We’ve all had moments where we feel so stressed or anxious that we aren’t sure how we’re going to make it through. During one of those times recently, I lay in bed and closed my eyes and imagined my grandmother (who died in 1995) standing before me. Many in my family have associated my grandmother with roses, so I said to her, “Grandma, just let me know everything is going to be okay. Show me a rose.” I eventually drifted off to sleep.
The next day, I decided to go to confession before mass since I hadn’t in some time. As I talked with the priest, he suggested to me that I read The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of the Little Flower, written by St. Therese of Lisieux. When I looked up St. Therese on Google, I realized that she went by a number of names: St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and St. Therese of Roses. According to the Society of the Little Flower:
As she was dying in the convent infirmary, Therese could look out and see the rose bushes blossoming. She loved roses. She had thrown rose petals as a Child before the Blessed Sacrament. … Roses are Therese’s signature. It is her way of whispering to those who need a sign that she has heard, and God is responding.
Whether that’s a coincidence or a sign that my Grandma is up there in Heaven and heard me, I’ll leave up to you to judge. On the priest’s suggestion, I purchased St. Therese’s book, and ultimately was glad that I did.
For a little background on her life, St. Therese grew up knowing since a very young age that she wanted to be a nun and serve Jesus. At age 15, she joined a Carmelite cloister in Lisieux. At her sister’s request, she began writing her autobiography. St. Therese always knew that she would join Jesus in Heaven sooner rather than later, and at the age of 24, after a period of great suffering, she died of tuberculosis.
The Story of a Soul has three parts that give readers a look into different periods of St. Therese’s life. I most enjoyed the first part, which related the mischief of her childhood and the small lessons of humility and prayer that she learned daily. The next part encompassed her life in the cloister, and the final part focused mostly on her reflections after she had already grown ill. Although she sometimes meandered into religious musings that I glossed over a little more quickly than the stories about her devotions and her struggles to be accepted into the convent,the book had a good overall pace. I did sometimes find her writing to be a bit reserved and distant, but I also found that I could relate to some of the challenges she faced, such as overcoming her pride or her vanity. The true message of her book seemed to say that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as one learns from them. And love, she believed, is the greatest lesson of all, and her love for her Savior is clearly evident in these pages.
Here’s one of the little lessons I enjoyed receiving from Jesus’s “little flower”:
I set to work with renewed zeal. Since taking the habit, I had already been given abundant light on religious perfection, and especially on the vow of poverty. When I was a postulant, I loved using nice things and having everything at hand when I needed it. Jesus bore that patiently: He does not like teaching us everything at once, but normally enlightens us a little at a time.