When most of us think of St. Therese of Lisieux, we often think of flowers and of her “little way.” I am not an exception to this, because, especially as a mom, I use the “little way” all the time. Every act of motherhood follows the little way of love (I am washing your clothes for the third time today because I love you, and I’m reading another bedtime story because I love you). Beyond the general knowledge of St. Therese, I did not know much about her until I began to read her autobiography recently.
There is one passage where St. Therese is talking about the innocence of children and the importance of forming them when they are young. Therese shares a story of when she was watching after two young children, and of how amazed she was at their willingness to do what was right because of the “far off” reward of Heaven: “Holy baptism must implant a very deep seed of theological virtues in the soul since from childhood these virtues are already evident, and since the hope of future goods suffices to have them accept sacrifices” (Story of a Soul, 112). When we become older, the idea of pleasing Jesus and the rewards in Heaven are not enough to satisfy us, because we have to come to fall in the shadow of the temptations of the world. The job of faith formation when children are young and moldable is a very important one, not to be taken lightly. What greater job do we have as mothers than to ensure that our children are receiving proper faith formation? This may be us teaching them ourselves or making sure that the schools they are attending are meeting their spiritual needs in the best way possible. We can expect Jesus to help in the planting of the seeds of faith and virtue in our children’s lives, but unless we prepare the ground for the seeds, then nothing will be able to grow. Everything that I do for my children all day long becomes part of tilling the ground for the seed to grow.
I love to see the innocence of my children and their simple faith. All they need to know is that someone loves them and is proud of them. It is no wonder that Mary chose to come to children during her visits to earth. Their young, innocent souls offer perfect ground on which the seeds of the messages fall because they are not clouded by judgment. May you and I, as mothers, embrace this little way and help our children’s hearts grow in purity.