I have a little book on my desk, Daily Thoughts from The Little Flower, which a Catholic Weekly reader gave to me some time ago.
Dipping into it today I’m reminded by how tough St Therese really was. She was no sentimentalist for all her talk of sweetness and love and light. She was a realist. She saw the world’s beauty and enjoyed it, she also understood its ugliness and wished to heal it.
One theme which arises in her thoughts is that of obedience to Jesus. When Therese speaks of obedience I’m sure it’s in the sense of obeying Jesus’ invitation to take up one’s cross each day and follow him.
Therese obeyed out of love, in little things and in big things. In little things, what she would call ‘nothings’, such as smiling or saying a kind word when she didn’t feel like doing so. And in greater things when, in terrible pain, she once resisted the urge to overdose on medication and asked her sisters to remove it from her room to ease the temptation. She did not always feel the love of God. She experienced doubt, the loss of feelings of faith and devotion, and the reason I’m looking to her for inspiration now is because I feel this a bit too, lately.
But in this she still chose to obey. And I think this is the best antidote to doubt about God. Just to keep doing what Jesus said, what he did. And hope. “Even when the fire of love seems dead, I still throw little straws upon the embers, and I am certain that the fire will be rekindled,” St Therese wrote.
In obeying out of love, Therese found happiness. “The only happiness here below is to strive to be always content with what Jesus gives us,” she says.
This isn’t mere resignation or stoicism, but real happiness in accepting the gifts God gives, even or especially if they are not what we would choose for ourselves. Therese’s contemporaries, her sisters in the convent, knew her to be always smiling, an enthusiastic storyteller, a pleasure to be with during recreation time.
She also found that in turn, in the reciprocity of an ongoing love-relationship, God was pleased to obey her own wishes to release from heaven a shower of roses to earth, to help souls. There are so many people who can trace blessings in their lives through this saint’s intercession.
Obedience seems such an old-fashioned word today, but I’m wondering if it is not the way to true happiness, true peace?
For myself, without the need to be obedient to God, following the doctrines of his Church, how might I fashion a truly happy life for myself? What would my standard be? I don’t know. Christianity is so inherent in me that I can’t imagine being content with life apart from the example and teachings of Christ.
Even writing this column each week is an act of obedience in a way, a discipline which forces me at times to remember how God is weaving his divine life with and within mine.
So obedience. Not blind obedience to just anyone, or even to my own ideas or feelings about things, but God alone, placing all our trust in him, as St Faustina Kowalska would also have us do this Divine Mercy Sunday and every day.