St. Thérèse of Lisieux, also known by her religious name, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, is one of the most widely-known Saints of the modern era. You might be familiar with the rough outlines of her life and veneration, but how much do you really know about this Saint and her “Little Way”? For an engaging, readable book on St. Thérèse and the essential necessity of trust, I highly recommend Trusting God With St. Thérèse by Connie Rossini.
About the Author
Connie Rossini is an author, homeschooling mother, blogger, and lay member of the Discalced Carmelites. So who better to bring the message of St. Thérèse to mothers?
Her life experiences included in the book are absolutely riveting. There are natural parallels between St. Thérèse’s life and our author’s. They share a history of family tragedy. They both reflect extensively on quotations from the rich depository of Carmelite spirituality, including St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. St. Thérèse and Connie Rossini’s own lives serve as the case studies in this book on growing to a mature spirituality.
The Book Structure
Far more than a biography of St. Thérèse, at its heart, Trusting God With St. Thérèse is an inspirational guide to living the Christian life of faith more fully. Rossini interweaves references to Sacred Scripture, psychology, classic works of spiritual direction, and the Catechism with a chronological retelling of St. Thérèse’s life.
Each chapter ends on an actionable note. Rossini presents reflection questions to help us examine and understand our pasts, as well as practical suggestions to help us move forward in love of God. Rossini also thoughtfully encloses post-text materials, with a brief timeline of St. Thérèse’s life, and a “who’s who” glossary of names. The latter is very useful for keeping track of the mutiple Martin sister’s given and religious names. Especially since the custom of the time was to name everyone Marie, after the Blessed Mother.
No detail is spared in making the book a practical, introduction to mature spirituality for every stage in life, but particularly accessible to busy mothers.
St. Thérèse: A Model for Catholic Mothers
St. Thérèse was a devout French young woman in the 1800s, who entered the cloistered convent of the Discalced Carmelites at only 15. After many years as de facto novice mistress, in charge of formation of the entering novices, St. Thérèse died of tuberculosis at age 24. Her canonization came less than 30 years later, and she is only one of four female Doctors of the Church.
St. Thérèse is the only female Doctor who is not a mystic. Perhaps that is one of the deciding factors in her popularity today. We find her story, her spirituality more accessible. She never experienced stigmata or levitation. She did not subscribe to lengthy methods of corporal mortification or purgation. Her way was a Little Way. A way of complete trust in the benevolence of God.
Trusting God With St. Thérèse takes a more or less chronological tour through St. Thérèse’s life. Alongside her development and growth, Rossini leads us on an emotional yet fair study of trust in:
-our earliest attachments to caregivers
-the tragedies that shaped our childhood
-how experiences with our human fathers tinge our approach to our Heavenly Father (for good or ill)
-and trusting God when the journey is slow, difficult, or not revealed to us.
An individual’s pattern for trust (or mistrust) is laid down in infancy. Caregivers’ responsiveness and engagement in early childhood lay the framework for our automatic reactions. Rossini presents this information without blame or accusations, but as an introspective exercise. A means of freeing our relationship with God, our perfect Heavenly Father, from the transference of issues in our relationship to earthly authority figures.
Along the way, we learn:
-How to move on from, and even be thankful for tragedy.
-How anger at ourselves when we sin reveals our misplaced trust in our own abilities.
-What is perhaps the highest test of trust: how to accept God’s will in our daily life.
Why this book?
Please don’t vote me off Catholic island, but I find St. Thérèse’s own writings in her autobiography, A Story of a Soul, challenging to read. The flowery, poetic language of La Belle Époque is too precious and ornate to me. For that reason, I found Trusting God With St. Thérèse a most readable volume on St. Thérèse.
Our beloved nun’s graceful turns of phrases are inserted here and there, but much of the story is told as paraphrase and artful narrative, not extensive block quotes. Rossini preserves much of the dialogue reported in A Story of a Soul, without the prose I find too girlish to modern sensibilities.
Connie Rossini also couples each story from St. Thérèse’s life with one from her own. These vignettes help me bridge the mental gap between my life as a stay-at-home mother, and the very different world of the 19th century cloister. Rossini is relatable, transparent, honest with herself, and a tremendously insightful writer. Her book is a joy to read.
How do you as a parent lay down the foundations of trust in your children’s lives? Let me know below!