The Faith & Prayer Life of St. Therese – Lent 2024


St. Therese did not accomplish great things during her life but embraced the idea that she could do small things with great love for God. Even when she felt completely abandoned by God, she surrendered herself fully to Him.

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

“For those whom the Lord loves he reproves,”

Prov. 3:12.

1. Tim relates how he struggled with the story of St. Therese at first because he has always been drawn to saints who accomplished great things, like St. Francis of Assisi and St. John Paul II. What types of saints are you most drawn to? What do you love about them?

2. St. Therese’s “Little Way” is to strive to do small things with great love. What small things might you be able to do with great love in your life?

3. Whenever there is discord in our lives, it is harder for us to have the peace that will lead us to God. The devil tries to disrupt our lives and make discord in them to keep us from God. What areas of your life are least peaceful right now? How can you bring peace to that area of discord?  

4.  St. Therese is a great example of abandonment and surrender to God, because she surrendered to Him even amidst her feelings of total abandonment. How can you work on imitating her surrender to God in your life?

Text: The Faith & Prayer Life of St. Therese

Hi, my name is Tim Glemkowski,  and thanks for joining us for this  Pray More Lenten retreat.  I want to talk a little bit about, as,  as we navigate this Lent, you know,  obviously a huge pillar of, Lent is prayer in the interior life  and growth in our, our life of prayer.  It’s prayer fasting  and almsgiving that are the, the core disciplines  of Lent are the areas that we’re invited to grow.  And so one of the things I’ve found most fruitful in my own  life is actually, trying to understand and,  and see a little bit more how the saints prayed. 

Tim’s Conversion

You know, in, in my life, I had kind  of my conversion when I was  and, started trying to grow in the faith.  And, really  for the first couple years was adopting a lot of the,  the disciplines or habits that I had seen.  Candidly, actually, my parents, really, they,  they were daily communicants and prayed the daily rosary.  And, and they did a lot of different things  that I learned a lot from, of like, what it looked like  to be a devout Catholic.  And once I kind of moved away from my wayward youth,  you know, I just sort of was imitating the  people that I saw and watched.  And there came a certain point though that I really started  to plateau in the spiritual life.  Like it stopped sort of, having some  of the same fruitfulness, that it had originally.  And I didn’t feel like I was really growing  or getting to know God better. 

I’d hear different people talk about how they prayed  or understood God, and I would think, well, geez, that’s,  that’s not like, I don’t feel like I have a  relationship present there or anything.  And it was actually when I was studying abroad, that I,  I had a, an experience of taking a class on,  Christian spirituality,  and a chance to read a lot of the great mystics and saints  and the things they wrote about this adventure.  that kind of, every Catholic is invited to  where God works in these consistent patterns, in,  in his, the life of his children, right?  To help them actually experience here on earth, the,  the beginnings of heaven in their own heart  and in their own prayer life  and in the intimacy that he’s inviting them to.  And, you know, a lot of those readings really  to this day continue to form deeply, some  of the ways they try to encounter God, John the Cross  and Theresa Avila and St.  Francis DeSales.  And we kind of went actually through, you know, the desert,  starting with like the Desert Fathers  and some of the early, you know, apostolic fathers all the  way through modern day, kind of just read almost like a,  a survey of, of some  of these different mystics and spiritual writers.  And it was a very powerful class  that really changed my life for forever.  I should probably tell the professor that at some point. 

The Story of a Soul

But toward the end of the time, we, read a saint, or the, the story of a saint that,  is a story you might have heard of.  It was a book called The Story of a Soul, which is sort  of an autobiography, a journal,  of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux . And so what’s remarkable about St. Thérèse  of Lisieux is at the beginning of the twentieth century,  this book was like one of the most well read and,  and, you know, sold the most copies of, of kind  of any book in the world, you know,  millions and millions of copies.  it’s actually used as an example very often of  what we call the “census fidelium” the sense of the faithful,  the, the sort of overwhelming response of the people of God  to this story, of this really kind of averaged,  young French girl in some ways showed,  the hierarchy of the church  that this was a remarkable saint. 

