Dorothy Day on St. Thérèse: “To her God was a consuming flame”

Today the Church celebrates St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Carmelite nun fondly known as the Little Flower who, through her “Little Way,” revealed the path of sanctity to people from every kind of background and every state of life.

Dorothy Day, who herself has been put forth as a candidate for sainthood, was so deeply inspired by the Little Flower that she wrote a book about her. In a 1949 article for the Catholic Worker, she tried to capture how intensely Thérèse’s heart burned with love:

The Little Flower said: “I should not be happy in heaven if I was not able to provide little pleasures on earth for those I love….I shall spend my heaven doing good upon earth.” I like these quotations. Either the Little Flower is looked upon (perhaps because of her nickname) with sentimentality, or, as one gets to know her better, with dread. On that frail battleground of her flesh was fought the wars of today. When she died her bones were piercing her body and she died in an agony of both flesh and spirit. She was tempted against faith and said that for the last years of her life she forced herself to believe with her indomitable will while a mocking voice cried in her ears that there was neither heaven nor hell, and she was flinging away her life for nothing. To her God was a consuming flame. “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” St. Peter said with exultation. We have to pay a great and terrible price but “underneath are the everlasting arms.” Thank God for the saints whose feast days come around and remind us that we too are called to be saints.

The Houston Catholic Worker has a good article with more on how Thérèse informed Dorothy Day’s spirituality. For more on Thérèse’s theology of suffering, check out this excerpt from my book My Peace I Give You.


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