Parents naturally want their children to have an enjoyable childhood, filled with strong friendships that help make their children feel loved and appreciated. Yet, not every child makes friends easily and this can be distressing.
St. Therese of Lisieux was a shy child growing up in 19th-century France, and while she enjoyed her time spent with her sisters and cousins, she did not find much joy with other children.
Therese wasn’t like most children, and often enjoyed thinking more than playing games. She explains in her Story of a Soul, “During recreation I often gave myself up to serious thoughts, while from a distance I watched my companions at play. This was my favorite occupation.”
Still, she did try making friends, but it didn’t always go as planned, “At this time I chose as friends two little girls of my own age; but how shallow are the hearts of creatures! One of them had to stay at home for some months; while she was away I thought about her very often, and on her return I showed how pleased I was. However, all I got was a glance of indifference—my friendship was not appreciated. I felt this very keenly, and I no longer sought an affection which had proved so inconstant.”
At times this led St. Therese to feelings of loneliness, but in her loneliness she knew there was one friend she could always count on.
I was so shy … I had no special friend … with whom I could have spent many hours like other old pupils. So I worked in silence till the end of the lesson, and then, as no one took any notice of me, I went to the tribune in the Chapel till Papa came to fetch me home. Here, during this silent visit, I found my one consolation—for was not Jesus my only Friend? To Him alone could I open my heart; all conversation with creatures, even on holy subjects, wearied me. It is true that in these periods of loneliness I sometimes felt sad, and I used often to console myself by repeating this line of a beautiful poem Papa had taught me: “Time is thy barque, and not thy dwelling-place.” Young as I was, these words restored my courage, and even now, in spite of having outgrown many pious impressions of childhood, the symbol of a ship always delights me and helps me to bear the exile of this life.
This little story from St. Therese’s life reminds us that we are never truly alone. We might feel that sharp pain of loneliness, abandoned by our family and friends, but the good news is that Jesus’ friendship is always open to us. He may not be able to play games with us, but he can speak to our souls and give us a peace that will never end.
If you feel lonely, or if your child is disappointed at his/her lack of friends, turn to Jesus, who will never let us down. The more we develop that friendship, the more confident we will become in ourselves. We won’t depend on others for our ultimate happiness and realize that friends, even good ones, can never fully satisfy our desire for love. Friends can help us bear this exile of life, but in the end, our ultimate trust needs to be in God, our best and most trusted friend of all.
Pray this novena and St. Therese might send you a rose from Heaven
St. Thérèse’s secret to joy, happiness and peace