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The Way of Trust and Love - A Retreat Guided By St. Therese of Lisieux Paperback – 2012
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St. Thérèse of Lisieux sought a new way to Heaven: “a little way that is quite straight, quite short: a completely new little way.” Blessed with personal limitations that might have discouraged another, Thérèse believed God would not have given her a desire for holiness if He did not intend for her to achieve it. She learned to humbly accept herself as she was and trust completely in God’s love. First given as a retreat by renowned author Father Jacques Philippe, The Way of Trust and Love navigates excerpts of St. Thérèse’s writings phrase by phrase, extracting powerful, resonating insights. To Thérèse, the journey seemed “little” as she traveled it. A hundred and fifteen years after her death, the message of the young saint and Doctor of the Church has traveled around the world inspiring millions. With this newly translated study of her spirituality, many today will rediscover—or find for the first time—the relevance of “the little way,” in all seasons of life. Fr. Jacques Philippe is well-known for his books on prayer and spirituality. A member of the Community of the Beatitudes, he regularly preaches retreats in France and abroad. He also spends much of his time giving spiritual direction and working for the development of the Community in Asia and Oceania where he travels frequently.
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Chapter 1-“A Completely New Way.” St. Thérèse’s way is new in three different senses: 1) because the Gospel is always new, we will never cease to discover the ever new riches of God’s love and mercy. 2) New in contrast to the tendency to confuse holiness with certain extraordinary manifestations and exclude from holiness ordinary people, it presents holiness as accessible to anyone. 3) It represents a new phase in her life, an inner revolution: the reception of a special grace from God, that of the trusting attitude of small children. She welcomes God’s tenderness and goodness, the revelation of his merciful love, and the need to let oneself be transformed interiorly by that love.
Chapter 2-“An Elevator for Small Children.” “Instead of bearing your poverty as a handicap, an obstacle, accept it and welcome it as a grace.” The elevator is Jesus’ arms—the mercy of God who gives himself through Christ. She discovered that the essence of the “little way,” the new way to holiness, was to stay little and to become progressively littler. To remain little is to discover the inner attitudes, the dispositions of the heart that make us permeable to God’s grace and attract it unfailingly. The key attitudes are humility and trust. Real humility is to accept ourselves as we are, to love ourselves as we are, and it attracts God’s grace very powerfully. It also means to have no other occupation than that of picking flowers, the flowers of love and sacrifice and offering them to God for his pleasure.
Chapter 3- “Being Reconciled to Our Weakness.” We need to accept our weakness, but clearly we need to reject sin. We need to have a real desire for conversion and to be faithful to God at any cost while recognizing that we are interiorly poor and sinners. For St. Thérèse, love contains all vocations. Whatever our personal limitation and situation, we can all love right where we are: in the home, the workplace, at play—it makes no difference. Above all, we must have an unlimited trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness, because, as St. Paul told the Romans, “everything works together for the good of those who love Him.”
Chapter 4-“Trusting More and More.”1) To increase trust we must read Sacred Scripture (passages from the Old and New Testament that invite us to trust). 2) We have to make little acts of faith: “I trust you. I leave the situation in your hands, and I know you’ll look after it.” We need prayer and adoration to discover God’s true face, his mercy and forgiveness. It is through faithfulness to prayer that we enter into a real experience of God and a real knowledge of ourselves. The works of apostolate and charity must be the result of prayer and contemplation.
Chapter 5-“God’s Infinite Mercy.” We have to live in the world positively and confidently. We have to examine our conscience regularly but we should ensure that this practice doesn’t degenerate into gazing gloomily at ourselves since discouragement is a clear sign that we’ve put our trust in ourselves and not at all in God. St. Thérèse recommends regular confession because this is a privileged means of helping us rediscover God’s real face, his infinite love, his forgiveness, his generosity, and his unbelievable patience towards us. A necessary expression of trust is self-abandonment, which includes “letting go” (not clinging to a particular project, a way of seeing things or acting, accepting that we can’t control everything in our lives). It also includes relying on God, depending on him like a child. Other important aspects of the spirituality of the little way is to live in the present moment and love. The surest way of loving God is loving the people around us—loving them in a considerate way, accepting them as they are. In times when we are poor, dry, arid, feeling that God is far away, let’s practice little works of love, and we will find strength. Finally, we have to practice gratitude towards God for everything; the more we cultivate gratitude and thanksgiving, the more open our hearts are to God’s action, so that we can receive life from God and be transformed and enlarged. The choice between discontent and gratitude is not the product of what we experience. It goes deeper. It’s an appeal to the freedom we can always exercise.
Chapter 6-“Enduring Trials.” It is hard to keep one’s trust in God while suffering. How can we face up to the trails and suffering in our lives? 1) Let’s not be afraid of life or difficulties or suffering. 2) Every trial, no matter what the causes and characteristics are, is a trial of faith or of hope or of love. Every trial is a call to have a more determined and deeper faith. God is faithful, he will draw something positive of everything that is happening to us. Every trial is a trial of hope. Where have we placed our ultimate security? The answer we’re invited to give is: my ultimate security is God. I rely on him alone. Every trial is a call to become more firmly rooted in God. Every trial is a trial of love. It is a purification of love. It is not to destroy love, but so that love may become deeper, truer, more evangelical and, basically, happier. In sum, every trial can become a path of life, for Christ has risen from the dead and is present everywhere, sowing the seeds of new life in every situation.
I hope you give it a prayerful read.