I confess that I have never read a great deal about ‘The Little Way’ of St. Therese, in the sense that I have not been able to absorb it that well into my brain, but I did this morning (here) and found something that reminded me of how amazing it is that if you listen to the Church in learning to understand about God, you will see truth affirmed in different ways over and and over again.
I’ve blogged before about what it is to live as a Catholic with Bipolar Disorder. We have a special role to fill in the world. It’s mentioned in Cardinal Lozano Barragán’s Address at World Day of the Sick: God’s Image in the Mentally Ill Person. (Read particularly the section entitled “Faithful Image of God”):
It is not by chance that in the old popular Mexican language, a mad person was called “bandito,” that is, “blessed”; […] without the full use of reasoning, he was unable to commit sin and was, therefore, destined to eternal life.
It is true that the objective disorder of sin and its consequences are manifest in the mentally ill patient; however, at the same time, there is in him the historical equilibrium of the only possible order, the order and equilibrium of the Redemption.
Hence, the name of my blog. Catholic Bandita. Because my free will is so very limited, and because the Church tells me so, I know that I am destined (yes, destined) to eternal life. This is why I ask forgiveness and patience for all the bad things that I do and ask that it be attributed to my disorder, while I also ask that all the good that I do be credited never to me but completely to God and to the Passionist Nuns who pray mightily for me. They pray for me to be, as much as possible, the real me that God created me to be, despite my very serious disorder. It is for their intentions that I offer my sufferings because my intentions may also be disordered. This is my relationship with them. A relationship of prayer.
That’s not an easy thing for Catholics to get their minds around. Any faithful Catholic who knows our Faith and who really does not understand what Bipolar Disorder is about is necessarily going to think it’s false to claim one is “destined to eternal life,” but there it is in the cardinal’s address. The existence of free will and exercising it in a manner pleasing to God is what it’s all about for the Catholic Faithful…and it is the truth of the redemption, carrying a Cross…but where does that leave us very disordered people who have very little free will? The Church has spoken little on this except in Cardinal Barragán’s Address. His speech is pretty much all we have to go on as far as understanding how we who have mental disorder are to become saints when we have so little ability to exercise free will. He says that it is not the Catholic Faith upon which the naysayers stand, but something else entirely. The “secularized mentality”:
This is not comprehensible to a secularized mentality; it is only understood within the context of Christian optimism, which stems from a reasoned faith that tells us how in such circumstances our obligations towards a mentally ill person, on one hand, satisfy our duty to see the suffering Christ in the poor and less protected; and on the other hand the idea of seeing in the patient the love of God who has indicated him as his chosen one, in the sense that he shall not be separated from Him.
It is my duty as a Catholic, in other words, to tell my fellow Catholics who are not so disordered, that I “shall not be separated from Him” because He “has indicated me as His chosen one” by giving me this disorder. And to those who may claim I am great….you also are not correct. I am only what God says I am and what He makes of me. Nothing else.
Having said all of that, I am not at all surprised to see these things expressed in ‘The Little Way’ of St. Therese, as I found here. You see, I am not completely devoid of free will. Neither is anyone with Bipolar Disorder completely devoid of free will. We have very little of it, but we have to use the tiny little bit that we have to do our best to please God. So, St. Therese says:
“By the practice of all the virtues, raise your little foot in an attempt to mount the stairway of sanctity, but do not imagine that you will be able to go up even the first step. God only asks for your good intentions. At the top of the stairway, He watches you lovingly. Soon, His love will be conquered by your vain efforts and He will come down Himself to carry you up in His arms … ‘Remaining little’ means that we recognize our own nothingness, that we await everything from the goodness of God, as a little child expects everything from its father, that we are not solicitous about anything, and that we do not think about amassing spiritual riches. Even amongst the poor, a child receives what is necessary while he is still small; once he is grown up, his father will no longer keep him, but tells him to work and support himself. It was to avoid hearing this that I have never wished to grow up, for I feel incapable of earning my livelihood, which is Eternal Life. That is why I have remained little; my only care has been to gather flowers of love and sacrifice and to offer them to God for His good pleasure.”
“To be little means that we do not attribute to ourselves the virtues we practice, as if we were capable of any good; we recognize that God has placed this treasure in the hand of His little child and that the treasure is always His … To be little means that we are never discouraged at our faults, for, although children often fall, they are too small to hurt themselves seriously.”
This is exactly the way I have been conducting myself my whole life…and the result has been that the more I go along this “Little Way”, the more I have loved Jesus, and the more I have loved Jesus, the less anything but Him matters.
Throughout my life there have been people who have treated me like I am the scum of the earth or that I am the greatest saint of the modern age. They are all wrong…and what they say does not matter. The only thing that matters is God. He is all. I am nothing. And the more of Him that is in me, the more fulfilled I am. What others see is what they see…and I have no control over that…but I cannot concern myself with anything but being as close as possible to Him, because in Him is complete love.
St. Gemma knew this, and her life assures me all the more that my love for Jesus is all that my life should ever be about. No one should ever think me good nor bad. My life is in Him, and it is all for Him and that is all that matters. I am only what He says I am. And only He knows me, and only He can love me perfectly. I will have a crown in heaven that may be a very teeny tiny crown, but in that teeny tiny crown will be the infinite love of God.