On Monday something (I did not know what it was at the time, but I suspect I know now) compelled me to search for, find, and pull out of the closet a turquoise cross-body purse I haven’t used for perhaps four (?) years. Part of my thinking was that it was a purse better suited for the bike ride I was about to take up to the grocery store. And, indeed, it was better for such a task, at least once I had emptied it of its years-old contents, which I dumped rather unceremoniously on my bed: receipts (thankfully none the eight-foot long ones from CVS), prayer cards, appointment reminders, chapstick, a pocket notebook with to-do lists and musings about parenthood, and even a whole paperback book. I’d go through it later, I thought, and I did when I got back from the grocery store.
Fast-forward to today, scrolling through Twitter when a portrait of an old man caught my eye. He was outside in sunlight, looking off to the right side of the frame through tortoiseshell glasses, white bearded, and with a bemused but friendly expression on his face. In the lower left hand corner of the frame, the edge of his brown hood can just be made out, marking him as a Franciscan and specifically as a Friars Minor Capuchin.
One of my Twitter friends, who seemingly never fails to offer prayers up for anyone in need of them, had posted the picture with the question, “Who do you feel is the patron saint of the current season of life you’re in and why?” and the portrait he had posted in answer to his own question was of Blessed Solanus Casey, who I know little about but whose portrait has always struck me as a lovely one. (I looked up a few things about him and he was born in Wisconsin, where I went to school, and lived for a while in Minnesota, which I also lived.)
Further down the thread, someone used a Random Saint Generator, which I had never used before but was happy to. Who was my patron for this season of my life?
“Saint Therese of Liseaux” popped up. And to tell the truth, I was slightly unsurprised. Remember the contents of the purse I had dumped out a few days ago? The book that I’d found in there was The Autobiography of Saint Therese of Liseux: The Story of a Soul, which I had dipped into periodically (although, apparently, not for a while). Alongside the book in my old purse had been a small rose pin.
Calling her by her well-known nickname of Little Flower, I tweeted my Saint Generator at Michael. “She seems to have sent you a rose today,” he responded, well familiar with how the Little Flower is known for sending flowers and specifically roses. I told Michael about the pin. “Too on the nose!!! Definitely trying to get your attention.” Saint Therese is known for, amongst other things, promising to send a shower of roses from heaven.
Which she definitely has been. I’ve been thinking about her a lot these past few days. Earlier this week, I saw a girl in a t-shirt that read, “Little Flower,” which at first I thought might be from the nearby elementary school of the same name, but then I realized it wasn’t.
I found the book this evening. I opened it to the page which was marked, very obviously, by a pencil.
“And like Solomon, who when he ‘turned to all the words which his hand had wrought and to the labors wherein he had labored in vain, saw in all things vanity and vexation of mind,” experience taught me that the only way to happiness in this world is to hide oneself away and remain in ignorance of all created things. I know that without love all we do is worthless. So instead of harming my soul, the talents God bestowed on me drew me closer to Him. I saw that He along was unchanging and that He alone would satisfy the immensity of my desires.”
I get a great deal of joy from these seemingly very simple tasks: knitting a sock, baking bread or pastries, painting simple watercolors of Japanese food, talking with my kids, preparing a comforting meal, writing a blog post or a few lines of a fiction project that will probably never see the light of day. But no matter how much personal satisfaction and joy I get from these things, part of my mind continues to be drawn to the questions and the self doubt: “Is this enough? What can I or should I be doing to make these tiny little things BIGGER?”
The answers: Yes and nothing.
Saint Therese was known for the simplicity of her spirituality. Do these small things with great love. That is enough.