Spirit Matters: ‘The Little Way’ generates soulful abundance

Jerrilyn Zavada Novak

She is known for sending roses from heaven.

Roses overflowing in abundance, or just a few to get the message across. Sometimes there is a strong fragrant rose scent, when there are no actual roses nearby.

She is St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as “The Little Flower.”

Before she died, St. Therese wrote about how she wanted to spend eternity:

“I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens; I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth,” she wrote.

St. Therese is wildly popular, almost to a cult-like status in some circles. Many devotees seek regular reassurance for answered prayers, by asking for her to “send (them) a rose.” But, like it can be with other saints, her following risks losing the wisdom of her message to exaggerated pious practices.

Just as Jesus spoke of in the gospels, our faith should not be based on seeking or receiving “signs.” If God chooses to send us an occasional consolation, in whatever form, that is God’s business. It is not intended for us to cling to, or get stuck in the good feelings that come from it, but is intended to strengthen and move us forward in faith, in our recommitment to living as Jesus does.

I have felt a push-pull curiosity toward St. Therese most of my adult life. I have heard much about her, but her overly saccharine image among her followers turned me off. And yet, I have found myself periodically inspired to read about her or to reach out to her. Each time I have told her – in no uncertain terms – that I want to know her, but I could do without the excess sugar.

As I have grown in my faith, I have come to learn that St. Therese and her authentic spirituality are not saccharine at all.

Like the time Jesus overturned the tables of merchants in the Temple, there to capitalize on people’s faith, St. Therese’s spirituality, also known as “The Little Way,” is revolutionary in our modern world of excess, status and greed.

In her autobiography “The Story of a Soul,” Therese compared people to flowers, recognizing that some flowers (and people) are stronger and hardier by nature, and some are less so. But all have their purpose, regardless of their perceived significance by others.

“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm,” she wrote. “If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.”

“The Little Way” teaches us to live our lives with humility and authenticity. Rather than seeking to be like everyone else, or to have what everyone else has, we should seek simply to be who we were made to be. And in the world of the Divine, who and what we were designed to be is intended to be used in service to God and to each other, not for worldly gain.

Over the course of the last several years, I have become obsessed with flowers. I sit among them. I doodle them. I occasionally arrange them. I sometimes spend hours online seeking out images of flowers and basking in their immense beauty and grace.

Each time I do any of these things, my connection with St. Therese of Lisieux seems to grow stronger.

Through these practices, I learn more deeply how the flower is a metaphor for uniqueness, fecundity, diversity, fertility and growth. And how in seeking to just be myself, rather than finding a name for myself, I am opening my heart to spiritual abundance.

It is ironic that the spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux, growing quietly stronger all the time, has yielded far more lasting and meaningful spiritual “returns” for the faithful, than the bankrupt values of our corrupt world have yielded for its patrons.

Such is the way in the Kingdom of God.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column by Jerrilyn Zavada Novak that examines experiences common to the human spirit. Contact her at jzblue33@yahoo.com.