The Little Way
There is an ancient custom in all of our monasteries of having a book read to the community during the main meal at mid-day. We take turns as readers and this week it is my turn. The book is a collection of meditations on the Incarnation, by Ladislaus Boros. In the section I read aloud yesterday, he referred to the writings of Saint Therese of the Little Flower – Therese of Lisieux. She was a French Carmelite nun and was only twenty-four when she died, in 1897. Her writings were published after her death and they became a literary sensation in
As I read the words from the book, I occasionally glanced up to see the clock, so as to be ready when the bell rang, to finish the section in an area where I could pick it up again the next day. I looked from the clock to the monks in front of me, who were taking their meal in an attentive silence, listening to the words of the ordinary as I read them. Sun streamed through the windows, casting a lovely light all through our large refectory. My voice filled the room, sharing words written a long time ago about the very things I saw in front of me. The sunlight was beautiful, as was the scene of the monks, their heads lowered in a kind of reverence, taking in the nourishments of words, food, water.
We intake so much during any given way in order to live. I suppose it is normal that few of us pause to give thought to all that we absorb in a day in order to live, to understand, to appreciate what we see. We need food and drink to live. We need words and symbols to understand and to see. We need each other to learn how to love, how to live good and peaceful lives.
We need saints to help us look at the lives that we live, and to see the sublime in and through the ordinary. God is, for many, a far and lofty Being. He may seem so far – be it in the heavens or in some imagined life beyond this one. These days, His existence is debated in several books that have reached best-seller status. But every now and then a person comes along who sees things with such beauty and who writes about them. And so it is that a train window becomes a tabernacle. A rubber ball becomes an orb of revelation and a flower speaks the eloquence of God. And we listen – and recognize that God is here, in our midst. He may seem to be silent but He speaks through the saints. And what he says through them can be salvation for any one of us. For the words of saints rivet our eyes and hearts to the right here in our midst – to the seemingly ordinary things and people that come our way every day.