Also posted at The New Evangelist/Companions of the Cross
When I recently met with my spiritual director, I told him about the restless desire I have been experiencing to go deeper into my faith life and the feeling of wanting more. He identified what I described as being spiritual poverty which theologian Johannes Baptist Metz explains “is a necessary ingredient in any authentic Christian attitude toward life……Only through poverty of spirit do we draw near to God; only through it does God draw near to us.” (1968, 1988. Poverty of Spirit. New York: Paulist Press)
For my results driven, type-A personality, the solution to my longing was one of action: more prayer, more spiritual reading, more doing. My spiritual director thankfully had other ideas. He saw that I needed to strive to be “little” and to open my heart to whatever the Lord wants to give me.
“So how do I do that?” I asked.
In response, he gave me the example of St. Therese of Lisieux who in her short but full twenty-four years lived a very simple and hidden life. Her “little way” was so spiritually profound that Bl. John-Paul II, in 1997, gave her the title Doctor of the Church. In his Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, he called her an expert in the “scientica amoris”, the science of love. In his book, Holy Women ( 2011. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division), Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said that she “is one of the ‘little’ ones of the gospel who let themselves be led by God to the depths of His mystery”.
As part of his usual wise counsel, my spiritual director advised me to read and pray the hymn, St. Therese’s Canticle of Love, written by Sr. Marie-Therese Sokol, OCD. The words of the hymn are taken from the Little Flower herself.
“It’s all there,” he said. “No homily needed.”
And he’s right.
St. Therese’s Canticle of Love
How great and tender is our God,
who has smiled on the lowly,
eternally my heart will sing a new canticle of love.
Come all who hunger, all who thirst,
all who long for fulfillment,
the God of mercy waits for you,
as a mother her child,
oh come to the living water,
fear not your weakness,
forever trusting in God’s merciful love.
Through the shadows of this night,
love will be my guiding light,
presence hidden from my sight,
till the clouds are put to flight,
beneath your gaze, I’ve blossomed forth
as a rose in the sunshine.
With joyful heart, I give it all
to the mystery of love.
In peace, I will come before you,
with empty hands,
relying solely on your merciful love.
Through the veil your face appears,
beauty shrouded bathed in tears,
bread of sinners I will share,
rose unpetaled everywhere.
Oh, My God, I will sing of your love,
for this one eternal day,
for this one eternal today.
Transformed in love’s consuming fire, lifted up in glory,
her fragrance filling all the earth,
drawing us unto her,
until in eternity,
we join in one chorus,
forever singing of God’s merciful love.
Canticle of love, song of love,
this eternal day, I will sing, sing of your love.