There is a story of a little girl and, much like other Catholic kids her age, she grew up in a Catholic home, learning her prayers and devotions, and went to her religion classes at her parish Church. She really understood at a young age the goal of what Catholic education is really about: that we are in a relationship with a loving God and the goal of life is to become holy, to be saints.
In her religion classes, when she would hear the stories of the great saints of history, she would see all these great deeds they accomplished and she would always feel discouraged because of her own weaknesses. She always wondered why God had preferences and why there were certain people in history that He would give tremendous graces to do great things whereas to others he wouldn’t. She felt this was unfair.
As she grew older and looked at herself in all of her weaknesses, sins, and pettiness, even her wretchedness, she sensed she could never be a big saint like this. A feeling many of us have probably had when we look at the lives of the saints. So in her simplicity she figured that the only way she could become a saint was a simple way, a direct way, like an elevator to heaven. So she began to look to the Scriptures to see what this shortcut to heaven could be. She saw the Gospel passages where Jesus referred to becoming like children, becoming a little one, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Even in the Old Testament she found this passage where Isaiah describes God the Father with a very motherly image fondling a child in her lap, providing for the child. She knew in that moment that she could be a baby. She knew with all of her weaknesses, sins, and failings, that she could be like a baby, trust like a baby, carefree in the arms of her mother. Totally dependent like a baby. She decided she would be a child like this in the arms of Jesus and if she just remained there in His arms like a baby.
He would be her shortcut, He would be her elevator to Heaven. This revelation did not suddenly make her life easy. She still had her weaknesses and sins. She still had moments of intense suffering, the loss of her parents, her siblings, struggles with weaknesses, even moments of great doubt. But, even with these trials and tribulations, she knew she could at least rest like a baby in the arms of Jesus. And, just like a baby doesn’t pull away from its mother when it’s hurting or longing, she could draw closer to God.
One day while praying in a garden, and reflecting on this fact that God has preferences, and gives different graces to different people, and still struggling with this, this young girl suddenly realized that in a garden there are these huge, tremendous, brilliant flowers like roses, like sunflowers, like lilies. But then she noticed subtly that the garden also had daisies, violets, and wildflowers. And that, for the garden to be beautiful, all of these were necessary. She understood from this why God has these preferences, why He gives his graces in different ways to different saints because there are moments that He desires the beauty of the rose or the lily in all its grandeur, and there are moments where He desires a simple daisy or violet with their wonderful fragrances. In that moment, she decided she was content to be the “little flower” in God’s garden of creation.
This young woman Thérèse died at the age of 24 in the small town of Lisieux France, a “little flower” in God’s garden of creation. And only 48 years after her death, on the other side of the world, in a small town called Pensacola, FL, at the juncture of two dirt roads our church was named in her honor. What made this “little flower” such a giant in the history of our Church is that she developed a spirituality from the heart of the Gospel that is for everyone. We are all called to be saints.
Homily by Fr. Matthew Worthen, October 1st, 2017