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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 February 25, 2021

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what...

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February 25

 

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and
reject what you don't like,
it is not the gospels that you believe,
but in yourself.

Saint Augustine of Hippo

  
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Tarasius of Constantinople

The emperor became enamored of Theodotah, a maid of his wife...

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St. Tarasius of Constantinople

Tarasius was born around the middle of the eighth century. Raised in a patrician family, Tarasius was surrounded by earthly wealth and possessions, but lived a most austere and holy life. His virtue gained the esteem of the empire, and Tarasius was made Patriarch of Constantinople.

The emperor of the time, Constantine VI, became enamored of Theodotah, a maid of his wife, and sought to divorce his wife and marry her maid. As he strove to convince Tarasius to marry him to Theodota, the emperor sent a message to the holy man. Tarasius adamantly refused, replying to the emperor's ambassador, “I would rather suffer death and all manner of torments than consent to his design." He continued to reject the emperor’s requests, and the ceremony was performed by another.

Just before his death, Tarasius fell into a trance. As his biographer, who was an eyewitness, relates, he was heard arguing with a number of unseen accusers. Tarasius defended himself against the accusers, and answered everything laid to his charge. Later, a great peacefulness came over him, and Tarasius gave up his soul to God in 806.

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Alphonsus, King of Leon and Galicia, very much wanted all hi...

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Our Lady Rewards the Public Use of the Rosary

Alphonsus, King of Leon and Galicia, very much wanted all his servants to honor the Blessed Virgin by saying the Rosary. So he would hang a large rosary on his belt and always wear it, but unfortunately never said it himself. Nevertheless, his wearing it encouraged everyone to say the Rosary very devoutly.

One day he fell seriously ill and was given up for dead. He found himself, in a vision, before the judgment seat of Our Lord with many devils accusing him of his sins and Our Sovereign Judge about to condemn him to hell. But Our Lady appeared to intercede for him. She called for a pair of scales and had his sins placed in one of the balances and the rosary he had always worn on the other, together with all the Rosaries that had been said because of his example. It was found that the Rosaries weighed more than his sins.

Looking at him with great kindness Our Lady said, "As a reward for this little honor you paid me in wearing my Rosary, I have obtained a great grace for you from my Son. Your life will be spared for a few more years. See that you spend them wisely and do penance."

When the King regained consciousness he cried out, "Blessed be the Rosary of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, by which I have been delivered from eternal damnation!"

Having recovered his health, he spent the rest of his life spreading devotion to the Holy Rosary and said it faithfully every day.

People who love the Blessed Virgin should follow the example of King Alphonsus so they too may win other souls to say the Rosary. They will receive great graces on earth and eternal life. "They that explain me shall have life everlasting." [1] Ecclus. 24:31

Adapted from Saint Louis de Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosary (Hanover, Pa: America Needs Fatima, 2008), 12.

 

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Alphonsus, King of Leon and Galicia, very much wanted all his servants to honor the Blessed Virgin by saying the Rosary. So he would hang a large rosary on his belt and always wear it, but unfortunately never said it himself. Nevertheless, his wearing it encouraged everyone to say the Rosary very devoutly.

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