Keep It Simple. Marvel. To be of service. Here, for Jacques Gauthier, are three secrets for rediscovering the spirit of childhood at Thérèse’s school.
Married and father of a family in Canada, poet and essayist, specialist in saints and columnist for Aleteia, Jacques Gauthier has published more than 80 books, including a dozen on Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Passing through France to promote his spiritual autobiography In his presence, we met him a few days before the feast of Saint Thérèse. The opportunity to let yourself be touched, like him, by Thérèse’s little spiritual childhood path, and to ask her for some keys to borrow it.
“I want to find a way to get to Heaven by a small, very straight, very short way,” said Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. This little path has been called spiritual childhood. It is a path, a way of living in communion with God, and constitutes the heart of Thérèse’s message. His encouragement to become children again has its source in the teaching of Jesus himself: “Then children were presented to Jesus so that he could lay his hands on them in prayer. But the disciples quickly pushed them aside. Jesus said to them: “Leave the children, do not prevent them from coming to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like them”” (Mt 19,13-14).
Jesus does not ask us to become children again, but to become “like” children. Our salvation is conditioned by our ability to acquire a spirit of childhood. And what particularly touches Jacques Gauthier, in Saint Thérèse, is his ability to experience spiritual childhood. He entrusts Aleteia with three keys, which he surprised himself during our interview to call the “3S”, to put himself at the school of Thérèse: to remain Simple, to marvel, and to be of Service.
1Keep it Simple and Surrender
“I have always wanted to be a saint, but alas! I have always noticed, when I compared myself to the saints, that there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the heavens and the dark grain of sand trodden under the feet of passers-by wrote Saint Therese in her autobiographical manuscript. But faithful to her first resolution taken on the day of her First Communion, she was not discouraged: “Instead of being discouraged”, she continued, “I said to myself: The Good Lord cannot inspire unrealizable desires, I can therefore, despite my smallness, to aspire to holiness. »
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Thérèse knows she is weak and imperfect, but far from being discouraged by her imperfections, she chooses to abandon herself, to trust like a little child in her mother’s arms. “We can experience this abandonment,” insists Jacques Gauthier. “Sometimes we feel ugly, we feel alone. Jesus knows our heart. It’s just about trusting, and it’s that path of trust that leads to love. It’s not about size, strength or skill. We do it with the heart. And the more miserable one feels, like Thérèse, the more Christ is there because he came for that: “If someone is VERY SMALL, let him come to me”, quotes Thérèse. Moreover, it was perhaps Léonie, Thérèse’s sister, who lived the small way the most. Because she was aware of her misery, she cried a lot when she was in her community. She was aware of the immense need for God’s mercy. »
2Marvel and be joyful
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Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was particularly grateful for all that the Lord was doing in her. A few weeks before her death, suffering from tuberculosis, she still affirmed: “All is grace”. Gratitude is a way to rediscover the spirit of childhood. It is a question of marveling at the actions of the Lord, of expecting everything from him. “Gratitude invites us to take the paths of wonder, hope and joy,” emphasizes Jacques Gauthier. “Thérèse is the saint of joy. “Joy is in my heart,” she writes in her poem My joy. His whole life is inside this poem! Joy is in her an interior quality: if joy remains within us, then we do not have to seek it outside of ourselves. »
3to be of service
For Thérèse, perfect charity consists in putting up with the faults of others, in not being surprised at their weaknesses, and in rendering small services: “I applied myself above all to practicing the small virtues, not having the ease of ‘to practice big ones, so I liked to fold the coats forgotten by the sisters and to do them all the little services I could,’ she wrote.
It is thus a question of putting a lot of love into the most trivial acts of daily life, and of exercising charity beyond the sympathies that one can feel. While one of the Carmelite sisters displeased her with her manners, her words and her character, Thérèse then “applied herself to doing for this sister what she would have done for the person she loves the most”: “ Every time I met her I prayed to God for her, offering Him all her virtues and merits”.
“Thérèse’s spirituality cannot be summed up in a particular practice or virtue”, summarizes Jacques Gauthier, but in “a fundamental intention of the heart which is manifested by a confident openness to the action of God and by a burning desire to live ‘love. “On the evening of our life, we will be judged on love”, said his spiritual master, John of the Cross. »