Thérèse of Lisieux inspired “You Are Love and Love Alone”, a song by All Sons & Daughters, from 2016 album Poets & Saints.
The lyric pays homage to Saint Therese, a French Carmelite nun who often referred to her spiritual devotion as “the little way.” The words for the song were adapted from a 19th-century hymn penned by English writer and Westminster Abbey Canon Frederic William Farrar. Honoring both Therese and Farrar, the song is simply a message to “love in a simple, meaningful way,” says All Sons & Daughter. “It’s the little moments in life that make a huge impact.”
Saint Thérèse was fourteen when she became history’s youngest Carmelite nun. Known for “The Little Way,” Thérèse spent her short life learning how to be smaller so God could be bigger. She spent herself in the little deeds—glances, hugs, meals, prayer—knowing that God’s goodness is not only seen in the extravagant things we do. She died young at the age of twenty-four but her impact would be eternal. Regarded as one of the Catholic Church’s most influential Saints, Thérèse’s legacy of the little way lives on.
“God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.”
She reveals so honestly her struggles in life and how she forged a meaning, a commitment that made a difference. She lost her mother when she was only four and a half. Her older sister Pauline took over the role of mother but she departed from the family home to join the Carmel of Lisieux when Therese was only nine and a half. She missed her terribly and suffered a period of extreme anxiety and depression.
Therese had a hard time fitting into elementary school because some kids picked on her and she found it hard to relate to many of them. But she was bright and capable and had a great love for history and religion. She recognized that her early life experiences made her very self-centered and overly sensitive. She believed that Jesus Christ alone helped her to overcome this selfishness. When she received communion at the Christmas midnight mass of 1886 in her parish church in Lisieux, she experienced a mysterious renewal. I felt charity enter my soul. No longer would she walk around with a weepy and self-pitying disposition. The fact is that she did change her behavior and quickly developed a new sense of direction, one centered on love.
Her sense of commitment led her to a profound experience of the love of God and of neighbor. She never had an easy life, but she did live with a great sense of peace and joy. What made such joy possible? Fundamentally, she found that love could only be captivating when a person trusts completely in a loving God. That trust has to be stated every day in the way we pray and live out the responsibilities and demands of our lives. She found the power of love in her relationship to Jesus Christ. (Reference: littleflower.org Fr. John F. Russell, O.Carm. Seton Hall University)
St. Therese believed that the people of her time lived in too great fear of Gods judgment. The fear was stifling and did not allow people to experience the freedom of the children of God. St. Therese knew from her life that God is merciful love; many scripture passages in the Old and New Testaments bore out that truth. She loved the maternal images for God in the Old Testament and the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. In fact, St. Therese once wrote that she could not understand how anyone could be afraid of a God who became a child. She also knew that she would never be perfect. Therefore, she went to God as a child approaches aparent with open arms and a profound trust.
St. Therese translated “the little way” in terms of a commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives. She took her assignments in the convent of Lisieux as ways of manifesting her love for God and for others. She played no favorites; she gave of herself even to the difficult members. Her life sounds so routine and ordinary, but it was steeped in a loving commitment that knew no breakdown. It is called a little way precisely by being simple, direct, yet calling for amazing fortitude and commitment. In living out her life of faith she sensed that everything that she was able to accomplish came from a generous love of God in her life. She was convinced that at the end of her life she would go to God with empty hands. Why? Because all was accomplished in union with God.
My eyes started tearing because I remembered a friend whose heart and conviction is the same as Saint Therese. Contrary to a culture that is immerse in self promotion, she made an impact to her community and church by her determination not to.