THERESE DEVELOPS HER "LITTLE WAY"
Therese was aware of her littleness. "It is impossible for me to grow up, so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections. But I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short and totally new." Therese went on to describe the elevator in the home of a rich person. And she continued: "I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched then in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: 'Whoever is a little one let him come to me.' The elevator which must raise me to heaven is your arms, O Jesus, and for this I have no need to grow up, but rather I have to remain little and become this more and more," And so she abandoned herself to Jesus and her life became a continual acceptance of the will of the Lord.
The Lord, it seems, did not demand great things of her. But Therese felt incapable of the tiniest charity, the smallest expression of concern and patience and understanding. So she surrendered her life to Christ with the hope that he would act through her. She again mirrored perfectly the words of St. Paul, "I can do all things in him who strengthens me." "All things" consisted of almost everything she was called upon to do in the daily grind of life.
Life in the Carmel had its problems too: the clashes of communal life, the cold, the new diet and the difficulties of prayer (two hours' prayer and four and a half hours of liturgy). One day, she leaned over the wash pool with a group of Sisters, laundering handkerchiefs. One of the Sisters splashed the hot, dirty water into Therese's face, not once, not twice, but continually. Remember the terrible temper that Therese had? She was near to throwing one of her best tantrums, but said nothing! Christ helped her to accept this lack of consideration on the part of her fellow Sister, and she found a certain peace.
Again, in the daily grind of convent life, she was moved by her youthful idealism to help Sister St. Pierre, a crotchety, older nun who refused to let old age keep her from convent activities. Therese tried to help her along the corridors. "You move too fast," the old nun complained. Therese slowed down. "Well, come on," Sister urged. "I don't feel your hand. You have let go of me and I am going to fall." And as a final judgment, old Sister St. Pierre declared: "I was right when I said you were too young to help me." Therese took it all and managed to smile. This was her "little way."
Another nun made strange, clacking noises in chapel. Therese did not say, but the good lady was probably either toying with her rosary or was afflicted by ill-fitting dentures. The clacking sound really got to Therese. It ground into her brain. Terrible-tempered Therese was pouring sweat in frustration. She tried to shut her ears, but was unsuccessful. Then, as an example of her 'little ways', she made a concert out of the clacking and offered it as a prayer to Jesus. "I assure you," she dryly remarked, "that was no prayer of Quiet."
Therese, the great mystic, fell asleep frequently at prayer. She was embarrassed by her inability to remain awake during her hours in chapel with the religious community. Finally, in perhaps her most charming and accurate characterization of the "little way," she noted that, just as parents love their children as much while asleep as awake, so God loved her even though she often slept during the time for prayers.