Praying With St. Therese

I had set my alarm for 7:30 am to attend mass by 9:30 but by the time I opened my eyes, it was already 9 am. I was confused as to what happened- for I’m always good at waking up with my iphone alarm- then realized my older daughter had decided to sing “All About The Bass” all morning to my itunes and had already pushed snooze one too many times.

I turned to my second daughter and asked in panic “Why didn’t you wake us up??”– to which she casually replied, “Well, you ALWAYS tell me not to wake you guys up so early!”

Smart girl- you’re right. I did tell you that. I forgot to say except Sunday mornings before mass but my bad for forgetting to add that side note. You’re right. You still manage to catch me off guard one too many times. You’re just like me when I was a kid. Except my mom used to take things way too seriously and missing church would NOT be an option.

I used to think I would burn in hell if I ever miss Sunday mass. No really, I did. My mom never told me that outright but it was clear that missing church is a sin, and sinful people burn in hell. So I ran straight to confession every time I miss church. Well on a second note, I never had a chance to run straight to confession because I never missed church. My parents would make sure I’m there every Sunday. But I know that’s what I would’ve done if I had ever missed Sunday mass. Anyway…

So our Sunday morning turned to family fun day at the pool. While the rest of my family are complaining that mommy never joins them in the pool- because I hate cold water and am deathly scared of strong sun (a side effect of the 30’s), I decided to begin another week of prayer with St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, praying for intercession of Mother Mary, saints, and angels is a tradition that has been carried out for thousands of years in the church. Some Christian fundamentalists argue against it, but I’m not interested in a theological debate because I KNOW it works. I’ve experienced its power and miracles so many times that I even named my second child after my favorite saint, St. Thérèse.

I especially like to pray with her because her “little ways” to sainthood is revolutionary and comforting at the same time. She compares her faith to that of a little flower, and instead of involving herself in monumental works like building a school in a third world country (which of course will be great but I’m unable to do), she performs her everyday “little” works with great love.

While on earth, she practiced forgiveness, self-denial and contemplative prayer daily by asking God to fill her void and emptiness. She understood her weaknesses too well and instead of trying to hide it, she offered it ALL to him in confidence.

She also built an elevator to heaven. It wasn’t designed to take her from floor to floor in a building; it was meant to take her to heaven—on God’s power, not her own. The “button” she pushed to call the elevator was her confidence in the Lord, especially in light of her smallness and weakness.

It was this confidence in God that would be a centerpiece of her much loved and imitated spiritual work, the Little Way. She writes in her autobiography:

We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing stairs … I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. … The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more.

The foundation of St. Thérèse’s confidence, as her autobiography states, was recognizing her own nothingness and expecting everything from God as a small child expects everything from her father.

Such simple yet revolutionary thought changed my relationship with Christ in so many ways and really helped me to see myself more as a child, less calculating and more trusting. She taught me that it’s okay to be weak, little, insignificant and trivial (contrary to what the world teaches us) because in God’s loving eyes, we are all his children. Nothing more, nothing less. We are His beloved babies and He is always waiting for us to pray to him as brothers and sisters- as a Holy community.

She taught me that I don’t have to perform great works to serve and love God. Instead, I can begin serving Him in my own home, with my own family. In fact, this is what He asks of us– to bloom where we are planted. She taught me how to recite prayers while doing dishes and to pray through rough moments of tantrums and frustrations.

When things get really tough, I offer it to Jesus Christ. I say here Jesus, all this screaming and intolerable crying from my little one, I offer it into your hands. My child’s delays and health issues, stressful tests and unfortunate results, I offer them all at your feet. Please, take it and comfort me. I do this, all of this, in YOUR name and glory. 

If you’re seeking spiritual guidance, I highly recommend praying for intercession. Find a saint you relate to and ask him or her to pray alongside you. It’s like having a best friend in heaven and yields greater results than praying alone. One day I hope to share my longer story.

Until then, many blessings in your prayer journey. Have a blessed week wherever you are.

(If you’re interested in praying a simple novena to my best friend St. Therese, you can find it here.)
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