When it’s so hot you can fry an egg on the pavement, it’s time to high-tail it to the Jersey Shore! That is exactly what Maria and I did last Saturday. We bought fried fish sandwiches at a small fish market in Neptune, NJ and meandered into the small town of Ocean Grove – a town well-known for its fine Victorian architecture. The most famous Victorian structure is the Great Auditorium which seats over 6,000 people. Such luminaries as William Jennings Bryan, President Roosevelt, and Booker T. Washington gave speeches there at one time or another. The front is adorned with a large cross and the year it was completed, 1894, which is the same year that St. Therese really discovered her Little Way.
On July 17, 1897, 115 years ago today, Therese made her famous prediction just a few months before her death. She said that, “I feel that my mission is about to begin, my mission to make God loved as I love Him, to teach souls my little way.” When her sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus, asked her, “And what is this little way you want to teach to souls?” Therese answered: “It is the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute surrender.” (Introduction to Story of A Soul, p. xi) Therese wants to teach people of all walks of life how to love God as she loves Him – with everything in her being. She lived out the two greatest commandments to near-perfection; the commandments that, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37, 39) She believed that the All-Loving God deserved to be loved with all our love in return.
But our all is so incredibly small next to God’s ALL. Therese understood this very well and remedied this by teaching people to love God with His own love which alone is infinite. Catholics can do this most effectively at Holy Mass when, in ours hearts in union with the priest celebrant, we offer to the Father the Once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary, of which the Holy Mass is a Re-presentation. Apart from loving God with His own love, all we weak souls can do is surrender ourselves like little children into God’s loving arms. This is exactly what Therese teaches us to do in her little way – to trust God with absolute surrender. “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul.” (Psalm 131: 2)
Maria and I found a cozy bench on the pier at Ocean Grove to watch the waning rays of the sun glistening on the waves. A small group of dolphins broke through the surface of the water in the distance. It was not hard to allow my soul to be quieted in such a setting.