It’s kind of been all Thérèse of Lisieux, all the time, these past couple of weeks. I just finished re-reading The Hidden Face by Ida Friederike Görres: HIGHLY recommended.
She starts out by saying basically: Who has ever first read The Story of a Soul (Thérèse’s autobiography) and not been deeply disappointed? “To be sure,” Görres notes tartly, “all the saints have done little things, but none of them exclusively little things.”
But in the end, she’s won over: not so much because Thérèse says anything new but because she articulates the poor-in-spirit heart of the Gospel–a “way” that’s so small we sort of never noticed it before.
This passage comes near the end of the book and seems especially apropost for Lent:
“Thérèse, we will remember, once spoke of herself as a sprig of moss in the bouquet among showy flowers. This winsome image captures, over and beyond what was intended, with astonishing precision her palce in the Church. For never does a single mss plant occur by itself in nature; never could it fulfill its function alone. ‘Moss’ immediately evokes a picture of an agglomeration, a carpet; it is in the nature of this kind of plant to appear in colonies.
In the landscape of the Church there is also ‘moss’–that modest ground cover of quiet, little Christians who are, as individuals, inconspicuous and unimportant, but who, as a vast united body which remains constant through the centuries, form the protective carpet around the roots of life, conserving for these the nutritive moisture. Without them there would be no towering giants of the forest. From this point of view, Thérèse is a special example of this widespread, scarcely mentioned but always indispensable spirituality whose individual advocates would be ashamed of so high-sounding an epithet as spirituality…
She is the flower, the crystal, the quintessence of a type of devotion which is far broader and older than her own sphere of life. She was altogether an inheritor, not of the hollow, pompous, sentimental façade which overlay the true face of the Church in the late nineteenth century, but of that substance which rested deep beneath like buried treasure, nameless but unimpaired. Under all outer forms, under scars and decay, the roots of Christian existence lived on, unrecognized, anonymous and silent, but wholesome and pregnant with life, just as in autumn and winter the coming spring lives and waits within the inert soil and the rootstocks of seemingly dead vegetation…
The uniqueness of Thérèse’s message did not lie in what she confided to her loved ones, but in the fact that she dared to express it at all, and that she was able to do so. Only because of this have we heard of it. Only becaue of this has the form of life which has always flourished so silently acquired a face and a voice. Only because of this have countless persons realized that this existence of theirs is a ‘way,’ even a way to sanctity, a way to perfection; that there is an inherent value in all the things which seemed to themselves not worthy of attention.”
–Ida Friederike Görres, The Hidden Face: A Study of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, pp. 404-407
Blessed First Sunday of Lent!
4 Replies to “THE ROOTS OF LIFE”
St. Therese is my patron saint and The Hidden Face is my favorite book about her. I’ve read it several times since becoming Catholic about 6 years ago. In fact, your recommendation of The Hidden Face in your book Shirt of Flame, also excellent, is how I came to buy it. My life was much different than St. Therese’s, of course, but like you I’ve had my own life challenges and she inspires me on my own “Little Way”. I wish you a blessed Lent and glorious Easter.
Wonderful, Carolyn! The book should be better known…right now I’m reading The Little Way: The Spirituality of Therese of Lisieux by Bernard Bro, OP–only a little over 150 pages but packed with meat and new insights…I wish you a blessed Lent and a glorious Easter as well!
So lovely. The image of the moss in the Church made a deep impression on me