SAINT THERESE OF LISIEUX
We have a striking example in our own days of a canonized saint who was actually given to us as an example of how to become holy, by what she herself tells us is the easy, the “little way” to Heaven.
St. Therese of Lisieux never worked a miracle, never enjoyed heavenly visions, never did anything extraordinary, but she did well all that she did.
She tells us that she went to Heaven in an elevator (a lift).
In the Carmelite convent in which she lived, none of the sisters remarked anything wonderful in her conduct. She was sweet and joyful and was the sunshine of the community. Possibly some of the other sisters prayed longer and did more rigorous penances than she did.
An incident which took place before her death shows how simple and unpretentious was her life.
It was the custom in the convent for the prioress to write a short account of the life of each sister after that sister’s death.
During the illness of St. Therese, two sisters were heard speaking of this. One said to the other, “Poor Mother Prioress, whatever will she find to write about poor little Sister Therese?”
Yet this dear little saint began to work so many wonders after her death and obtain so many favors for those who had recourse to her that the whole world rang with her praises. She was solemnly canonized after a remarkably short time.
What a consolation she offers to those who wish to be holy! Hers was the little, the easy way, the elevator (lift) by which we, too, no matter how weak we are, can go to Heaven.
A second example that will encourage the humblest of us is the story of Benigna Consolata.
Her life, her conduct were so ordinary that those who were most intimate with her had not the faintest idea that she was a saint. She did not spend her nights in prayer, nor did she fast more rigorously than the others; she never worked miracles, yet her pure, humble life attracted the love of Our Lord, who frequently appeared to her and treated her with the most loving intimacy.
When speaking to her, He addressed her by her pet name, “Nina Mia.”
Her name was Benigna Philomena Consolata. He revealed to her the most consoling doctrines and said to her, “My dear little Secretary, write all I tell you, that others may know it.”
The sisters who lived with her were utterly surprised when they learned after her death of her wonderful sanctity.
We ourselves may be surprised when we enter Heaven to see on high thrones those whom we knew on Earth but whose sanctity we did not suspect.
THE CHILDREN OF FATIMA
What happened more recently at Our Lady’s sanctuary in Fatima will serve as another lesson on how to reach great holiness by simple means.
The Angel Guardian of Portugal came to prepare the three chosen children who were later on destined to see Our Blessed Lady.
Three things the Angel bade them do, viz., to pray devoutly, to hate sin and to offer to God with patience the sufferings the Almighty would be pleased to send them, this for His greater glory and for the salvation of souls.
God’s Holy Mother herself, when she came, taught them the same lessons, which enabled these poor ignorant little children to become worthy of their glorious mission.
Can we not do what three poor, unlettered children did?
We ourselves from time to time meet with simple souls whose extraordinary virtue is made evident by a single act.
A dear old woman run over by a carriage in Dublin and horribly crushed was rushed to a hospital. One of the Mercy Nuns who became her nurse tried with infinite delicacy to comfort and console her. What was not the nun’s surprise when the patient opened her eyes and said, “Sister dear, are you telling me to be resigned to God’s holy will? Let me tell you that God’s holy will has been always to me as welcome as the fruit to the tree.”
Poor, with many sorrows and needs during her long life, she now, in the throes of agony, manifested her perfect union with the will of God.
Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, the convert son of the Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, while still a priest, went for a short visit to Catholic Ireland, of which he had heard so much.
At his request, a friend took him to visit some of the poor sick in their little homes. He saw what he called “wonders.”
These dear sufferers amazed the young convert by their faith, patience and perfect resignation to the will of God.
One old man was suffering from an awful cancer, already in an advanced stage, which was eating away his breast. Father Benson, full of compassion, tried to say some words of comfort to him.
“Oh my, Father, it’s nothing,” replied the old man. “Sure in a few days I will be with God in Heaven. Didn’t He suffer much more for me?”
On his return to England, Father Benson wrote a touching article on the heroic patience and faith of these poor people. “They seem to see God,” he said.
Owing to political troubles, an unfortunate man slew his enemy, a crown official. Denounced by a perfidious friend of his own, he was arrested and condemned to death. He repented sincerely of his crime, but could not pardon his base accuser.
The chaplain of the prison used his utmost efforts to induce him to go to Confession. “This I cannot do,” he said, “because, though sorry for my crime, I cannot pardon my false friend. Thus my Confession would be bad.”
A good Sister of Mercy won his heart by her “infinite” kindness and delicacy. She too tried to induce him to confess. In vain.
On the eve of his execution, she made a last, supreme effort. “Do you know who I am?” she asked him.
“Yes, Sister, you are an Angel from Heaven.”
“No, I am no Angel from Heaven, but I am the sister of the man whom you killed. I have pardoned you, I have fasted and prayed and done all I could to save your soul.”
Amazed, the poor man fell on his knees and, in a flood of tears, kissed her feet. “Yes, yes, Angel of God, for you are, indeed, an Angel. I forgive with all my heart my enemy, oh forgive me you.”
Hers, indeed, was heroic forgiveness. A single act, as we have said, reveals at times heroic sanctity.
The widow’s alms won Our Lord’s high approbation. “She has given more,” He said, “than all the rest.” She had given only a mite, but she gave it with all her heart.
The Good Thief’s plea for mercy on the cross obtained plenary pardon for all his crimes. The Publican’s short prayer: “O God, have mercy on me, a sinner” made his soul as white as snow.
We, as parents, press on each day, with our children’s best interests at heart, asking God to fill the gaps. Each day is an opportunity to spend time with them, to sacrifice, to touch their hearts and thereby be fulfilled ourselves. Our Lady of Good Success, Pray for Us!