One of my favorite saints of the church universal is Therese of Lisieux, whose feast day was October 1, 2019. At the age of 15, she entered the convent and died at age 24 from TB. She made a huge impact in those few years. She left behind an autobiography, The Story of a Soul, which was published posthumously.
She devised her own method, which she called, “The Little Way,” which was an effort on her part to respond with love to each chore, encounter, or petty insult that came her way.
Perhaps this desire was rooted in her childhood. She was the youngest in her family and her father’s favorite. He doted on her and every year when the family came home from church on Christmas Eve, he had a little ritual he played out as he gave a gift to her, his youngest and favorite daughter.
As Ron Rolheiser describes it, “One Christmas Eve when Therese was nine years old and still tender and sad from her mother’s death, as the family returned from church, she overheard her father tell one of her older sisters that he had hoped that, this year, he would no longer have to play that little, childish charade with Therese.”
Therese, known as a deeply sensitive child, withdrew into deep discouragement and depression. Years later, relatively speaking in light of her short life, she looked back on that formative experience as a great teacher which became a source of wisdom.
Theresa, in her 24 years of life, taught us something extremely important about hyper sensitivity:
- If you have tender skin, you will end up with a tough, hard heart.
- If you have tough skin, you can preserve your tender, appropriately sensitive heart.
Isn’t it true?
My spiritual director from years ago taught me that in some traditions, the bowl is a symbol for resentment. In it is contained all our bitterness, disappointment, and disillusionment. We sit holding the bowl in our hands. We can either pour it forwards, so that the resentment flows away from us, or we can tip it onto ourselves, allowing all that poison to infect us. Our happiness depends upon which way we tip that bowl.
So…whenever you feel stung and hurt, pull away, sit in prayer, and stay there until the pain softens enough so you can face others with warmth again!