From the new book God Moments.
In Humble Service, We Learn Simplicity. In Simplicity, We Know God.
By Nancy Carabio Belanger
"Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love."
~St. Therese of Lisieux
As a preteen fiction author, I enjoy speaking to Catholic schools about Olivia and the Little Way and how St. Therese inspires me to write. Truly my spiritual sister, she prays for me all of the time. As many times as I’ve done interviews and presentations, I still get a bit nervous right before it’s time for me to go on. During this time, I always send up prayers to the Little Flower, asking her to intercede on my behalf and to help me to spread the message of her Little Way of serving God to youths.
In the beginning of my presentation, I always talk about the life of St. Therese, including her childhood. Therese was a bit of a loner in school, and didn't really fit in with the rest of the girls. They teased her and called her names because they thought she was too smart for her own good, and they were tired of her always knowing the answers when the nuns would call on her. So she spent her recess time by herself while the other girls played sports. Therese would wander off by herself and spend time alone with nature. In my speech, I mentioned that Therese was a sensitive child, that she had a big heart for all of God's creatures, and so when she'd find little birds that had died, she'd give them a Christian burial. Hearing this for the first time made me smile, because in our house, we do the same thing when our pet goldfish die, burying them out in the back yard with a little prayer. This is what Therese did when she found dead birds.
One afternoon, after talking about St. Therese and Olivia and the Little Way for about 45 minutes, I opened the presentation up to questions from the audience. I had covered a lot of material by this time: her childhood, her spirituality, her entrance into Carmelite convent, her Little Way of serving God, and her influence on me and illustrator Sandy Casali LewAllen when working on the book.
All of the children’s questions were well thought out and interesting, but one question stood out for me. A shy little girl raised her hand tentatively. I called on her. "Um...when Therese buried the birds...did she...um...bury any other dead animals too?" I had to stifle a giggle. It was just so cute! After all of the factual information I had given the students during that presentation, the one thing that stood out in this girl's mind was the fact that sweet Therese used to care for dead creatures she had found at recess. It must have really struck a chord with her. But I admit I did not know how to answer her.
Then I remembered that St. Therese had written: “The nearer one gets to God, the simpler one becomes." Little Therese, even at a very young age, was very close to God. In her simplicity and trust in God, she taught us in her Little Way of serving God that it doesn’t have to be something big or fancy; simply doing what you do out of love pleases God most. He doesn’t expect flawless perfection or grand acts of charity. Here this Doctor of the Church, who preferred people to call her “Little Therese,” is teaching us not complicated, complex theology, but loving God in all that you do, right down to the simplest thing: caring for God’s creatures anonymously.
I held my microphone for a moment and looked out into a sea of young, questioning faces. But my beloved St. Therese, who is with me all of the time, was not going to lead me this far without her heavenly assistance. As always, she pulled me through. "Well, I am not sure, but judging by what we know about Therese, and how thoughtful and kind she was, I would venture to say that she probably would have, had she found them. In her littleness, she loved all of God’s creation and I think she would have had compassion for all of His animals."
The girl smiled, satisfied, and I moved on to other questions. But all evening long, I couldn't get that little girl's question out of my head. She had recognized an act of kindness and love. And, of course, we know that Therese was all about love, wasn't she? After all, she once wrote excitedly, "I understood that love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and places...in a word, that it was eternal! My vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is LOVE!"
If that is what this little girl takes away from my presentation, the vision of an act of love from the saint who personifies love, then I am one happy author!
-Nancy Carabio Belanger is the award-winning author of Olivia and the Little Way and Olivia's Gift. She is a wife and the mother of two sons. Nancy enjoys sharing her great love for St. Therese of Lisieux and believes Therese’s Little Way is a reminder that we can all make little sacrifices to please God. Visit her blog at http://www.nancybelanger.blogspot.com. Harvey House Publishing's website is http://www.littleflowerbook.com.
God Moments: Stories That Inspire, Moments to Remember, written and compiled by Michele Elena Bondi (190 pp.), is available at: http://www.godisatworkinyou.com and amazon.com.
Michele Elena Bondi, written and compled by, God Moments: Stories that Inspire, Moments to Remember (Rochester, MI: Joseph Karl Publishing, 2010), pp. 7-9
Photos: God Moments cover copyright JKP. Olivia and the Little Way and Olivia's Gift covers copyright Harvey House Publishing.