More on St. Thérèse

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Regarding the difficulties many have with reading the work of the Little Flower

from St. Benedict and St. Thérèse: The Little Rule and the Little Way
Dwight Longenecker

If the first-time reader has to struggle with the mundane minutiae of sixth-century monastic life in Benedict, then in Thérèse he has to struggle with an even more difficult dose of "ordinariness." At least there is some historical interest in reading about the sleeping arrangements of sixth-century monks, but Thérèse takes us into the detailed life of the nineteenth century French bourgeoisie. Her writings are full of spiritual points made through the events of ordinary days. So we are plunged into the details of visits to relatives, a first train ride, trips to the seaside, and the traumas of a little girl's school days. We are told about playtime with her sisters, quarrels with the maid, and the joy of cuddle with Mommy and Daddy. Those who are looking for a lofty spiritual treatise will find in both Benedict and Thérèse a hefty does of ordinary life instead.

And doesn't this just make perfect, natural sense. Ordinary life is where our spirituality plays out. Even if are advanced contemplatives, we are not transported bodily from where we spend time sweeping the floors and caring for children. God speaks to us in the trauma of our children, in the difficulty of getting a stain out of the carpet, in the trials of cleaning baked-on cheese and who knows what-all off of the casserole. He speaks to us in the commute to work and in the trials of the day (getting enough paperclips--getting rid of too many paperclips, the copier is skipping pages--the copier is making two copies of every other page). Spirituality is not divorced from life, it is reinforced by life. Our reactions and our actions of each day are what come out of our hearts. They are where we are most real, where we have the least time to don a mask and put on the "company face." And so they are the best mirror of our spiritual life. Exalted states of prayer are, for most of us, the exception rather than the rule. As Longenecker says elsewhere in the book, "The divine is in the details." And the details are ordinary.

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H. Von Balthasar has a theologically dense exploration of her theology and spirituality--the first part of the volume "Two Sisters in the Spirit".

There's a portion of it online at:

Therese--little but not lite.

(Typing w/sleeping child on lap)

Just started re-reading Story of a Soul, which I trudged through at 18 or 19. 6 yrs. later as a parent I am finding the mundane stuff really speaks to me. And as I have trouble with reading that great saints considered themselves "the worst of sinners" (is that hyperbole?) it is helpful to know that one doctor of the Church recognized that God saved her from becoming the worst of sinners. I am not expressing this very well, but my mind tends to probably wrongly extract from writings of the saints that it's all or nothing and that you should focus on how bad you are and nothing about you now is really all that good or pleasing to God, but don't be sad about it either because that's just pride too. I would like to thank God for the improvements he's made in me, without being proud that I'm not like that heathen over there. Therese says it better than I do so I'm not sure why I'm bothering!

Well said!

It's as a parent that I, too, find Therese edifying. So much of our lives is little and ordinary. And grace is here especially!

I need reminding of that.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 19, 2003 10:35 AM.

On the Little Way was the previous entry in this blog.

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