Keeping the Faith: The ‘Little Way’ leads to God

Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 11:25 AM.

The Carmelites certainly lent themselves to her pursuit. The Carmelites demanded strict obedience, continuous prayers, long periods of fasting and silence, vows of isolation and poverty, and overall a severe approach to spirituality. This was the perfect place for one looking to achieve the peak of the religious honor system. And this was the exact place that Therese utterly failed.

Six years into her cloistered life in the convent, and suffering from poor health and debilitating bouts of depression, she realized that all her striving and religious go-getting was useless. She was exhausted by it all, and simply could not do it. Giving up on sainthood altogether, and despairing of life, it was about this time that she read a single line from the book of Proverbs that changed everything: “Whoso is little, let him come to me.”

She named this discovery “The Little Way,” realizing that the only way up, was down. For the rest of her very short life (she died at the age of 24), she quit trying so hard at trying so hard, and learned to become a child once again.

She wrote, “Children are always giving trouble, falling down, getting themselves dirty, breaking things; but all this does not shake their parents’ love for them … I rejoice to be little because only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.”

Often critiqued as overly simplistic and naïve, Therese and her “Little Way” are rejected by those who feel the need for greater complexity or intellectualism in their faith. Maybe these critics reject her conclusions because they simply feel the need for more:

More responsibility, more steps up the religious ladder to the top, more ways to gain respect, status, or a higher standing, and the need for a more honorable reputation.

Yet, Therese was right on target, and not because her way ironically led to her sainthood. She was right because her way reflected the way of Jesus. And reflecting Jesus is more than enough, because his way, “The Little Way,” always leads us to abandon ourselves like a child, into the arms of God.



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