A Life Poetic

October 3, 2013

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When I study the lives of the saints, one of the most impactful aspects of them is the poetic nature in which they lived their life, finding adventure and meaning in something as simple as a daisy. We find this at its epitome in St. Therese of Lisieux. In her “Little Way” she was able to attach herself to the very heart of Christ crucified where the appreciation of the simple life deals out contentment like petals falling from a rose. The ability to view hardships and joys from the lens of grace is indeed a rare gift given to those whose hearts desire an authentic love of Christ. Living and breathing within the spiritual tunes of love, Therese created masterful verses such as “If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals, or the storm bruised its stem, if it knew that such were not the case.”

I think the concept of living poetically might need a brief explanation. Poems are deeply moving. They can reach into our souls and awaken emotions we may have never known existed. Within the spiritual life, these aspects of poetry can be envisioned in the face of Christ. Therese of Lisieux experienced the romanticism and chivalry of both the heart of Christ and his body in the embracing arms of the Church he founded. An account in her Story of a Soul brings this to fulfillment. When washing dishes next to a fellow Carmelite sister, she was continually splashed with dirty water. At first she wanted to back away in order to show her companion that she needed to be more careful. But, rather in Therese, we see a response which most people couldn’t fathom, “I thought how foolish it was to refuse the treasures God offered me so generously, and I refrained from betraying my annoyance. On the contrary, I made such efforts to welcome the shower of dirty water, that at the end of half an hour I had taken quite a fancy to this novel kind of aspersion, and I resolved to come as often as I could to the happy spot where such treasures were freely bestowed.” This is living poetically, finding more in the small things of everyday life.

The stirrings of the soul can be brought to fruition in seeing life as a never-ending quest toward our heavenly home. Therese pinpointed this concept in her “Little Way.” By desiring a simple life, she exemplified the knack of finding adventure in all the small things. “God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.” There is a relief to the bitterness of fallen humanity when we can do as Therese did and not only enjoy the simple, but thrive within it. She made simplicity appealing in that through it, she found immense joy and hope. If we, like her, could view our lives from a transcendental perspective, simplicity and poetics shine through our failings and our victories.

The Little Flower is a saint for our times. She understood that true freedom and joy were not found in desiring the things of this world, but rather only wanting the live within the will of God. Her prayer life indicates the continual relationship she had with our Lord. She spoke with Him as if he were a lover whose embrace she never left. Within her spousal relationship with Christ, she grew in leaps and bounds in magnanimity and a thorough knowledge of her vocation. Even when she experienced the dark night of the soul, she embodied what it means to appreciate the grace and continue to move forward.

St. Therese was a poet herself. She had the innate ability to put into words what it is that her soul longed for. My favorite poem of hers is titled “I Thirst for Love.” When reading it, we are able to peer into the Little Way of the Little Flower and perhaps join in her unending love of her heart:

 

In wondrous love Thou didst come down from heaven

To immolate Thyself, O Christ, for me;

So, in my turn, my love to Thee is given,

I wish to suffer and to die for Thee.

 

Thou, Lord, hast spoken this truth benign:

“To die for one loved tenderly

Of greatest love on earth is sign;”

And now, such love is mine,

Such love for Thee!

 

Abide, abide with me, 0 Pilgrim blest!

Behind the hill fast sinks the dying day.

Helped by Thy cross I mount the rocky crest;

Oh, come, to guide me on my heavenward way.

 

To be like Thee is my desire;

Thy voice finds echo in my soul.

Suffering I crave! Thy words of fire

Lift me above earth’s mire,

And sin’s control.

 

Chanting Thy victories, gloriously sublime,

The Seraphim all heaven cry to me,

That even Thou, to conquer sin and crime,

Upon this earth a sufferer needs must be.

 

(Excerpt of “I Thirst for Love”)