St. Therese of Lisieux: The Vocation of Love

Earlier this summer I finished reading St. Therese of Lisieux‘s The Story of a Soul,  and I have to say, it’s definitely one of my top ten favorite books of all time.  In this book, which is St. Therese’s autobiography, she tells us about the “Little Way,” the path to sanctity and sainthood that she proposed and lived in her extraordinary life.  On this “Little Way,”  or “Way of Love” one strives not to do great things but simply to do little things with love, to go unnoticed in this world and to make every task, even the most menial of tasks, a task of love.  This Little Way is a difficult way and it is very hard to read the writings of St. Therese without noticing how often we fail at living up to the extraordinary holiness and love that she exhibits.  However, it is also an extraordinarily simple and accessible way to sainthood, and reminds us that all of us are called to live with this great holiness and joy that she exhibited, and we can all do it, with the grace of God.

The Vocation of Love

What stuck with me the most about The Story of A Soul was something that St. Therese said relating to vocations near the end of the book.   She describes her own struggle to understand her vocation, and how she was unable to see where she was in the Mystical Body of Christ, until finally she says,

“O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love! Yes, I have found my place in the bosom of the Church, and this place, O my God, Thou hast Thyself given to me: in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be LOVE!… Thus I shall be all things: thus will my dream be realised…”

In saying this, expresses a fundamental truth about all of our vocations.  Our vocation, like the entire story of existence, can be summed up in one word.  Love.  Our vocation is to love.  To love Christ above all else, and to love every person we encounter for love of Him.

This is undoubtedly good news for all of us to hear, for most of us in some way or another struggle in our search for our vocation.  Failing to trust God with simplistic faith, we stress and worry about  what God is calling us to do with our life, and we forget that the essence of our vocation has already been given to us.  It is to love.  Completely, and totally, and in everything we do, for to love is to share in the Divine Life for which we were made.

At Last!  We Have Found Our Vocation.

In discovering this truth about her vocation, St. Therese reacts in the same way that all people react in such a situation.  “At last” she proclaims with joy and relief.  She had discovered her mission of love, and in doing so she had not only found the purpose for which she had been longing, but also the great joy and love for which we are all made.  This “At last” is the same one that came from the mouth of Adam, who upon seeing woman, exclaims “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” Genesis 2:23  In his discovery of the beauty and mystery of woman, Adam found his calling.  He found the person that he was called to devote himself to in love.  And in discovering this love, he found what he had been longing for,  prompting his joyful “At last.”  So too, when we truly make this discovery that our vocation is to love, everywhere and always, we are filled with a joy and contentment that make us exclaim “At last!”

It is this discovery that I experienced more fully this summer, and I hope that everyone will come to experience this truth.  God  reveals  to us the specifics of how and whom we are called to love most fully, but in His wisdom He does not reveal it to us immediately or all at once.  However, in our faithful waiting, we can find solace in the knowledge that our vocation is fundamentally to love and that in loving Christ and our neighbor, we will find true joy and peace.

The Adventure of Love

For in love we find life’s greatest adventure.  As St. Therese puts it in her poem, To Live of Love,

“To live of love it is to sail afar
And bring both peace and joy where’er I be.
0 Pilot blest! love is my guiding star;
In every soul I meet, Thyself I see.
Safe sail I on, through wind or rain or ice;
Love urges me, love conquers every gale.
High on my mast behold is my device:
‘By love I sail!'”

So, let’s joyfully embark on this adventure of love.  if you are like the many other young Catholics around the world, myself included, who are struggling to find their vocation, don’t be afraid!  Stop worrying and start loving!  For this is the heart of our vocation.

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