Only a few years after her death in 1897 and prior to her canonization, St. Therese of Lisieux was heralded by Pope Pius X as perhaps the greatest saint of modern times. Therese, it must be said, does not fit the general pattern of great saints. During her lifetime, she was totally unknown.
As well, her life of prayer was apparently undistinguished. Although she did have one moment of mystical revelation, her prayer life was generally an arid one, often difficult.
What made Therese a saint was her intense love of God exhibited in the details of daily life. A Carmelite nun, she obeyed her superiors and loved her religious sisters, especially those whom she found most difficult. Through her "little way," she put faith into action with great singleness of purpose.
In her Story of a Soul, Therese wrote that "Charity consists in bearing with the faults of others, in not being surprised at their weakness, in being edified by the smallest acts of virtue we see them practise." This is a simple, but difficult, way of faith.
What Therese did was to hallow God's name by the way she lived. She struggled heroically with her own weaknesses and, with God's help, overcame them.
It may seem that one has no power to make God's name holy. I am not worthy and God is already infinitely holy.
But God and I are related. Because of that relationship -- he is the Father, I am his adopted child through baptism -- my actions reflect on God.
By their actions, children bring honor or disrepute to their parents. The parents' identity, or holiness, is independent of the actions of their children. They are not morally responsible for the freely chosen actions of their kids. But they nevertheless rejoice when their children do well and grieve when their children's lives fall into disarray.
We hallow our parents' names when we exhibit the same good traits which have distinguished their lives. Likewise, we hallow God's name when we act in a Godly manner, that is, when we let God act through us.
God created humanity in honor and glory, glory that was tarnished by sin. In this petition of the Lord's Prayer, we pray that that glory be restored so that the Father may be glorified.
Living a Christ-like life means giving glory to the Father because that's what Jesus did. He hallowed the Father's name not only with his words but also with his actions. The Christ-like person never puts himself or herself at the centre. Jesus always points to the Father and the Holy Spirit always points to the Father or the Son. Likewise, our very purpose for being is to point toward God.
This often gets mixed up. Often, it is assumed that our goal is to make the world a better place with our good deeds or, more simply, to save our souls. It is good to act in an upright manner and it is good to strive for our own salvation. However, even more basic than that, our goal should be to give glory to God.
Mary, the Mother of God, has the right emphasis in her exultant proclamation: "My soul magnifies the Lord. . . . For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name" (Luke 1:47, 49). Of course, no one can magnify the Lord -- make him greater than he already is. But one's soul can magnify his presence before humanity. Through one's actions, through one's very being, one can light a candle that will be seen by others. And this candle will give glory not to the one who lights it, but rather to the God who is the source of all light.
The life of St. Therese was a most remarkable and mysterious occurrence. A hidden life at the end of the 19th century reverberates with great splendor through the 20th century. Her little way has hallowed God's name. It magnifies the Lord in our time. And if we live with the same simplicity and trust as Therese, our lives will do the same.
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