Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Little Way of Lent ~ Meditations in the Spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux

The Little Way of Lent

"God granted me, last year, the consolation of observing the fast during Lent in all its rigor."~ Saint Therese of Lisieux

The Season of Lent will soon be upon us. It is a time for fast, abstinence and reflection as we prepare for the celebration of Easter. It is not uncommon to hear the faithful discuss what they will be giving up for the forty days of Lent. The tone is usually somber and the focus is generally on the sacrifice.

I just read the book The Little Way of Lent - meditations in the spirit of St Therese of Lisieux by Father Gary Caster. It has changed the way I will look at Lent forever.

The introduction of the book by itself was wonderful to read. Father Caster describes how he read the autobiography of St. Therese as a young man and her words touched him. The way he looked at life, and especially at Lenten sacrifice, changed dramatically. He promised that should he become ordained a priest he would bring people closer to her and teach them of her little ways.

For my non-Catholic readers, St. Therese of Lisieux, (also know as St. Therese of the Little Flower) entered the convent at age 15. She is known for her deeply spiritual writing as well as her unshakable faith and deep devotion to God. She died very young, at 24. Her last words were "My God, I love you!".

One of her great lessons was that any sacrifice can be be offered to God. She wrote that as we abstain or labor at something we dislike, we should make it an offering of love. It was this concept that moved the author to change his thoughts about the Lenten season. What we are doing is not nearly as meaningful as the spirit in which we are doing it.

Let me share a few beautiful thoughts with you.
  • If we keep in mind that in God's eyes, we are all "little" and imperfect, we can take away some of the fear of failure that comes with giving something up for Lent. He does not want us to sacrifice out of fear, but because of love.
  • While these forty days are solemn, they are also joyful, culminating in the Paschal Mystery.
  • This is a time to offer ourselves up, not prove how stoic we can be. Perhaps we are better suited to offer a different way of showing our gratitude to God each day, rather than white knuckling our way through forty days of joyless sacrifice.
  • By giving up something significant that will call to us through the day, (chocolate, TV, coffee, etc.) we can take each moment of craving and reflect upon the fact that this is the way that God longs for us, too.
With many more thoughts like these, Father Caster has me looking forward to Lent this year. I am ready to see it through a new prism. I have tried to apply these ideas to my life already. I am not fond of winter weather, and this year has been quite something! The snow just won't stop! Last week, as I was shoveling, I spent the time contemplating the needs of others. I offered up the unpleasant task as a prayer. This is something I can do every day! As St. Therese always stressed, we should do the ordinary with great love.

After the insightful introduction, the book is broken down into each week of Lent. Before each Sunday entry, there is an excerpt from St, Therese's writings meant to coincide with the gospels. Then, each day has it's own page. The daily readings are listed, along with a meditation and a shorter quote from St. Therese. There is a unique page for the Sundays according to each cycle, so this book is relevant no matter what the year.

This paperback volume is 144 pages, and published by Servant books, an imprint of St. Anthony Messenger Press. It was released in October 2010. It is available for purchase from The Catholic Company for $12.99. Just click here: The Little Way of Lent

I would recommend this book as a perfect Lenten companion. It will help me to focus less on what I am giving up, and more upon love, and the amazing sacrifices that have made my redemption possible.

From the website:
"Lent is not meant to foster morbid gloominess and debilitating self-loathing, but to thrust us into the heart of Divine love." From the Introduction

While reading the autobiography of St. Therese, Fr. Caster had an 'ah ha' moment that transformed his experience of Lent from one of narrow concern over what to give up to one of joyful freedom to enter into the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. "What struck me," he says, "was her insistence on the way we do things for God and not the things we do for him. It wasn't about what I was offering; it was about why." The daily Lenten meditations in this book all colored by St. Therese's Little Way of Spiritual Childhood will transform you, too, helping you focus not so much on what you have done to offend God, but on what he has done to redeem you.
This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Little Way of Lent . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

**I was given a copy of the book for review purposes. I was not compensated, and my opinions are my own.