October is one of my favorite times of the year–as I said in my last post, I really do love Fall.
I love Fall because it is a time of remembering some of my favorite people — Therese, Teresa, Francis, Mother Rose, Matthew… to name just a few of the Saints we celebrate this month.
I find that some people are confused by the word “saint” because they are under the false impression that we (the Catholic Church) have the ability to turn someone into a saint. Nothing could be further from the truth. What the Church does is identify people who through their lives lived the Gospel of Jesus in profound ways. The Church points these people out as models and inspiration for the rest of us on the journey of faith.
Take Therese for example. She lived at the turn of the 20th century in France. Her life was sheltered; she entered the Carmelite convent at an early age, and died in her early twenties. What makes a woman whose life is so different from mine a role model? She bore suffering with grace and love. Therese suffered from TB and died a painful death. But, the suffering that I find more significant is her experience with one of the nuns in her convent. Apparently this woman took every opportunity to make life difficult for Therese. She scolded her, publically corrected her, watched her constantly—I think today we might say the woman was a bully.
How did Therese respond? With her “Little Way” which basically means she killed the woman with kindness. Instead of becoming defensive, avoiding the woman, or appealing to her superiors for help she simple made the decision to always be kind to this nun. If you have every been in a similar situation you know how difficult that can be; now consider the reality that you will spend the rest of your life living in community with someone who is out to get you. Therese understood that she would never change the woman’s behavior, but she also understood that she could change how she felt about the woman’s behavior by seeing the face of Christ in her. Imagine the discipline, the love, the strength it must have taken to consistently be kind to this nun, and the grace it must have taken for Therese to see in her the presence of Christ.
When I ponder the life of Therese I am always reminded that I can do better. I can learn to love the difficult people in my life. I can learn to be less difficult to the people in my life.