THE SIXTH DAY (Chapter 6)
The Little Flower and the Hidden Life
There is often something quite discouraging about the saints. We
look at them and feel that, if these are saints, then for us
sainthood is impossible. For we know that saints undertook great
causes, as did St. Gregory VII, St. Dominic, or St. Bernard, and
we contrast their lives with our uneventful days. We remember
the miracles of St. Paul and St. Francis Xavier and know that we
never shall perform even a slight wonder.
We think of the ecstasies of the great St. Teresa and St. Rose and
realise that we can scarcely say a Hail Mary without distraction.
We watch St. Sebastian being shot with arrows and remember that
we are hurt to the quick when one of our neighbours snubs us. How,
then, can we hope to approach sanctity if sanctity is bound up
with tremendous achievements and miracles and ecstasies and
God gave us the Little Flower to show that neither great deeds
nor miracles nor death for Christ is necessary for real
sanctity. There were none of these things in her life. She never
achieved anything that mankind would consider worth recording,
and no implacable judge condemned her to die for her faith. On
the contrary, she chose deliberately a "little way," a simple
road such as the Blessed Virgin trod, just so that we would
realise that sanctity does not consist in great achievements but
in ordinary things done splendidly for the love of God.
The Carmelite enters her cloister dressed as a bride: but once
inside; her life is the life of quiet, uneventful, monotonous
duties which so many brides find waiting for them after their
wedding day. So we can see the Little Flower, after she has laid
aside her bridal white, donning her coarse habit and taking up
the routine of an uneventful life. She prayed, of course, and
did penance; but her work otherwise was that of any woman who
cares for her home.
A long apron covering her habit, suds to her elbow, her back
weary with the painful bending over the washboard, this saint in
the making stands patiently at her washtub doing the community
She pushes a broom down the corridors, and then on hands and
knees she scrubs the floors and waxes them with exact patience.
A querulous old nun is committed to her special charge, and the
poor old lady accuses the young sister of neglecting her, of not
liking her, of rushing her too rapidly in her laboured
pilgrimage from her room to the chapel, in all the thousand
imaginary slights which old age experiences from youth.
The routine of actual work behind the convent grille is much the
routine of a woman caring for her house. There are the beds to
be made, the dishes to be washed, the meals to be prepared, the
tables to be set, the clothes to be darned and mended - all the
tiresome, monotonous things which every housewife has done since
the day of Eve. Even Mary did them when she kept house for
Joseph and Jesus in Nazareth.
Yet in this ceaseless round of commonplace duties the Little
Flower reached heroic sanctity. Need one ever feel, then, that
any work in life must necessarily keep one from God, when this
woman found the road of common duties so straight a path to Him?
No mother at her daily tasks, no father labouring at tiresome
work, no young girl pounding all day at a typewriter, no young
man facing an unpleasant and distasteful employment, need fear
that such work makes sanctity impossible. The work itself is
unimportant; the motive that inspires the work is all that
And the motive of the Little Flower was wonderfully high and
beautiful. From the moment she entered her convent she regarded
it as God's house. So she swept the floors in the thought that
she was brightening and beautifying His home. The garments she
washed were His. She set the table for Him and cleaned the
dishes after He had used them. Even in the querulous old nun she
could see Christ, for He has said, "Whatsoever you do to the
least of these my little ones, you do it to me."
The great difference between her day and the day of any man or
woman in the secular world, however ordinary or commonplace
their day may be, lay not in the splendid things she did, for
she never did anything remarkable; nor in miracles by which
angels helped her with her work, for no angel ever washed a dish
or swept a corridor for her. It lay in this, that she did the
simple duties of her life solely for the love of Christ.
When we look at the Little Flower, we are not frightened at the
thought of sanctity. On the contrary, we are inspired and
heartened. We know that no life need be insignificant or
trivial. In the midst of housework or common labour, at an
office desk or behind a counter, the same thrilling battle of
life may be fought, evil conquered, good accomplished, and the
soul made wonderfully beautiful and attractive in God's sight.
Christ was a carpenter; Mary kept a very humble little cottage,
and the Little Flower became a great saint with no more
significant achievement to her credit than the ordinary
housework of a well-kept home.
Let the other saints do their wonders and fill the world with
their great deeds and miracles. You and I can thank God for the
Little Flower, who reached sanctity in the sort of duties that
the rest of humankind can fulfill and who begged Him to keep out
of her life miracles and wonders that would have discouraged us.
We will, in the spirit of the Little Flower, take our simple,
ordinary, everyday life and with it make ourselves saints.
The Novena Prayers for Day 6
Three Hail Marys in honour of the Little Flower for the
intention of the novena.
Let us pray:
St. Therese, model of the hidden life, we thank thee for
teaching us that great deeds, miracles, and ecstasies are not
necessary for sanctity. We thank thee for choosing to walk in
thy little way, in which it is possible for us to follow. Our
lives are monotonous, often tedious, and filled with commonplace
duties; but we know now that we can take these lives and with
them build beautiful souls worthy of God's favour.
We therefore offer to God each day of our lives with all the
simple duties it may contain. We do not ask for extraordinary
work to do or great deeds to perform; we only ask that we may do
the work God has given us to do, be it ever so simple and
unromantic, in the spirit in which thou didst go about the quiet life
of thy convent.
Ask, O Little Flower, that God may accept these simple days and
bless them with His approval. Obtain for us that we may do
ordinary things in an extraordinarily perfect manner and that we
may do whatever God asks of us solely because we love Him and
because we are doing it for Him. Bless those whom we love or
for whom we are offering this novena with the grace to offer up
their days for the love of God and in His honour. Obtain for us
the special favours we are asking during this novena.
(Here pause and silently mention the graces or blessings you are
seeking through the novena.)
V. We fly to thy protection and intercession, O Little Flower
R. That we may become worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
O Lord, Who hast said, "Unless you become as little children,
you shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven," grant us, we beseech
Thee, so to follow the footsteps of the virgin St. Therese in
humility and simplicity of heart that we may obtain the rewards
of eternity. Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.
End of Chapter 6