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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 January 24, 2020

Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, not ev...

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January 24

 

Do not lose your inner peace
for anything whatsoever,
not even if your whole world seems upset.
If you find that you have wandered away from
the shelter of God,
lead your heart back to Him quietly and simply.

St. Francis de Sales


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Francis de Sales

Francis suffered a terrible temptation to despair of being s...

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St. Francis de Sales

Francis de Sales was born in the Duchy of Savoy, in present-day France, in the Château de Sales. His father was Francis, Lord of Boisy, Sales and Novel and his mother Frances de Sionnz, the daughter of a prominent magistrate.

Born prematurely, Francis was delicate but slowly strengthened, though his health was never robust.

Being the oldest son of six, his father destined him for a secular career, despite Francis’ early leanings to the religious life. He attended the Jesuit college of Clermont in Paris where he excelled in rhetoric, philosophy and theology. During this period, Francis suffered a terrible temptation to despair of being saved. He was miraculously delivered before an image of Our Lady and there and then made a vow of chastity.

At twenty-four he received his law degree in Padua. With a brilliant career ahead of him, and a noble prospect of marriage, Francis declared his intention of following an ecclesiastical career. A sharp struggle ensued between him and his father who only relented in his opposition when Bishop Granier of Geneva offered Francis the post of Provost of the Chapter of Geneva in the patronage of the Pope.

Francis was ordained in 1593. The next year he volunteered to evangelize the region of Le Chablais, recently returned to the Duchy of Savoy from Calvinist Geneva and on which the Genevans had imposed their creed. With enormous tact, charity and zeal the young provost confuted the preachers sent to debate him, converted several prominent Calvinists and at great personal risk and traveling extensively brought back to the Church tens of thousands of the people of Chablais.

He was consecrated Bishop of Geneva in 1602, ruling his diocese from Annecy in France where he immediately established regular catechetical lessons for young and old. He himself taught the children of  whom he was beloved. He visited the parishes throughout his rugged diocese, made provisions for the clergy, reformed religious orders, and preached incessantly, everywhere known for his kindness and patient zeal. Those who flocked to hear the holy bishop said, “Never have such holy, apostolic sermons been preached.”

With St. Jeanne Frances de Chantal he founded the Order of the Visitation for girls and widows who had not the health or inclination for the austerities of the great orders.

In the midst of all his activities he found time to write numerous letters and works, among the most famous being his Introduction to the Devout Life.

Francis de Sales died in 1622 at age fifty-six and crowds thronged to venerate him. He was canonized in 1665 and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1877.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him h...

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Mary and the Muslim

Don Octavio del Monaco was a wealthy citizen of 17th century Naples. Like many of his class, Don Octavius had several Muslim slaves in his household. These children of Islam were amazed at the kindness of their “master.” He fed and clothed them better than they received in their native land. In return, his slaves attended to their tasks with diligence, as Don Octavius did not over work them, but assigned them duties in keeping with their dignity as children of God.

If these Muslim slaves had any reason for complaint, it was the gentle persistence with which their master and his wife exhorted them to give up their false religion and become Catholics. Don Octavius even went so far as to invite the slaves to join his family in the chapel to worship the one true God with them!

Our story today is about one young slave in particular. His name was Abel, like the slain son of Adam and Eve. He felt drawn in a peculiar way to a lamp that burned in front of a shrine to Holy Mary. Abel would purchase the oil needed to keep the lamp lit from his own meager stipend. As he continued to practice this humble devotion, he would say, “I hope that this Lady will grant me some great favor.”

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian. At first the Turk resisted. But she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said to him: “Now no longer resist, Abel, but be baptized and called Joseph,” conferring on him a name that was very dear to her Immaculate Heart indeed.

On August the 10th, 1648, there was much rejoicing in Heaven, for on that day “Joseph” and eleven other Muslims converted to the Christian faith and were baptized. Their conversion was brought about by the kindness shown by Don Octavius and the special intercession of the Mother of God.

Our story does not end here. Even once this son of hers was safely baptized, Mother Mary delighted in visiting him. Once, after having appeared to him, she was about to depart. But the Moor seized her mantle, saying, “Oh, Lady, when I find myself afflicted, I pray you to let me see you.” In fact, she one day promised him this and when Joseph found himself afflicted he invoked her, and Mary appeared to him again saying, “Have patience", and he was consoled.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian.

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