I am always amazed (and a bit intimidated, I must confess) by the greatness of the saints. All of them have made unthinkable sacrifices and some even endured great suffering during their lives with the sole purpose of serving God and His Church. When I read about their monumental contributions to our Catholic Faith, it is difficult to picture myself as an aspiring saint.
Founding a religious order, dedicating my entire life to prayer or becoming a missionary, tending to the needs of the poor and the suffering – all seem amazing, but also farfetched for someone like me. So, I convinced myself that God surely understood my limitations and wouldn’t expect me to become a saint. In other words, I was off-the-hook for sainthood… but I should still try to be a good Catholic.
But, a couple of months ago during a homily, my pastor mentioned Saint Therese of Lisieux, or the Little Flower as she’s often called, and her “little way” in which she sought to live her faith through many small ordinary acts of love as opposed to fewer extraordinary accomplishments.
Recently, she came up again in a book that we were reading to our daughter that told the story of a little girl learning about Saint Therese and growing in Faith through her. Intrigued, I spent time researching the Little Flower’s life and journey to sainthood.
“Love proves itself by deeds,” she wrote, “so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”
This Saint totally gets me, I thought. Much like any of us, Therese’s days were spent doing seemingly insignificant and mundane tasks – doing dishes, cooking, washing clothes, cleaning and praying. There were no “great works” in her short life; it was the love she put into doing the “little things” that made all the difference.
I now look back and reflect on the many times that I’ve been inspired by the “little way” of parishioners who are building a lasting Catholic Legacy for the next generation through often ordinary and mundane actions. Some have been committed ministers at their parish for over 30 years, some spend a few hours a week helping out at a local food pantry, some take the time to visit our jails, some drive elderly neighbors to appointments and Mass, some teach our children and youth about our faith, etc. What they all have in common, is that they do these “little things” with extraordinary love.
Many times, when I have invited people to consider a charitable legacy for their parish or Catholic school, they had the same first reaction that I had when thinking about sainthood: “A legacy? Me? A legacy is for those who can do grandiose things, isn’t it?”
I now have a simpler way to answer them based on the Little Flower and repeated often by Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta: God only expects you to “do small things with great love.”
This October we celebrated the second annual Legacy Society of Saint Joseph Mass, where I once again saw many of the parishioners who have inspired me. They are a fantastic group of ordinary people who have taken the step to plan a legacy gift for our local Church, not because they consider it a grandiose act of Faith, but because they understand that any gift is pleasing to God as long as it is done with great love.
Saint Teresa of Lisuex: Please ask God to help us learn and follow your Little Way.
If you would like to provide for our local Church in your estate plans and join the Society of Saint Joseph, please contact The Catholic Community Foundation of Santa Clara County, firstname.lastname@example.org.