So she was made a saint very quickly  and then named a doctor of the church even  because there was something, that was  so true in this book that people responded  to it sort of remarkably.  What was interesting for me though, I as a year old guy,  you know, kind of reading this book is,  I really struggled with it at first,  because a, a lot of my heroes as saints, you know,  were those kind of, those saints who had sort  of these remarkable stories or miracles attribute.  So Padre Pio is my confirmation saint,  and I love that he bilocated  and was like calling people out in the confessional.  And, you know, the stigmata that seemed  to me like a really kind of great saint or St.  Francis of Assisi and sort of his,  you know, founding this order.  And again, the first stigmatism that we know of  and his, you know, kind of the adventure of his life  and this dramatic conversion, or you think of, St.  John Paul II is my personal hero and,  and sort of his, the incredible tragedies in his life early  on, and then this rise to greatness.  And then he like overthrew communism  and stuff, you know, so these kind  of great saints had always really formed my sort of image  of what sanctity was. 

An Average Saint

And when you look on its face, the,  and she kind of, you know,  expresses this in story of his soul.  There’s not a lot about St. Thérèse of Lisieux  that’s all that remarkable.  she has a, a pretty average sort of like suburban,  French upbringing, kind of like a semi wealthy family.  Her, her mom was a great businesswoman, you know,  her mom did pass away, which is kind of a great tragedy.  And she encountered in her own way, the, the tragedy of kind  of leaving her family to join, Carmel and or Carmel  and, you know, the religious life  and the, the kind of difficulties there.  But a lot of her struggles,  that she encounters except toward the end of her life,  are really sort of like benign in a certain sense.  and, and then her own reflections on those struggles  or her reflections on God could seem almost at times,  like sort of spoiled to me.  Like, the core of her sort  of prayer philosophy is this radical trust  and confidence in God. 

And there was this part of me almost at nineteen reading it  that was like, well, yeah, like you had it pretty good.  Like it wouldn’t be all that hard.  She does die young at twenty four, and did have some tragedies,  but there were parts of me that just struggled with it.  I was reading it, and it’s been funny over the years,  St. Thérèse of Lisieux has become one of my absolute favorite saints,  I would say more, almost more than anybody else.  she has helped  and aided me in coming to understand how to relate  to God the Father,  because what she shows is  that sanctity is ultimately not about,  kind of doing great things, but, doing small things  with great love and,  and above all to allowing the core of our sort of life  of prayer and intimacy with God to be radical trust  and abandonment to him, right?  To abandon ourselves in the circumstances  of our life, right?  To say whatever happens to me, good  or bad, I will have complete trust  that God has my best intention in mind. 

Littleness and Poverty

And then, and then more than that, that my littleness  or my poverty, wouldn’t be, she says,  I’m not like one of these great saints,  the Saint Theresa of Avila, who, who, you know,  experienced these incredible, you know, leaps  and bounds growth in the spiritual life and,  and walk these, you know,  incredible journeys that we could write.  She, she speaks about kind of the quietness  of her own prayer life, and her littleness,  but desires in recognizing that littleness for it  to be her latter to heaven, she calls it right, her,  her escalator to heaven  that would go bring her there quickly, that at the end  of her life, she says she’d like to come  before God with empty hands, to say,  I have nothing, right?  But to let that be, right.  He who has, or she who has Jesus  and nothing else has everything, right?  So to not let her littleness  or her poverty be an obstacle to God’s love,  but to be the place that,  she would actually find confidence in and offer that to God.  So trust and abandonment, confidence in God’s love no matter  what, and then surrender, right?  Surrendering, her entire life. and her plan to God. 

