Saint Therese of Lisieux talks about becoming like a little child to become a saint, with the wisdom, “God wouldn’t inspire us with ambitions that can’t be realized.” jumping out at me because I’d been asking, why did I take on this project of a devotional with the Doctors of the Church. I’d also seen in a Facebook feed the quote, “Today, do what love demands.” attributed to her. I did a quick google search but did not find this pearl with a source where I could verify it beyond approximation –Saint Therese’s care for a fellow sister she did not like by practicing extreme kindness always in her presence.
The misattribution or morphing of quotes from the Doctors of the Church is rampant on the internet, and I should know since I’ve been in the midst of trying to cite all of these gems and discovering many not to be fool’s gold necessarily, but molded gold, that has been shaped to the age but still contains its luster and beauty and truth, but veiled.
What does it mean to do what love demands? Love means doing beyond what is dutiful, both in action and in spirit, because it requires a docility of will, both physically and mentally, to do another’s will, and to will their good. As a parent, when they are babies and toddlers, what love demands, is getting up in the middle of the night, bathing, feeding, reading the same story over again, and introducing them to sweetness, light, hope, beauty, truth, imagination, adventure and yes, faith. The extent to which we pour out these gifts before those we love, reveals our desire to see them take these things into their hearts. When they are teens, we get to still get up in the middle of the night, to listen to them, love them through whatever they need loving through, and when they’re through whatever it is, we love them more such that we let them leave.
Today, do what love demands means sometimes cleaning their rooms, sometimes making them clean them. Sometimes sitting with them through their homework, other times, just reminding them. It means surrendering the radio and the menu and your preferences when not surrendering them would get in the way of their seeing your love for them. It means wrestling with being willing to carry the cross, to be nailed every day, to bear a crown of thorns yourself, to imitate Christ in each thing. There was a trend for a while there that got beaten to the point of meaninglessness, “What would Jesus do?” and it was used to hit everyone with a club, that whatever they professed, wasn’t what Jesus would do, or whatever they protested was not what Jesus would do…and because those who used the acronym, WWJD never seemed to know Jesus well enough to say one way or another, it became an empty method of endstopping discussion, rather than a means of delving into deeper reflection. Jesus would do what love demands, because for Him, that is what He must do, for He is love. Love could not refuse to get up for the baby in the middle of the night, or refuse to wait up for the teen or refuse to serve, refuse to love.
Love is not demanding, but loving demands we act. Loving always demands we sublimate whatever we’ve been keeping for ourselves, or avoiding. Saint Therese’s little way is the path of holiness. When we clean the home, it is caring for the emotional and physical comfort of those we love, and love demands it. When we pay the bills, we are likewise, managing the home so everyone can be safe and warm and life well maintained, and so love demands it. When we exercise, we are caring for the temple God gave us, and so love demands it. When we sit with the ten year old who feels lonely, or the eight grader who has questions or drive the freshman for a bubble tea to reward hard work, when we’d rather have rested or kept to ourselves, whenever we do what we’d rather have not, we are if we do it with love, doing what love demands.
If we do it with resentment, we will be noisy gong parents, noisy gong people, and our sacrifice is a rejected offering at the altar. So today, do all you do, for love, with love, because love demands it, even if Saint Therese didn’t quite say that…
P.S. If you found the quote and the cite where she wrote it, leave a message in the com box and I’ll fix this with proper citation of course…just make sure you do it with love and I’ll appologize publically here for supplying pyrite.