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Sunday, 30 September 2018 12:00

An Open Letter to St Therese of Lisieux

01. An Open letter to St Therese of Lisieux

Dear St Therese,

Do you know what we have in common? We both love writing and receiving letters, so in honour of your feast day, I thought I would send you one (how do you celebrate your feast in heaven anyway? Is it possible for it to be more special and amazing than any other day?). I think if you were alive on earth today you would be pretty surprised by the ways and means we have to write to each other, but still, nothing beats good old-fashioned snail mail (hmm as I write that I am thinking that snails may have been something you used to eat, not something you associate with letters, but it is a term we use these days because sending something through the post is rather slow in comparison to other options).

I have to tell you that are far as saints go, you are one of my favourites. I will forever remember visiting your home town and feeling like it was not too much different to what it might have been like for you – okay, so there were cars around, and I arrived there on an express train, but my overall sense was of a beautiful, faithful French town, which is the way I envisage you experiencing it.

You see, I had already visited many places linked to some of your saint friends like Padre Pio and Bernadette, but these places, whilst also amazing, seemed taken over by people wanting to make money from the fruits of their lives. Your place, Lisieux, was different. Instead of bearing witness to you through the selling of items to seek your intercession and be inspired by your example, I experienced a town that desired to live simply and to do the ordinary things well. I began to ponder that this most likely bore witness to your memory in a far more profound way.

I have to tell you Therese, that my favourite thing about you is that you are real. Now, before you start thinking, ‘well, of course I am’, let me explain what I mean. When I read the things which you wrote, I feel like I meet someone who reveals to me that sainthood is actually possible. You were stubborn, and emotional, things some might describe as weaknesses, but at the same time you ardently loved God. You let God use these so-called weaknesses to draw you to himself so that your life could be one that draws others to encounter his love and beauty as well.

Now I happen to know that you count the great St Paul, Augustine, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross among those who inspired you. I am sure that they had said or written things that helped you grow in your relationship with God. So, I want to thank you for doing the same thing for me. Did you know that people often quote your words ‘I choose all’? I wonder if they actually know that you said them when you were about two, in response to your older sister Leonie offering you and Celine a basket of dolls she no longer wanted. Yet, it seems to me that these words came to characterise and animate all that you were and all that you chose to do, because you only wanted to choose all that God had for you. Now, I have used these words, ‘I choose all’ in jest when offered an array of desserts or other appealing things, but my prayer would be that they also animate my entire life and the way I choose to embrace all that God would have for me.

So, from one letter writer to another, thanks for inspiring me and encouraging me to embrace my weaknesses. Thanks for responding to God with humility. Thanks for allowing God to shape you into an inspiring woman of God. Thanks for showing me the power of doing ordinary things well.

Your friend and fellow letter writing lover,