She wanted to be a missionary.  She had an incredible desire for missions  and would even write to different priests  who were engaged in missions  that had these desires in herself  that she’d feel all the time to go to the ends of the earth  for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of mission.  So great was her kind of love of God.  It wasn’t God’s plan for, God’s plan for her was,  the littleness and the poverty of Carmel,  and then to die at twenty four  and to be to join him, in paradise, right?  And so this trust and this confidence,  and this surrender to me,  what those things help us do is they help us  reorient our entire way of thinking about the spiritual life  to allow God,  I I really do think it’s like an escalator or an elevator to heaven.  because it allows God to work. It gives God space to work.  So many of us, sometimes we can.

Maintaining Peace

Father Jacques Philippe wrote this great book  that I recommend everyone read, which is called “Searching  for and Maintaining Interior Peace.”  And I think in some ways it’s almost like practically  how you can walk out the little way which Thérèse of Lisieux calls the  little way, into your own life.  Because at the end of the day,  what it’s ultimately about is maintaining the, the peace  and docility of soul.  That’s like the discipline we can apply that allows God  to actually work used as the image of a pool  of water and the tranquility, of the pool.  What it allows it to do is it allows the sun to,  to be reflected in it, but if it’s disturbed  and turbulent, then there’d be, it’s hard  to see the sun in it, right?  And this is what the devil tries to do to us.  He tries to create turbulence in our life.  He sends things in our life that would create discord in us  that would not allow us to experience the kind of peace  that will lead to the fruitfulness in our own souls  and in the world that we’re meant to  encounter, that we’re made for.  And, and there is this incredible example, in this kind  of spoiled like French girl from the suburbs,  in the late eighteen hundreds, who over time learns  to find an incredible peace in her life  because of the love of a father.  So much so that she’s able to actually toward the end  of her life, suffer for him in great ways. 

She says actually at the end of her life,  that she encountered this incredible darkness in her soul,  like this incredible feeling of abandonment and desolation.  The several months that she was dying  before she, she passed away where she said she was tempted  to the most horrible temptations of atheism, even like  to believe that God wouldn’t even exist.  And I think this is such a powerful image in some ways  of a true saint, right?  Someone in the world might be scandalized by that, right?  Like, oh, well, she didn’t actually believe in God.  It’s like the, it couldn’t be less true.  What it means is even without the sensible awareness,  even in complete dryness  and in feelings of abandonment, she knew  that her faith in God, the dark light of that faith,  was something so much deeper in her and her commitment  and surrender to him that it didn’t reside in her ability  to conjure up incredible feelings of belief or faith,  or to be able to identify and, and sort of persist.  And in all these, like this, you know, to soar kind  of in the heights of reflection on all these theological  truths and to note all these incredible virtues in her life,  but in incredible darkness and in feelings of abandonment  and, and what felt to her like atheism.  She was still able to stay faithful  because she knew that her littleness was not an obstacle  to God’s love, but it was the occasion, for him  to come closer to her.  And so she surrendered even  that at the end of her life to him. 

An Image of Lent

And so to me, she’s an image of Lent.  She’s an image of intimacy  and prayer, of radical trust, of confidence  and abandonment, and then of surrender  of even the circumstances of our life, to the God  who wants closeness with us more than anything, even when  that closeness doesn’t look  or feel, the way we expect it to look and feel. 

So, maybe another one for you to pick up this Lent,  it’s a short book story of a soul.  You might be frustrated with it at first, like I was,  but then find incredible fruitfulness, in the mysteries  that God presented to this doctor of the church,  this year old French girl, who found, a way  of expressing the heart of the father in a way.  few have been able to before or since.  So thanks so much for watching. God Bless.

About Tim Glemkowski

Tim Glemkowski is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Eucharistic Congress. Previously, he served in the Archbishop’s Office for the Archdiocese of Denver as the Director of Strategy, helping to set up the archdiocese for a time of apostolic mission. He is the former founder and president of L’Alto Catholic Institute and Revive Parishes. Tim authored Made for Mission: Renewing Your Parish Culture, which was released in Fall 2019 through Our Sunday Visitor. He is an international speaker who has also consulted for many organizations, dioceses, and parishes. His writing has appeared in numerous print and web-based theological and catechetical publications. Tim and his wife, Maggie, live in Littleton, CO with their three young children.