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What is the “Little Way” of St. Thérèse of Lisieux?

Thérèse of Lisieux

Fred de Noyelle | Godong

Philip Kosloski - published on 10/03/21 - updated on 06/12/24

The "Little Way" of St. Thérèse is a simple approach to the spiritual life that seeks to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux has become one of the most popular saints in the past 100 years, and whenever her name is brought up, so too is her “Little Way.”

However, not everyone is familiar with this phrase. What is the “Little Way”?

She wrote about this spiritual pathway in her autobiography Story of a Soul.

Throughout her life St. Thérèse wanted to become a saint. Yet, in her eyes, her life wasn’t all that extraordinary. She compared herself to other saints and thought she could never reach the same heights of sanctity.

You know it has ever been my desire to become a Saint, but I have always felt, in comparing myself with the Saints, that I am as far removed from them as the grain of sand, which the passer-by tramples underfoot, is remote from the mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds.

Instead of being discouraged, St. Thérèse trusted in God and believed that it was in her “littleness” that she could become a saint.

I concluded that God would not inspire desires which could not be realized, and that I may aspire to sanctity in spite of my littleness. For me to become great is impossible. I must bear with myself and my many imperfections; but I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new.

Little Virtues

This “Little Way,” consisted in performing “little virtues,” not seeking grandiose sacrifices to God, but little acts of holiness.

You must practice the little virtues. This is sometimes difficult, but God never refuses the first grace—courage for self-conquest; and if the soul correspond to that grace, she at once finds herself in God’s sunlight.

Frequently she would recall the image of a little child and how we should be that child, trusting in our loving Father, always striving for Heaven, even when we make mistakes.

You make me think of a little child that is learning to stand but does not yet know how to walk. In his desire to reach the top of the stairs to find his mother, he lifts his little foot to climb the first step. It is all in vain, and at each renewed effort he falls. Well, be like that little child. Always keep lifting your foot to climb the ladder of holiness, and do not imagine that you can mount even the first step. All God asks of you is good will. From the top of the ladder He looks lovingly upon you, and soon, touched by your fruitless efforts, He will Himself come down, and, taking you in His Arms, will carry you to His Kingdom never again to leave Him. But should you cease to raise your foot, you will be left for long on the earth.

St. Thérèse never left the Carmelite monastery, didn’t become a martyr, and would have been lost to history if it weren’t for her autobiography.

Her “Little Way” reminds us that anyone can become a saint, whether they are a garbage truck driver, a sales clerk at a retail store, or even a retired grandparent. All are called to holiness. What we must do is strive for holiness in our everyday lives and place our trust in God.

SaintsSpiritual LifeTherese of Lisieux
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