Upon returning home today, I was greeted by a number of inconveniences: a malfunctioning water heater, an overflowing toilet, and a decapitated rat (sorry for the explicit reference). As I walked through the door and began to assess the first step in dealing with these problems (yes, the toilet was the first to be taken care of), I found myself getting frustrated. Into this frustration the Lord spoke: “love never takes a day off.” While those words did not immediately take away from the irritation of having my day turned upside down, they did plant a seed in me that brought resolve.
Over the past one hundred years, the little way of Saint Therese has been well documented. I have read many books, articles, blogs, etc. on the meaning of this way Saint Therese called little. However, it was not until I heard the phrase “love never takes a day off” did the little way receive new contours and assurances in its practical application.
You see, there were many little, tiny things I needed to deal with if I was going to get a hold of these problems. As much as I had “other things to do,” the inconveniences remained: these three things need to be dealt with now (I did not want my four-year-old’s memory to be scarred by a headless rat).
Saint Therese has gone by many names that are attributed to how she lived her life, but it is the name given to her by Pope John Paul II that crystallized for me the essence of this little way– “the scientist of love”. She was “the scientist of love” because her life was caught up in the physics of the Cross, which proclaims that loss equals profit, negation equals addition, and death equals life. The entirety of her life proclaimed the most ancient law of this “science”—sacrifice.
We read this in The Story of Her Life, which was published a year after her death as The Story of a Soul. As a Carmelite nun, Therese was not a missionary in the sense of traveling abroad preaching a missionary retreat. Rather, her missionary call was caught up in the minutia of everyday life that had her embracing unanticipated, inconvenient moments. The story of Saint Therese’s life, the story of Saint Therese’s soul, was a story made up of countless inconveniences that she offered to God in acts of sacrificial love.
I don’t know if Saint Therese ever had to deal with a water heater, toilet, or…ummm, rat. Whatever she was made to take on, I do know this: the little way of Saint Therese is the way of love that never takes a day off – the way that calls for an untiring willingness to turn the inconvenience into an act of sacrificial love. Saint Therese has taught me that problematic circumstances are realities that must be contended with -- they can't be dodged, but they can be undertaken with the disposition of love rather than anger or frustration, which only rob us of potential grace. In other words, what appears as an inopportunity is an opportunity for grace and growth in Christ.
Regarding the inconveniences, as previously noted, the toilet was taken care of, the water heater needed new wiring, and for the rat, well, I found it a burial place. Yes, the day did not go as planned, but by the end of it, I soon realized, on the stage of Christian daily living: does it ever?
As I close out this short reflection on a day’s inconveniences, my mind and heart wanders over to the thousands of folks who have been displaced by the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA and the surrounding cities. Hailing from Chico, CA, just fifteen miles away from Paradise, I have encountered many folks who were forced to come down the hill (Paradise) and are now in extraordinary need. They have been inconvenienced in ways never imagined. For all readers of this blog, I humbly encourage you to ask the question: how can I be at the service of those who have been so unexpectedly inconvenienced? And remember, love never takes a day off!