Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's the Feast of St. Theresa, the Little Flower!

Happy October! The first day of October is a big one for me. No, it’s not because it’s opening day of Bow Rifle season; nor is it because it’s the “unspoken”, but implied fashion rule with the girls at the office as the official day to start wearing Fashion boots (J) but rather because it is my feast day, the Feast of St. Theresa the Little Flower.
For those of you that are not familiar with Catholicism, it is customary (although not as popular anymore) to name a baby after a “saint” in the church. This becomes the child’s “patron saint” and is meant to serve as a role model of exemplary faith and holiness. Later, when the youngster is fully initiated into the community during the Sacrament of Confirmation, he/she chooses a saint’s name once again as his/her patron saint. Often time it is the same one given to them at birth.  I was named after St. Theresa of Lisieux, also known as the “Little Flower.” It also happened to be my grandmother’s middle name. Today the Church….and I…celebrate her feast day (the anniversary of her date of death and entrance into heaven).  When I was growing up, I celebrated this day like my ‘birthday” but without presents and cake. I did, however, enjoy a special meal….one of my favorites: meatloaf. My mother always cooked me a meatloaf on this day and when she died, my dear priest friend, Fr. Sauter (the one who died in my arms and whose death I have still yet to fully grieve) continued on with the meatloaf celebration, although he always took me “out to dinner” instead. I also tried to make it a point to attend Mass on this day, although it’s not as easy to do so anymore now that I’m working a secular job. What great and precious memories!
I’ve always had a deep admiration for St. Theresa because she was a Carmelite nun and was truly a woman of God. She died at age 24 of tuberculosis and spent the last few years of her life very ill. She did not rise to any great fame; did not preach the gospel to foreign lands as a missionary; did not lead armies in battle, preach elaborate sermons to thousands, or die a martyr’s death. Rather, she offered up to God all the “little, day-to-day things, sufferings, struggles” and grew in holiness as a result. She did everything with Love. She didn’t need to be in a church to feel God’s presence, but instead, was constantly, continually aware of His grace while going about the work of the day. She prayed constantly….while washing floors, doing chores, sitting with the sick, and she never missed an opportunity to show love and kindness. She approached God with a ‘child-like” trust in His love and mercy. Her spirituality is known as the “Little Way” and she wrote about it in her autobiography: The Story of a Soul.
I’ve spent my life striving and wanting to be like her, and have fallen short over and over again. I want to always be aware of God’s presence…even in the mundane tasks of life, even in the struggles and pain, even in the moments of weakness…..but mostly in the moments of great joy.  Some days I find it easy to see/hear/feel/recognize God’s grace, but other times, I need God to “hit me over the head” to knock some sense into me when I complain, doubt, worry, or whine, but especially when I’m selfish. 
In my personal journey to wellness, I’ve tried to apply her principals of spirituality. My weight loss was not some “big bolt of thunder” healing/miracle moment, but rather the compilation of a bunch of “little things” done over and over again. It’s the “little things” we do on a daily, continual basis that eventually changes us. For instance….I’ve never heard of anyone going to bed and then waking up “skinny, healthy, recovered, whole, completely transformed.” But….when we do the “little things”…..like switching to diet soda or water, using splenda instead of sugar, eating 2 pieces of toast instead of 4, walking even a few yards EVERY DAY, or cutting out just 1 snack a day, on a regular basis, we ARE going to see results…..very slow results, but still, we ARE going to be transformed.
 Likewise, if we do the small things….like spend more time with loved ones, make a more concerted effort to call or write to friends, allow someone else to “make a decision about what to watch on TV or what to have for dinner’, become more focused on the needs of those around us….very soon we’ll see our relationships improve.   If we spend a few minutes a day in quiet thought or prayer, we’ll find it becomes a necessity and not a chore.  If we try to “walk away” instead of lashing out when we are hurt or angry, we’ll find that we carry less stress and regret.
Regardless of the number on the scale or the amount of money in the bank account, we’ll find ourselves to be more peaceful and happy individuals if we just make little changes on a daily basis. It’s amazing how we will be transformed in our heart and minds when we truly try to recognize God in our midst.  Our journey to wellness begins there; in our heads and hearts, and really has nothing to do with diet plans or exercise machines.  When we truly begin to change our thoughts….and feed our spirits as well as our tummies, our bodies will eventually catch up.  AND….the best part…..is….Even if it doesn’t….even if we never lose a pound….or are never able to run a marathon like Becca (go girl!), we will still be making progress to wellness, we will find ourselves “seeing things” in a brand new way, and as a result we’ll know a joy that we’ve never imagined.
My meatloaf (ground turkey these days) will wait until this weekend. But today…I celebrate my feast day….just not with food!  It’s going to be a great day….make it a great one for you too!