"Meg: So you practiced the Little Way?
"Therese: Yes, It all came together for me . . . my vocation as merciful love, offering my emotional way of life as my holocaust, being little and loving directly through ordinary life.
"Meg: How does that work in actual living?
"Therese: I offer to Our Lord the small sacrifices that came to me in the routine of community life. I took up as my apostolate that of smiling at another when it was the last thing I felt like doing. I took all the little occasions for my practice. The Little Way finds joy in being pleased to be the person who you are, whoever you are. It is a way of coming to terms with life not as it might be but as it is.
"Meg: So, do we need to have all of these things a Christmas Eve grace, a mystical marriage, an oblation as a victim for substitutive suffering, and a confirming sign to practice the Little Way?
"Therese: No. You asked me about my life and this is my story. The gift for others is that I come with the Little Way. In God's amazing generosity, I can intercede for others from this realm to your earthly life. Practice the Little Way and you will have this life of total self-renunciation. There are no requirements like having to be a Carmelite nun, doing heroics of ascetical discipline, having a mystical marriage, and making an oblation of substitutive suffering.
"Meg: So, what is the Little Way?
"Therese: The Little Way is a moment-by-moment habit of offering ourselves to merciful love. We need not be a perfect soul; it is sufficient to present ourselves to God as we are. The depths of His mercy are attracted to the depths of our poverty. Instead of relying on our own spiritual accomplishments, we must rely only on the strength of His arm. This is an ordinary way. God will reward littleness if we bear with ourselves in spite of our imperfections. This is a short, quick, straight way. All you need is to desire of union with God. 'Whoever is little, let them come to Me.'
"I like the image of being in the arms of Jesus. He lifts me up like an express elevator. The smaller you are the easier it is to be lifted up. In the paradox of littleness, we become lighter and not weighted down by anxiety, guilt, dread, and heaviness. Littleness cuts the bond that drags us down. We practice expecting everything from God. We practice letting go of anxiety, fear, and self-centeredness and rely on God. We have nothing. God is all. So we own, accept, and face our nothingness. The 'little' part of the Little Way is all about nothingness. The 'way' part of the Little Way is about renouncing attachment to any emotions or feelings. Even when desires are dried up, we feel our desire for God. This ache is just part of the littleness.
"Meg: So, isn't this making being sad a way of life?
"Therese: No there is no feeling sorry for ourselves. In faith we offer our emotional life to God. We renounce sadness. So, the 'way' in the Little Way was all about renouncing dejection and using these very emotions as prayer for others. One good thing is that there is no disdain of creatures. My experience of nothingness is a method of restraint from any illusions, false expectations, or return on emotional investment.
"Meg: So there is no program of asceticism added to ordinary living. You said you slept for seven years at morning prayers. In those days didn't you have to do a penance for that?
"Therese: Carmelite monastic life was harsh in the late 1800s. I just didn't do it-those personal programs of flagellation, hairshirts, and mortifications. I just offered my ordinary life, and my superiors blessed the Little Way.
"Meg: We find that zeal can often be a form of pride. Did you learn this from studying St. John of the Cross?
"Therese: I admired the brilliance of St. John of the Cross. He renounced all 'thought' of God in prayer. In my doctrine of the Little Way, we have a renunciation of 'affect' in the whole of life. Thoughts come and go, and if you shift your thinking to something else, the thoughts do not keep their hold on the mind. But feelings linger, last, and fester. The Little Way is to surrender all those feelings, moods, ups and downs that come from hurts outside and memories rising from the inside. This emotional asceticism is the Little Way. Also, we never take a vacation from giving all. There are no days off from this practice as emotions rise everyday and everywhere.
"Meg: Is not renouncing your emotions a form of repression?
"Therese: Another good question. Thanks for the clarification. I suppose I should say I renounce commentary and attachment regarding my emotions. It means full consciousness. We face and receive our emotions, such as anger, depression, and the drag of the human condition. We face the self-made illusions about ourselves. Therefore, to renounce our self-made thoughts about emotions is to embrace truth. There is no egoic-self to nurture. The Little Way is to literally prefer nothing to Christ.
"Meg: There's nothing childlike about this, as it is a mature full-bodied love. The Little Way seems like a practice of Cassian's fourth renunciation: the thoughts of the self.
"Therese: God calls all to holiness. The Little Way is without ecstasies or spiritual revelations. We have great desire like Joan of Arc but do not have miracles or outstanding works. Hiddenness, like that of the Holy Family Jesus was born into, sets a pattern for us. Our role is to be found, loved, and fashioned. (God always loves me first. I am a child to be carried. I present myself empty of all preconceptions of holiness. To live by love is to navigate endlessly, sowing peace and joy in every heart. The Little Way substitutes for vows of consecration, oblation, and any other form of asceticism. Those are rituals that sum up the practice, but the practice itself is enough for anyone to do and to be faithful in giving all. I had an image in my heart that no drop of blood that flowed from Jesus on the cross would be spilt on the ground, but would be caught by my little acts of offering. This is mystical language, but I know you understand beyond words that there is a doing it together . . . this redemptive love that prevents others from suffering and making restitution for all the sins ever committed.
"Meg: I'm not sure I am ready for this teaching on mystical substitution, but I do get the significance of practicing the Little Way. You are saying that, if we accept the invitation to follow your invitation to practice the Little Way, that is the same as your grace of Christmas night of 1886 to shift from self to sacrifice.
"Therese: Yes, and the Little Way is the ordinary way. You do not have to be a Carmelite nun who is ritually married to the Lord. You do not have to make an oblation to a superior. The Little Way is simply the practice of using your life as a prayer. And the Little Way is to have the little, ordinary affective moments of life offered with big faith in God's merciful love.
"Meg: Being little I can do this! I offer my very littleness as my prayer and it becomes redemptive suffering for others. Amazing!
"Therese: You know that a definition of prayer is to offer your thoughts to God. The Little Way is to offer your emotions to God.
"Meg: So the Little Way is the contemporary form of Humility?
"Therese: Yes, humility is the experience of being human. You simply offer that back to God.
"Meg: Sounds so easy. Why is it so hard?
"Therese: When it seems hard, remember you are not alone. I'm spending my whole heaven doing good on Earth! I'm an emotional heartbeat away."