Heavy paper taped down through the main pathways of our home, due to repairs to the bathroom floor, has made these last few days, er, interesting. It’s the same paper we used in high school cheer-leading to make big banners we would decorate to say, “Go Rocks! Beat the Bears!” or “GO BIG GREEN! FIGHT THE FALCONS!” We called it Banner Paper, and it was pricey and a lot of our “cheer” budget went into purchasing the big rolls and the expensive markers with which we designed our peppy and spirited signs. Now, it’s taped down all over my floors like cheerleader carpet, and makes this loud “crunch crunch crunch” sound every time someone, or somedog, walks on it.
My sweet girl, “ZZ”, is a fluffy white, gentle dog. She is a well-behaved girl, unless you set off a firework near her (which happens WAY to often here outside the town limits…Fourth of July, New Year, Labor Day, Grandparents day, Tuesday…) or a thunderstorm rolls through (again…Tuesday, Wednesday, most days in the summer…). With some warning we can give her a mild medicine that takes the edge off, but when an unexpected storm pops up, and you have banner paper on your floor, you wake up at 2 a.m. to a series of loud, fast, “crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch….” (imagine at faster speed) and it’s more frantic and desperate than peppy and spirited. Running around the room on the banner paper, she attempts to outrun the storm, but with no where to go, it’s even more noticeable; in fact, it is bothersome and annoying.
I don’t like to admit to being bothered or annoyed because despite the modern use of these emotions in comedy and entertainment, it certainly isn’t something I would choose to be. It would never be a characteristic of one of our beloved saints, or so I would have thought. When we think of saints, we think of “perfect people”, who God just made that way, like it must of been easy for them to be good and they walked around glowing and happy. I read a quote today on Instagram by Archbishop Fulton Sheen and he said “The only difference between a sinner and a saint is found in their attitude toward their sins–the one persisting in them; the other weeping bitterly.” So when you think “saint”, especially if you read about the lives of the saints, you see just how human they were. What makes US ALL saints in progress is not what we overcome by our own strength, but by relying on God to overcome it in us. A few practical tricks never hurt though, and that what I appreciated most from our monthly retreat this past Saturday.
“LOVE ONE ANOTHER; A Retreat Guide On St Therese’s Little Way of Charity” (Fr John Bartunek/Fr John Pietropaoli; RCspirituality.org) was the topic this month. St. Therese of Lisieux was in a convent at an early age, and she died at only the age of 24 from a painful lung disease. The majority of her writing was occupied by the days in the community of her religious sisters and her struggles therein. It may be a surprise to most of us, that she struggled greatly with small annoyances of those she lived among. Like most people, the people around her, some more than others, got on her nerves sometimes. Recognizing that it was a fault of intolerance on her own behalf, she looked for a way to mend the problem. A way she termed her “Little Way”. I feel we can benefit greatly from her “Little Way” of living love in the world, because we are in an age of being inundated by thoughts and opinions of others constantly (take this blog here for example!) and yet are more disconnected than any other age in history due to technology (connected digitally maybe, but less on a physical level). Perhaps, we look into another human set of eyes less than any other generation since the history of time began. Maybe that’s a heck of a statement, but I am willing to place bets (anyone– double or nothin’ on some used banner paper?) that this isn’t much of an exaggeration.
Practically speaking, we can be assured that Saint Therese and every person has their moments of human struggles in tolerating certain people’s behavior during their lives. What we especially stand to gain from St Therese, is learning her “Little Way” of offering her weakness as a gift–an act of love–for God and others.
How can being annoyed be a gift? Like all true gifts, it cost us something of ourselves. It becomes a gift when we lay aside what is bothering us and perform an act of service or love. For example, Therese would force herself to help the sisters that she struggled most to understand; praying for God to help her smile and show kindness out of love for Him. Being assigned to assist an older sister who was in a great deal of pain and difficult to please, Therese used this opportunity to go the extra mile by spending even more time with her than required, to ignore the insults and sometimes harsh nature of this elderly nun, and to help her in extra ways. Her acts of love didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by the objects of her efforts, and certainly not by the church. Many of the sisters who were more demanding or difficult remarked on the tremendous love they felt for and by Therese, never knowing the sacrifice and struggles of her heart. “The Story of a Soul”, a book of her writings, has been a stronghold for many readers over the centuries.
The object of our path to sainthood (yea, I am talking to you and myself) is to love with Jesus Christ, who took the way of the cross; self-sacrificing love. Maybe we won’t die on a cross, but heroic it still can be for us to offer our annoyances to God while asking Him to help us with a smile in the midst of struggle; or listening to someone who desperately needs some attention or kindness. Even the old “bite your tongue” can be a road to Calvary of sorts for many of us; permitting God to create a work of love in our hearts, so that we can let His love for each soul pour forth from even our own human, annoyed hearts. People need to feel the love of God through us. God is thirsting for love through every person, regardless of how we love and admire them, or how they seem to be someone we could never understand. It isn’t necessary for us to be insincere or false, but asking God do the work in us can be sufficient for today.
When Jesus said, “give me to drink”, it was the love of His poor creature the Creator of the Universe was seeking. He was thirsty for love. Ah! I feel it more than ever before, Jesus is parched, for he meets only the ungrateful and indifferent among His disciples in the world…alas, He finds few hearts who surrender to Him without reservations, who understand the real tenderness of His infinite Love. —St Therese of Lisieux, Letter to her sister, Celine