer up these small things, the greater the things he will call us to, and we will be at peace in his love.
Psalm 131, song of quiet trust: “O Lord my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high. I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me, but I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child that is quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego: “Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. Do not fear this sickness of your uncle or any other sickness, nor anything that is sharp or hurtful. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.”