We get the saints we need. Saint Therese of the Child Jesus (1873-1897) inspired millions by her “little way,” which she described in her autobiography “Story of a Soul.” We can be holy in our ordinary lives, she said. Love transforms everything, however small, into a gift pleasing to God.
As a young Carmelite nun she desired greatness, perhaps even to give her life as a martyr for her faith. Then she realized:
“Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.
“I persevered in the reading and did not let my mind wander until I found this encouraging theme: Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others. For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.
” When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognized myself in none of the members which St Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favorably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love.
“I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realised that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.
“Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.”
” Lord Jesus, I am not an eagle,
All I have are the eyes and heart of one.
In spite of my littleness, I dare to gaze
at the sun of love
and fly to it.
I want to imitate the eagles
but all I can do is flap my small wings.
What shall I do?
With cheerful confidence I shall stay
gazing at the sun till I die.
Nothing will frighten me, neither wind nor rain.
O my beloved Sun, I delight in feeling small
and helpless in your presence;
and my heart is at peace.