St. Thérèse has been following me around.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux has been my family’s patron since the beginning, so naturally, I was named after her. (In fact, my sisters are named after other daughters of the Martin family. We’re that cool.)
All my life, she’s shown a powerful presence and intercession. I reconnected with her a couple years ago when I picked up Story of a Soul for the first time since I was 7 years old.
Until I did that, I always thought of her as one of those saints who’s way beyond me. She’s a Doctor of the Church, for Pete’s sake. I could never measure up. What I learned in reading Story of a Soul was that she’s more relatable than I thought – and is especially relatable for our time.
Why is St. Thérèse so relatable?
St. Thérèse described herself as a little soul. Most of us are little souls too. Why? In our modern age, we’re used to a comfortable life. Our Mother Teresa’s and Karol Wojtyla’s are few and far between. I think most of us would agree that we’re too weak and little to become a saint. And still, we’re all called to do just that.
St. Thérèse knew she was too weak to become a great saint. In other words, she’s just like us. (She even struggled with praying the Rosary!) Yet, she became one of the greatest saints. Ever. St. Thérèse shows us how to achieve sainthood by taking baby steps. The key is a childlike trust in God, while having great love for God and others.
In honor of her feast day today (Oct. 1st), here are 4 tips for growing in holiness inspired by St. Thérèse:
1. Just keep trying to become a saint.
“The good God does not demand more from you than good will…Soon, won over by your useless efforts, He will come down Himself and, taking you in His arms, He will carry you up.”
The key to growing in holiness is that we continue to try. Even if we never see progress in ourselves, if we get up every time we fall and begin again, God is pleased with that. If we saw our progress, we might think it’s because of our own efforts that we grow in virtue. The inability to see our growth keeps us depending on God.
2. Don’t know how to love people? Begin by loving.
“I must seek out…the company of sisters who are the least agreeable to me…I want to be friendly to everybody to give joy to Jesus.”
Few of us know how to truly love people. If we don’t know how, we can start by doing little things: smiling at a passerby, doing the dishes for your roommate, refraining from complaining. We can start with little acts of love, especially toward those whom we don’t get along with, to teach us how. We learn to love by loving.
3. Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated.
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
God is simple. He’s just happy that we show up to spend time with Him. We don’t have to do x, y and z for it to be good prayer. If it’s difficult or you get distracted – keep refocusing yourself and trust that it’s still good, even if you didn’t get the warm-fuzzies.
4. Focus on loving God, not on your faults.
“We have merely to love Him, without looking at ourselves, without examining our faults too much.”
God isn’t this judgmental figure waiting for us to mess up. He looks on us with love as His children. Children try to please their parents, but sometimes they make messes and spills. If we’re trying to become holy, God doesn’t reject us over our messes and spills. If we focus on God’s love and goodness, it’ll be harder for us to be discouraged.
St. Thérèse showed me that, while becoming a saint not easy, it is so simple. We don’t have to be discouraged about anything — weakness, failure, sin, or suffering. We can trust that God will make us a saint if we take one small step forward, every day.