A canonized saint who began as an everyday person

A pane of St. Therese of Lisieux.


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I am obviously called to be a saint. It was a somewhat disturbing revelation for a cradle Catholic in the late 40s. But according to a sermon during Mass a few years back, that is the purpose I was born for.

With further reading, I learned that this calling does not require me to be declared a saint with a capital S by the Catholic Church. I just need to be holy or dedicated to God – a lowercase saint. However, it is no simple task to close the gap between who I am and who I am called to be. This is where the wonderful St. Thérèse of Lisieux, or “the little flower”, has shown me a way.

Before she died of tuberculosis in 1897 at the age of 24, the cloistered Carmelite nun vowed to spend her time in heaven doing good on earth. Such a caring saint seemed worth getting to know better, if only because no one gets tired of calling the friend who calls up every time.

The Little Flower left reassurance to all who feel, as she did, that they lack the heroic excellence of their own smallness. She looked at the saints who walked before her and felt like a grain of sand compared to the towering mountains of their lives. St. Thérèse of Lisieux needed another way to get to heaven, so she prayerfully came up with one: the “Little Way”.

To complete one’s little path to holiness is to remember that “our Lord looks not so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulties, as at the love with which we do them.” The opportunity to do great deeds may never come, or when it does, we may lack courage. Small deeds, on the other hand, are found everywhere, and when they are done with great love, they cease to be small.

Where does the saint fit in with a childlike love for God? It would intuit that the contrast between big and small has a different meaning for man, who is limited by time and space, than for God, who is not.

Doing small things with great love made The Little Flower an everyday saint, and then it made her an official canonized saint. Her life shows that what we do with the ordinary can make us extraordinary. There is not a little about that way.

Mr. Kerrigan is an attorney in Charlotte, NC

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Published in the print edition on September 28, 2022.

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