May 27, 2009

The Mercies of God

I am in Bishop, CA giving a set of lectures on St. Paul, St. Therese and the Mercy of God. Tonight we will discuss the St. Therese. One important grace she recieved is called the Christmas grace. One Christmas after mass, she was very excited when the family returned home. She could not wait because of a family tradition - something like getting her stockings stuffed, only I think they used shoes. As she was headed upstairs, she heard her exhausted father sigh and say something along the lines of "I am glad this is the last year for this!"
Up until this moment of her life, Therese was very sensitive. Normally, a comment like this would have caused her to break down in tears. Didn't her father care about her feelings? Didn't he want to make her Christmas special? What he just said seemed so cold. But it was just at this moment she recieved a special grace. She felt the emotion to cry but she also felt the grace to make a decision. By Christ's help she chose not to worry about her own Christmas, but to think of everyone else and make Christmas special for them. She chose to offer her feelings to Christ as a present, a gift, a little sacrifice. Rather than be ruled by her own sensitivity, she chose to be ruled by what Christ desired in that moment. So she re-entered the room with a great smile, hugged and kissed her father, and was a source of joy for the whole family. Later in her life, she would reflect how the spiritual life is all about responding to grace in these little moments. Rather than allowing any moment to be wasted on her own feelings, she saw every moment as an opportunity to offer her heart to Christ. She would call this strategy of living by love in each moment "the little way" or "the way of divine childhood." It is a way of life whereby we live relying on the grace of Christ to provide us what we need in the little things that come up - so that we no longer live out of our own emotional neediness - but we live by love of God.