Saint Thérèse enriched her teaching on the “Little Way” with several interesting images. She once spoke of herself as a small grain of sand but not “discouraged because God cannot inspire unrealizable desires” (Story of a Soul, p. 207, ICS ed.); and she more or less identified herself as a little chick protected by the mother hen that represented God in the protection of Divine Providence over her (Last Conversations, June 7, 1 and 3 (1897), pp. 60-61, ICS ed.)
There is another diminutive image she proposed that looks equally useful to the general public. She once advised her sister Céline “Before dying by the sword let us die by pin-pricks” (Letter 86, March 15, 1889 in Letters I, p. 552, ICS ed.). Housed in that advice is some practical wisdom.
Most of us never get into battles requiring a sword to defend our own and God’s honor. We need not be warrior-class types to win victories. No, our struggles in life occur on a much more banal, simple plane. Therefore, we bear up under the “pin-pricks” of every-day attrition met on most of the fronts of our unremarkable lives.
This imagery and spiritual vision suggested by Thérèse works well and may be applied to the pandemic we are undergoing this year. Who will forget, in future, the year 2020 for the hallucinating statistics of sickness, death and general social chaos marking it? Very few of us will act as break-through agents of repair of a broken earth and humankind on it—though we do wish fervently for success for scientists in laboratories seeking furiously to create a protective vaccine or vaccines.
Quite the opposite, those in the know suggest we try to contribute to restoration of societal health by observing the simpler solutions available to us. Among the safety measures they indicate are keeping windows open to chase the virus out, covering sneezes or coughing, observing adequate distance, and wearing life-protecting face masks. By them all we undergo the “pin-pricks” Thérèse recommended. They do not lead to bloodshed, but they count for a lot in the normal sphere of human living through misery.
We’d do well to look at our acceptance of the “Little Way” from this point of view. The current pandemic serves up life-threatening invasion of our bodies, but we can supply maneuvers suitable to control it. All up and down the country simple, persevering adoption of small-scale defenses works best to hold COVID-19 at bay. God grant us perseverance in the effort.
To show some appreciation for intercession by Saint Thérèse for our country we here borrow a hand-drawn map of our continent that she herself sketched as an art class exercise when she was 12 years old. It can seem quaint, and it carries some spelling mistakes Thérèse was unable to avoid, but it can serve as a form of prayer for divine assistance to carry through on the dogged application of those small gestures she recommended and which can protect us on the way to an end of Corona Virus’s harassment.
Happy feast day of someone, we recall, who died of Tuberculosis while still a young adult!