Our next guest blogger is a dear friend of mine from college. Victoria and I met through a campus ministry group where we would mentor Freshmen in faith-based activities on a weekly basis. Through these meetings, I got to witness Victoria’s beautiful faith in God. Fun fact: Victoria was a postulant in a convent in Steubenville, Ohio, but has since left after prayer and discernment. She is also the writer behind our St. Therese Stations of the Cross meditation booklets! Read more about her beautiful and unique encounters with our Lord and how St. Therese’s example has influenced her throughout her journey! St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us! – Lindsay
“My Vocation is Love!”
The first time I read Story of a Soul, I had a hard time getting past Saint Therese’s whiny and emotional childhood. By no means did I fall in love with her right away. But she is a persistent Saint!
The second time I read Story of a Soul, I was a postulant with a religious community. God had called me to discern with a small community in Steubenville, OH, doing laundry, cooking dinner, and cleaning a huge motherhouse. It was not what I had envisioned for my life. Like Therese, I grew up with great desires-of being a missionary in Africa, of being a famous writer and having many degrees and accolades. So, like Therese, I wrestled with these grand desires of my heart and wondered how they would be fulfilled. I could never decide on one job, ministry or vocation. I would always say, “I just want to love people!”
Like all young people, Therese struggled to find her place in the world and wondered what her personal mission was. She discovered the answer in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, where he describes Love as the greatest of all gifts.
“Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: “O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation, my vocation is Love!…Yes, I have found my place in the Church…in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love!…. Thus I shall be all things: thus my dream shall be realized!”
I shared intimately in Therese’s revelation about her vocation and wondered how I had missed it the first time! When I read her words, “My Vocation is Love,” my heart responded joyfully, “mine too!”
“Everything is Grace”
One day, a few months after I entered religious life, I was in Mass and about to receive communion. I prayed, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” I was stuck on the not being worthy part of this prayer, but wanted to believe that God could heal me in a moment, with one small word. It was right before Christmas, so I was very aware of Jesus’s desire to live in me, just as he dwelt within Mary. I begged His mother, who was pure enough to conceive and bear Him for nine months, to help me make a home for my Lord in my heart. I begged to be a dwelling place worthy of Him.
Therese prayed a similar prayer: “I picture my soul as a piece of waste ground and beg Our Blessed Lady to take away my imperfections…and to build upon it a splendid tabernacle worthy of Heaven, and adorn it with her own adornments…it seems to me that Jesus is well pleased to see Himself received so grandly, and I share in His joy.”
I had helped set up for Mass and slipped into the back of the chapel as it started, so I was the last to go up for communion. I walked up the long aisle wondering if I counted out the right amount of hosts. Would I get the last one or just a piece? When I reached the sanctuary, there was a surprise waiting for me. The priest whispered to me, “there are two left.” My heart leaped with joy and tears welled up in my eyes as he placed both hosts in my mouth.
Almost the same exact thing had happened to Therese! One day she decided if she only received only half a host at Mass it would mean she was displeasing to God. Like He would for me, the Lord calmed her fears: “What a joy awaited me! The Priest hesitated a moment, then gave me two entire Hosts. Was this not a sweet response?” (Story of a Soul Chp. 8).
What is the “Little Way”?
As I have gotten to know Therese better I’ve realized that the heart of her message is so simple that it’s easy to miss and even easier to misunderstand. Therese teaches us so many things, but at the core of her “little way” is abandonment; complete, total dependence on the Father. Saint Therese shows us that it is great love and trust, not necessarily great deeds, that make a saint. Therese knew she was a beloved daughter of God and that He loved her no matter what. May we always model her strength, simplicity, and confidence in God’s love on our journey toward sainthood!
Victoria Clarizio is a Catholic writer and teacher. She blogs at One Pearl about prayer, scripture, Ignatian meditation, and Jesus the Bridegroom. She encountered Christ in a deeper way through praying with scripture during her time discerning with a religious community and hopes to help others do the same. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Fairfield University and is working on a memoir about her spiritual journey. When she’s not writing, Victoria is hanging out with her rambunctious ninth graders(mostly boys!) at the homeschooling co-op where she teaches. She lives in Connecticut with her parents and is excited to see where God calls her next.