The Saints as Missionary Disciples: St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Saint Therese of Lisieux

This is part one of a series exploring saints who lived as missionary disciples.

When it comes to missionary discipleship, we naturally think of the saints. They lived extraordinary lives of holiness, often under great pressure or demanding conditions. The fruit of their lives resulted in miracles that were the fruit of their faithfulness and devotion to God, confirmed with “signs and wonders and mighty works.” (2 Corinthians 12:12)

Of course, we might find it hard to think that our lives of discipleship would be confirmed by signs and wonders of any kind. We might be tempted to think that we are too busy to be missionary disciples, as if discipleship is just one more thing to add to our to-do lists.

But discipleship takes many forms, most of which involve small details that we might dismiss as pedestrian or banal. The truth is, discipleship takes root in the nooks and crannies of our lives, which is a lesson we learn from St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She pursued holiness through practicing little virtues, because she could not perform great ones. Her devotion through small acts of charity was what she called “her little way to heaven.” St. Thérèse’s life reminds us that the small details of our lives are holy places and touchstones of God’s grace. Her Little Way shows us that being a missionary disciple means doing little things with great love.

We should not overlook or marginalize those whose lives of discipleship reflect a more subtle tone and disposition. Let us remember that holiness is more often found in the small details where God is working in our lives than it is in grand gestures. Pope Francis reminds us “that Jesus asked his disciples to pay attention to details. The little detail that wine was running out at a party. The little detail that one sheep was missing. The little detail of noticing the widow who offered her two small coins.” (Gaudete et Exsultate, #144)

St. Thérèse did not neglect the little details, and neither did Jesus. We need to remember that we can find holiness in the little details of our lives when we attend to them with great love. “A community that cherishes the little details of love,” Pope Francis reminds us, “whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present, sanctifying it in accordance with the Father’s plan.” (Gaudete et Exsultate, #145) Let us all be missionary disciples by tending to the little details of our lives with great love.

How do you tend to the small details of love in your life and ministry? How might this help you be a missionary disciple?

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About Julianne Stanz 80 Articles
Julianne Stanz is the Director of Outreach for Evangelization and Discipleship at Loyola Press and a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Catechesis and Evangelization. She served previously as Director of Discipleship and Leadership Development for the Diocese of Green Bay. Julianne infuses her talks, retreats, and seminars with humor, passion, and insights from her life in Ireland. A popular speaker, storyteller, and author, Julianne is married with three children and spends her time reading, writing, teaching, and collecting beach glass. She is the author of Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church, Developing Disciples of Christ, Braving the Thin Places, and co-author, with Joe Paprocki, of The Catechist’s Backpack.

2 Comments on The Saints as Missionary Disciples: St. Thérèse of Lisieux

  1. Doing little things with great love! This is very much soul touching. Thanks. Our places need this imprint into human hearts more than ever before. In this we would be able to value each and every person with dignity and care. This inspires my day and continuous pastoral approach in my parish of work among the poorest of the poor here in Acumet, Soroti Catholic Diocese, Uganda. God bless you dear J. Stanz for the inspiring reflection.

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