‘Christmas night of 1886 is a very important date in Church history because this was the night when Therese (Saint Therese of Liseux, whose relics were in Guam a few years ago) snapped of her over-sensitivity that was ruining her life. That day “I received the grace of leaving my childhood”.
The death of her mother, when she was five, left a deep emotional scar in Therese. She became asocial, very insecure. “I was really unbearable because of my extreme touchiness; if I happened to cause anyone I loved some little trouble, even unwittingly, instead of forgetting about it, I cried like a Magdalene which made matters worse, and then when I began to cheer up, I’d begin to cry again for having cried.”
Upon arriving home from the Christmas midnight mass, Therese, now thirteen years old, went as customary to the chimney corner to look for the presents stuffed in the shoes that she had left before she went to mass. Her father was tired and uttered loudly, “Well, fortunately, this will be the last year!” “My heart was pierced” she admits, on listening these words and normally, she would have burst in inconsolable tears that would continue for hours…
“But Therese was no longer the same.” Forcing back the tears, she took the slippers and started opening the presents with obvious glee. Her sister Celine could not believe her eyes. As she herself confesses, “Therese had discovered once again the strength of soul which she had lost at the age of four and a half, and she was to preserve it forever!”
The power of the grace of God! What she was not able to do in eight years, God did it in an instant. An enormous ray of hope for those parents who have been praying for their children who are spiraling out of control in unhealthy relationships or drugs or rebelliousness. God can shatter this destructive pattern of your children in a second! Keep praying and hoping.
What is amazing about Therese is her popularity! Wherever you go, you find pictures or statues of her! She died of TB when she was twenty four years nine months. Everyone thought that it was all over, but the publication of three notebooks that she wrote, exposed her to the general public. She was an immediate hit.
Why? Not only because in heaven she started working overtime sending graces (“roses’ as she endearingly called them) to many, but also because she hands over to us a secret that can relieve us from unnecessary complications.
Everyone tells us to be strong. In life only the powerful and the strong are heroes. But we constantly find ourselves weak and unable to do what we are supposed to do. Even in faith. We can try as much as we want but we can never love God with all our hearts, with all our minds, with all our strength and our neighbors as ourselves.
Well, if I cannot do it, then He has to do it, reasoned Therese. She uses the simple image of the elevator… I cannot climb the stairs of sanctity. But there is ‘this startling invention’ now. I just go in and I shall arrive at Him at no effort of mine. All the effort is His.
God likes us goofy as we are! Isn’t this great? “How happy I am to realize that I am little and weak, how happy I am to see myself so imperfect.” “Look at kids,” she writes to Celine, “they break things, they tear up paper, they fall even if they love their parents and their parents keep loving them all the same.”
“Make it clear, Mother, that if I had committed all possible crimes, I would still have the same confidence. I would feel that this multitude of offenses would be like a drop of water cast into a blazing fire!” “We can never have enough confidence in God who is so good, so powerful, so merciful.”
No more then a question of becoming strong but a question of being happy in our deep weakness.
The mother was shocked when her small daughter told her that she likes telling jokes to Jesus before she goes to bed. “Last night I told him the joke about the chicken crossing the road.” “But He surely knows that joke!” the mother remarks. “Yes, but God told me that no one ever bothered to tell it to Him!”
The world is dying because there are not enough children! Happy uncomplicated Christmas!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.