"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Unity by humility

Saint Thérèse de Lisieux
(January 2, 1873 – September 30, 1897)

Today is the feast day of Saint Thérèse de Lisieux. She is known as the "Little Flower of Jesus", and she proposes for us the "Little Way" of following Jesus with great love in the simple things of daily life. She is also a Doctor of the Church, even though she had no formal theological training. She excelled greatly in love of God, and humility before God. Her heart is reflected in these Gospel passages:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (St. Matthew 18:1-4)

"Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Mark 10:14)

Too often dialogue between Christians of different traditions is characterized by pride and posturing and an attempt to save face, rather than a humble and open mutual pursuit of the truth. If we wish to pursue unity, we must then clothe ourselves in true humility. St. Thérèse is a beautiful example for us. Here are some selections from her writing:

"I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by. Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new."

"We live in an age of inventions. We need no longer climb laboriously up flights of stairs; in well-to-do houses there are lifts. And I was determined to find a lift to carry me to Jesus, for I was far too small to climb the steep stairs of perfection. So I sought in holy Scripture some idea of what this life I wanted would be, and I read these words: "Whosoever is a little one, come to me." It is your arms, Jesus, that are the lift to carry me to heaven. And so there is no need for me to grow up: I must stay little and become less and less."

"I feel in me the vocation of the Priest. I have the vocation of the Apostle. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth and this dream has grown with me. Considering the mystical body of the Church, I desired to see myself in them all. Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places...in a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my Love...my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love!"

Lord Jesus, help us to become like children in humility and trust and love. Enlarge our hearts to burn with love for You, and for each other for Your sake, as St. Thérèse loved. Let your great love grow in us, such that we cannot rest content with our divisions. Infuse all our efforts to bring unity with this child-like love and humility and trust in You. St. Thérèse, pray for us, that we may all be united as one family, with the same child-like spirit of love and humility that you showed to us. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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