How time flies! There was a day when St. Therese, at age 24, explained to her sister, "As far as little ones are concerned, they will be judged with great gentleness. And one can remain little, even in the most formidable offices, even when living for a long time. If I were to die at the age of eighty, if I were in China, anywhere, I would still die, I feel, as little as I am today. And it is written: 'At the end, the Lord will rise up to save the gentle and the humble of the earth.' It doesn't say 'to judge,' but 'to save.'"
Therese died - or rather, as she liked to say, was born into eternal life - only a few days later. She never made it to age 80 on earth, but today we celebrate the 150th anniversary of her birth, so there's a way in which she's made it way past 80! And guess what? Although she is, according to Pope St. Pius X, the greatest saint of modern times, she is also - still - little. Her advice hasn't changed, and she wants us to be little with her, however old we may be on this day and in the future.
Therese's sister Celine was older, and in fact lived on this earth much longer, all the way to 1959 when she was not only 80, but almost 90! Only then did Jesus take her to Himself and reunite her with her parents and siblings and her dear Therese . . . and Celine remained little even amidst many and varied projects in the Carmel (where she was Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face) by which she spent her life living and making known St. Therese's Little Way. Celine knew this Little Way intimately because not only had Therese formed her in the novitiate, but Therese couldn't help but teach it in everything she did and wrote . . . And so, in the spirit of birthdays (having so recently celebrated Jesus's own birthday!) here is what Therese wrote to Celine for her (Celine's) 25th natal day: words to encourage her - and which can encourage us now:
"Céline, do not fear the storms of earth.... Your guardian angel is covering you with his wings, and Jesus . . . reposes in your heart. You do not see His treasures; Jesus is sleeping and the angel remains in his mysterious silence. However, they are there with Mary, who is hiding you also under her veil!...Do not fear, dear Céline, as long as your lyre does not cease to sing for Jesus, never will it break.... No doubt it is fragile, more fragile than crystal. If you were to give it to an inexperienced musician, soon it would break; but Jesus is the one who makes the lyre of your heart sound.... He is happy that you are feeling your weakness; He is the one placing in your soul sentiments of mistrust of itself. Dear Céline, thank Jesus. He grants you His choice graces; if always you remain faithful in pleasing Him in little things He will find Himself OBLIGED to help you in GREAT things. The apostles worked all night without Our Lord and they caught no fish, but their work was pleasing to Jesus. He willed to prove to them that He alone can give us something; He willed that the apostles humble themselves. "Children," he said to them, "have you nothing to eat?'" "Lord," St. Peter answered, "we have fished all night and have caught nothing." Perhaps if he had caught some little fish, Jesus would not have performed the miracle, but he had nothing, so Jesus soon filled his net in such a way as almost to break it. This is the character of Jesus: He gives as God, but He wills humility of heart...."
Dear Therese, on this beautiful anniversary of your birth, now that you are happily ensconced in Heaven but continuing to come down and work to show us the Little Way on earth, please grant our requests as so many birthday gifts . . . Let us find Jesus in His extreme littleness and poverty in the manger, and let Him find us and remain with us in our true littleness and spiritual poverty. We love you, dear sister Therese! Happy Birthday!
Draw me, we will run!
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