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Suffering and the Little Way Header

The following text is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on July 16, 1970. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. –Ed.

 

There is a valuable deposition from the canonization of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, given by her sister Celine. It reveals aspects of the saint’s life about which few are aware and to which, even less give due importance.

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The information contained in this document is ironclad. Not only was Celine closer to Saint Therese than anyone else, but she gave this testimony in an official Church inquiry. Thus, it is scrupulously accurate. A part of this document states:

"The servant of God followed a path of simple confidence and total abandonment to God. She named this her little way of spiritual infancy. She continually corresponded to grace and performed generous acts. This is how she formed herself and her novices."

This shows the role that correspondence to grace plays in the little way. Most people are very familiar with the sweetness of Saint Therese’s spirituality, but neglect the roles of correspondence and suffering.

St ThereseHowever, doing so denies almost every page of Saint Therese’s writings. In fact, she prized suffering so much that it became an integral part of who she was. Celine shows how this sweetness and suffering coexisted in the life of Saint Therese.

She says that Saint Therese always corresponded to grace. This correspondence is an act of the will. It consists in accepting the invitation to grace. This requires sacrifice, because frequently it forces one to behave contrary to his desires. Though Saint Therese was not the saint of great sacrifices, she constantly accepted little, simple and unpretentious ones.

Since these were unceasing, they weighed more heavily on her than great sufferings would have. At least these would have come in waves with periods of respite in between. Saint Therese’s life of constant sacrifice demonstrates the great-little suffering of her way.

Celine continues:

One day, I read a passage on the Eucharist that said Our Lord’s mercy will be granted to each according to the merit of his works. I asked the servant of God why mercy would be given according to the merit of one’s works. She was emphatic and immediately responded that confidence in God is nourished on sacrifice.

Pay close attention to her response. Saint Therese sustained herself on sacrifice.

She went on to say that each should give himself entirely and constantly renounce himself. In a single word, he should prove his love in every way and always do every good work that he can. This is the desire of little souls who run along the way of spiritual infancy. She finished: “I intentionally said that these souls run, because they never lag behind.”

Thus, the spirit of sacrifice is key to the little way. It means constantly offering little sufferings, and at times big ones, in a spirit of spiritual infancy, abandonment and confidence in God.

Saint Therese exemplified this spirit. She resolved always to ask for nothing and accept everything. Once, a nun was helping her arrange her habit and inadvertently stuck a pin through her flesh. Faithful to this spirit, Saint Therese never complained and left the pin where it was until she retired for the evening.

So, the relationship between the little way and suffering is clear. Nevertheless, there is still something mysterious about it, because Saint Therese’s life and writings, which are filled with affliction, are also imbued with a perfume of roses.

When one reads the Spiritual Exercises of the great Saint Ignatius, who I hold in highest esteem, it makes one’s hair stand on end. However, when Saint Therese writes the same thing, somehow it comes with a smile.  

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for September 19, 2019

Have confidence in prayer. It is the unfailing power which G...

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September 19

 

Have confidence in prayer.
It is the unfailing power which God has given us.
By means of it you will obtain the salvation of
the dear souls whom God has given you and all your loved ones.
Ask and you shall receive,” Our Lord said.
Be yourself with the good Lord.

St. Peter Julian Eymard


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SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Januarius of Benevento

The executioners threw Januarius onto a flaming furnace, but...

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St. Januarius of Benevento

Very little is known about these holy martyrs other than they were killed during the Diocletian persecution.

Legend has it they threw Januarius onto a flaming furnace, but he was unscathed.

Instead, they stretched him on a bench and beat him until his bones were exposed.

When the saint still lived, they threw him and his companions to starving wild animals in the amphitheatre, but the animals would not touch them.

Finally, the martyrs were beheaded and died around the year 304.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort...

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The Rosary, the Devil and the Queen

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, he was known for his powerful, moving sermons on the Rosary, which led people to adopt this devotion to their great benefit.

Furiously jealous of the holy man’s success with souls, the devil began to so torture Thomas that he fell sick, and was so ill for so long that the doctors gave up on saving his life.

One night, when the poor man thought he was near death, the devil appeared to him in a hideous form, coward that he is, seeking to frighten Thomas into despair.

But, making an effort, the good priest turned to a beautiful picture of Our Lady near his bed crying out with all his heart and strength:

“Help me, save me, my sweet, sweet Mother!”

No sooner had he pronounced these words, the picture came alive and extending her hand, the heavenly Lady laid it reassuringly on the priest’s arm, saying:

“Do not be afraid, Thomas my son, here I am and I am going to save you. Get up now and go on preaching my Rosary as you did before. I promise to shield and protect you from your enemies.”

No sooner had Our Lady pronounced these words, than the devil fled in a hurry. Getting up, Thomas found that he was perfectly healed. 

Thanking the Blessed Mother with tears of joy, Blessed Thomas again went about preaching the Holy Rosary, now with renewed favor and gumption, and his apostolate and his sermons were enormously successful. 

St. Louis the Montfort concludes this story saying, “Our lady not only blesses those who say her Rosary, but also abundantly rewards those who, by their example, inspire others to say it as well.”

 


 

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In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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