At the age of twelve, Therese’s sister Leonie felt she had no further use for her doll dressmaking kit, and stuffed a basket full of materials for making new dresses. Leonie then offered it to her six year old sister, Celine, and her two year old sister, Therese.
“Choose what you wish, little sisters,” invited Leonie. Celine took a little ball of wool that pleased her. Therese simply said, “I choose all.” She accepted the basket and all its goods without ceremony. This incident revealed Therese’s attitude toward life. She never did anything by halves; for her it was always all or nothing.
I have always loved this story from the life of St Therese. I can see myself very easily in this scene, especially when a basket of fabric and threads is involved. Being able to see ourselves in the story of another is an important facet of being human. We rather rely on this to help us grow and develop. Closely bound up with this is our capacity for connection. We feel a connection with others when we discover that we like the same things. I’m sure it’s no accident that Facebook only has a ‘Like’ button and not a ‘Dislike’ button. We are made for connection. We are hard-wired to connect with others.
Sometimes in the difficult periods of our lives, we can connect with others when we discover that we have the same struggles. There is strength to be found in knowing that someone else has been through difficult times and come through the other side. In the difficult times there is also strength to be found in the story of someone who has lived a good life and touched others by that life. We are immediately attracted and it’s not always in way that we can articulate clearly.
There is no doubt that the life of St Therese is attractive to many. Although the hidden life of a French Carmelite nun is something which is out of the ordinary, people find in St Therese someone with whom they can connect. This has been seen clearly these past weeks with the her relics touring Scotland. It was lovely to see the way in which the Scottish Carmelite Sisters took part.
I think what moved me most was the visit of the relics to Barlinie Prison. There’s something very inclusive about venerating a relic. You don’t need to be a regular church goer to join the queue. There are no restrictions, all that’s needed is a sense that you are coming close to the sacred. Towards the end of the clip as the inmates are venerating the relics you see a Carmelite sister standing with a tub of Roses chocolates. Inmates file past and are offered some chocolate. It’s a small thing, but for me it is symbolic of the power of small acts of kindness. And this, is really at the heart of St Therese and her Little Way. We never know the power of the smallest gesture.