These are the acts of self-mortification that Thérèse is speaking about in the Little Way. Acts of humility, restraint, self-control, forbearance, perseverance, patience and long-suffering. It is about “bearing with” people. Self-mortification is less about fasting for forty days than it is about holding your tongue, waiting patiently, mastering your irritation, avoiding the the spotlight, refusing to respond to insults, allowing others to cut in line, being first to apologize, and not seeking to win every argument. In all this we begin to see how self-mortification is related to love
.. The Little Way is to see these souls as “wounded” on the side of the road and to respond to them like the Good Samaritan. Or, to use Thérèse’s other image, we can see these souls as chronically ill and respond to them like a Mother caring for her child (“I know that my Mother would not cease to take care of me, to try to console me, if I remained sick all my life”). Practically, this means we seek out the company of these individuals. And finding them we offer kindness and friendliness.
.. I’m particularly struck by how Thérèse compares social avoidance–taking “detours” in order to avoid annoying people–as a from of social persecution.
.. There is in the Community a Sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything, in her ways, her words, her character, everything seems very disagreeable to me…Not wishing to give in to the natural antipathy I was experiencing, I told myself that charity must not consist in feelings but in works; then I set myself to doing for this Sister what I would do for the person I loved the most. Each time I met her I prayed to God for her…[But] I wasn’t content simply with praying very much for this Sister who gave me so many struggles, but I took care to render her all the services possible, and when I was tempted to answer her back in a disagreeable manner, I was content with giving her my most friendly smile, and with changing the subject of our conversation ..
.. I searched for a way of [listening to the noise] without annoyance and with peace and joy, at least in the interior of my soul. I tried to love the little noise which was so displeasing; instead of trying not to hear it (impossible), I paid close attention so as to hear it well, as though it were a delightful concert, and my prayer (which was not the Prayer of Quiet) was spent offering this concert to Jesus.
How to summarize the spiritual heroism of the Little Way? Think of it this way: You can run off to a monastery or hit the mission field or, wait for it, start mastering your irritation.
.. Jesus does not demand great actions from us but simply surrender and gratitude.
.. It is a heroic path toward sainthood–the “democratization of holiness” as Thomas Merton called it–that everyone can travel.
.. Without becoming discouraged, I continued my reading, and this sentence consoled me: “Yet strive after THE BETTER GIFTS, and I point out to you a yet more excellent way.” And the Apostle explains how all the most PERFECT gifts are nothing without LOVE. That Charity is the EXCELLENT WAY that leads most surely to God.
At last, she had found her vocation. The key to the Little Way. What part of the body would she be?
She would be the heart.
In fact, when Thérèse died one of her fellow sisters worried that no one would have anything to say at Thérèse’s funeral. Never was a saint more unnoticed. More, let’s remember that Thérèse died when she was 24. What could such a young person have to say to make her a doctor of the church?
.. One of the greatest of saints–even a doctor of the Church on par with Augustine and Aquinas!–can be the person checking you out at WalMart, or the old lady sitting by you at church, or the mom with two toddlers, or the college student, or the janitor taking out the trash in your office.
.. it isn’t necessary to perform striking works but to hide oneself and practice virtue in such a way that the left hand knows not what the right hand is doing.
.. Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.
.. Trouble was, Pauline was no longer Prioress and couldn’t order Thérèse to write more. (Why not simply ask your sister to write some more? Because of the monastic call to humility. Thérèse would only write about herself when ordered to.) To get around this, Pauline convinced Mother Marie, the sister who succeeded her as Prioress, to order Thérèse to write about her religious life at Carmel. Thérèse duly wrote two long chapters–Manuscript C–but died before it was finished.
.. Charity consists in bearing with the faults of others, in not being surprised by their weakness.
.. I told myself that charity must not consist in feelings but in works.