St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who died at age 24 in a Carmelite monastery might seem an unlikely patroness of the missions. But so she was proclaimed in 1927, together with the Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier.
She did want to join the Carmelites in Hanoi, Indochina, but her health prevented her from leaving her Carmel in Lisieus in northwest France. She did pray for missionaries and corresponded with at least two priest in the missions.
But her “Little Way,” serving God in the little things of life, is probably the best advice that any missionary could receive.
It is not in the big events that we witness to Christ, but in our everyday actions. Expecting to be recognized is the last thing that a missionary should seek.
Our witness to the Good News of the Gospel is by the way we live out our lives every day. It was Thomas Merton who wrote: “The saint preaches sermons by the way he walks and talks, the way he picks up things, and holds them in his hands.”
How do I treat the little kid, the obnoxious beggar, the self-righteous pastoral worker? How do I teach – showing off my wisdom or helping people discover the Wisdom of God which arises in the midst of our studying together? When I ask people about their lives, their work, their crops, am I really interested in them, or is it just small talk? When I preach, have I listened to the joys and longings of the people? When I sit and eat, do I relish the all-too-salty beans or do I turn up my nose? Do I really love?
As St. Thérèse wrote,
Love offered me the key to my vocation…
“My vocation is to love! I have found my special place in the Church, and that place you, my God, have given me. In the heart of the Church, y Mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, and my desire will be fulfilled.”
Thérèse found her mission in the everydayness of a contemplative monastery, praying with love, enduring with love the daily trials of community life.
So too we in mission are called to love actively in prayer.
Pray for us in mission – and remember that we are all called to mission, to be signs of God’s loving Reign in the world.