The Little Way is way of life where do everyday things with extraordinary love for God.
It was created by St. Thérèse of Lisieux to solve a problem she identified in her life story, Story of a Soul.
“You know it has ever been my desire to become a Saint, but I have always felt, in comparing myself with the Saints, that I am as far removed from them as the grain of sand, which the passer-by tramples underfoot, is remote from the mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds.” – St. Thérèse
She wanted to become a saint, but felt that she would not be able to achieve the greatness of the saints before her. So, she came up with an idea.
“I concluded that God would not inspire desires which could not be realized, and that I may aspire to sanctity in spite of my littleness. For me to become great is impossible. I must bear with myself and my many imperfections; but I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new.” – St. Thérèse
There are three things to point out here.
She desired to become a saint
She had a personal desire to become a saint. To arrive in Heaven, we need this same desire. It is a powerful and life-changing desire that will change us and many others.
Holy desires come from the Holy Spirit
She understood that any holy desire is inspired by God. When we have holy desires, we must remember that they are inspirations of the Holy Spirit.
Holy desires are possible to achieve
She understood that God only inspires those things that can be done. Our holy desires can be accomplished.
Over time, she uncovered “The Little Way.” It was a simple way of life where we perform small things with great love for God.
“You must practice the little virtues. This is sometimes difficult, but God never refuses the first grace—courage for self-conquest; and if the soul correspond to that grace, she at once finds herself in God’s sunlight.” – St. Thérèse
There are three things to point out here.
Little acts are as important as the big acts
The little acts of love are as important as the big acts. Just as Our Lord lived a quiet life for most of His life and just as Dear Mom lived a quiet life all her life, we too must live a quiet and little life filled with little acts of holiness.
Little acts are hard and provide us a way to practice carrying our cross
The little things are hard. Sometimes the motivation is not there, sometimes you don’t see the reason, sometimes it’s irritating. But that’s why “The Little Way” is so effective. We die to our own desires to carry out God’s command in the small and big things in life. If we cannot do the small things, how can we be trusted with the big things?
God helps us succeed
God gives us courage to win over ourselves. When we accept that grace and say, “Yes, my Lord, I will do as you will!”, then we are filled with even more graces to carry out our duties correctly.
Living the Little Way means humbling ourselves so we are like little children (Matthew 18:4).
“You make me think of a little child that is learning to stand but does not yet know how to walk. In his desire to reach the top of the stairs to find his mother, he lifts his little foot to climb the first step. It is all in vain, and at each renewed effort he falls. Well, be like that little child. Always keep lifting your foot to climb the ladder of holiness, and do not imagine that you can mount even the first step. All God asks of you is good will. From the top of the ladder He looks lovingly upon you, and soon, touched by your fruitless efforts, He will Himself come down, and, taking you in His Arms, will carry you to His Kingdom never again to leave Him. But should you cease to raise your foot, you will be left for long on the earth.” – St. Thérèse
If you have a child, remember when they took their first steps? Remember how hard it was for them to climb the stairs? Yet they tried anyway, knowing that you were there to help them. I remember seeing my dad help my son (a toddler at this time) take his first steps up the stairs. My son would try to reach the next step and Dad would help him by slightly lifting him up. And up he went until he reached the second floor.
Likewise, we must be like that child, taking our first steps. We must attempt to climb the stairs to holiness while trusting and letting God lift us up, slightly here, slightly there, up and up, until we reach Heaven.
All Are Called
All are called to become saints (CCC 825) for that is the only way to Heaven. The Little Way is a way for all of us to achieve that.
When St. Thérèse died at 24 years old in 1897, her life in the Carmelite monastery was unknown. However, before her death, under obedience, she wrote about her life in an autobiography. That autobiography, called Story of a Soul, was published a year after her death.
Suddenly, like fire, it spread throughout the Church and her little way was endorsed by the Popes. This one autobiography revealed such depth of understanding that she was elevated to the title of Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II, and her method of holiness is taught even today.
No matter our state in life, we are all called to become saints. And we can do so when we offer the little things to God. In return, God gives us the big thing: eternity with Him in joy.