Can A Non-Believer Find Wisdom in a Catholic Saint?

by Kelly on March 30, 2009 · 21 comments

in Inspiration. Happiness. Self Improvement, Life. People. News

st-thereses-prayer“What matters in life is not great deeds, but great love.”

- St. Therese of Lisieux, Patron Saint of Flowers, Growers and Florists. Also known as ‘The Little Flower of Jesus’

I would describe myself as a spiritual person, though not religious. I don’t follow the teachings of any particular church, yet I have a strong faith in a higher power, and appreciate the healing and hope that can come with prayer.

Nevertheless, when I came across the words of St. Therese of Lisieux today, I did have to stop and ask myself whether I was really comfortable sharing the prayer of a Catholic Saint.

If I’m not Catholic, can I really hold up the words of a deceased nun as enlightening and inspirational, and ignore the obvious faith that underscores those writings?

In the end, I decided quotes and prayers from saints can still provide wisdom for non-believers or differing believers. An empowering message of love and inspiration stands alone, regardless of the source.

Therefore, for all you other Non-Catholics, let me introduce St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as The Saint of the Little Way - which means she advocated “doing the ordinary things of life with extra-ordinary love”.

Acclaimed as “the greatest saint of modern times”, St. Therese was canonized in 1925 and is one of only three women to hold the honour of Doctor of the Catholic Church. This is one of her prayers:

‘May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.’

Beautiful, don’t you think?

Kelly

POSTSCRIPT

Maureen of thereseoflisieux.org has brought it to my attention that this prayer is NOT actually the work of St. Therese of Lisieux, though it is widely attributed to her. Seeing as Maureen is a devout Catholic I tend to think she knows what she’s talking about.

I apologise for the mistake, though I want to assure you that I did search and find sources to indicate the author was St. Therese of Lisieux and I believed that when I posted. Again, sorry for the confusion. I am glad I managed to find out about this interesting woman though, and I still love the quote, whoever the author. :)

Flickr Photo by Lyubov

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Evelyn Lim 03.30.09 at 8:15 pm

Like you, I am not religious. I have certainly no problems in embracing the good in all religions. Thanks for introducing St. Therese of Lisieux. Her prayer is definitely beautiful. I am going to print it out!

Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..Akashic Records Reveal DreamMaster

2 Jenny Mannion 03.31.09 at 12:04 am

Hi Kel,

Very beautiful words. I also consider myself spiritual but find great words of wisdom from Saints and all religions. Different religions have many common themes and I enjoy studying what they all have in common versus what separates them. :-)

Thanks Kel, GREAT words to begin the week with. xo

Jenny Mannion’s last blog post..We Are All Healers — The NEW Basics Of Healing

3 Lisa (mommymystic) 03.31.09 at 6:55 am

Kelly, I LOVE St. Therese of Lisieux, and I also am spiritual but not religious. From what I understand, the classic quote “Life is a journey not a destination” is also originally hers.
Personally I think there is a lot of value in exploring the mystics of different faiths, and drawing upon them, because so much of their wisdom is not bound by doctrine at all. In a way, it ends up weakening the divisions between religions, because it becomes obvious that certain truths are reached by anyone truly seeking, regardless of which tradition they ’start’ in.
Thanks for the great prayer…

Lisa (mommymystic)’s last blog post..What is Spiritual Parenting?

4 Kelly 03.31.09 at 6:57 am

@Evelyn
You’re welcome :)

@Jenny
That’s the thing, many religions do have commonalities, don’t they? Makes it even more insane that we use this as a point to divide us and create wars over it.

Kelly

5 Sami 03.31.09 at 7:18 am

Hey Kelly,

That’s a great quote (and prayer). I too am spiritual but not religious. In my opinion, we are all spiritual (you know the saying; we are spiritual beings having a human experience).

Sami’s last blog post..How to Scare Satan

6 Lance 03.31.09 at 12:25 pm

Hi Kelly,

I consider myself both spiritual and religious, although not Catholic. And I find these words to be very moving, and speak to me of what we are all capable of. What we all possess, within us. And these, I too believe, are words that can apply to anyone no matter what your religious or spiritual background.

And, to Sami - I love that saying as well - “we are spiritual beings having a human experience” — thank you!

Lance’s last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day

7 Maureen 03.31.09 at 12:47 pm

Dear Kelly,

Thank you very much for posting about St. Therese of Lisieux and for grappling with the question of whether she can inspire and guide a person who does not confess the faith she did. For more about her, including a book of twenty-one prayers she wrote, please see my Web site at http://thereseoflisieux.org

I want to let you know (with respect) that the prayer you posted, though it is often attributed to St. Therese in cyberspace, was not written by her.

Some powerful lines from her: “Love has chosen me as a holocaust, me, a weak and imperfect creature. Was not this choice worthy of Love? Yes, in order that Love be fully satisfied, it is necessary that it lower itself, that it lower itself to nothingness and transform this nothingness into fire.” (from “Story of a Soul”).

with good wishes,

Maureen

8 Colin 03.31.09 at 2:58 pm

Kel,
From this women’s quotes, she sounds beyond the confines of one church, just spreading the universal message. In her day, the support and framework of a religious body provided a environment for her to live and work in. These days the catholic church seems to embrace limitations and restrictions on what you can do rather than embrace expanding thought and love as your saint appears to promote. She would have made a good Buddhist!

9 Vered - MomGrind 03.31.09 at 3:02 pm

It IS beautiful. And since it is beautiful regardless of religion, I don’t see any problem with appreciating it. “An empowering message of love and inspiration stands alone, regardless of the source.” - exactly.

Vered - MomGrind’s last blog post..Teen Fashion

10 Cath Lawson 03.31.09 at 11:58 pm

Hi Kelly - I had to go away and think about this. It’s a lovely poem.

And I honestly don’t think it matters whether you’re religions or not - it’s up to you what you publish on your blog.

I think religion is fine for folk who need a particular set of rules to follow. But being spiritual and making your own rules is a whole lot easier. I would feel suffocated if I was a Catholic.

No offense intended to devout Catholics but sometimes it seems more like a cult than a religion.

Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Why Your Business Needs More Sauce

11 Laurie | Express Yourself to Success 04.01.09 at 2:28 am

It is a beautiful prayer. I would think that St. Therese of Lisieux would be happy to know that her prayer was being shared with so many others - religious and non-religious alike. Thanks for posting it.

Laurie | Express Yourself to Success’s last blog post..Criticism and Feedback Aren’t the Same

12 BC Doan 04.01.09 at 4:14 am

It is a beautiful prayer, no matter what religious you hold…Thanks for introducing me to St. Therese of Lisieux. I’m Catholic, and happy to learn of another Saint…

BC Doan’s last blog post..Images for the Last Week of March

13 Kelly 04.01.09 at 5:07 pm

@Lisa
According to http://catholicinformation.aquinasandmore.com, you are right and that quote about life can be attributed to St. Therese, which is very inspiring. Personally, I tell myself every day that life is a journey because it’s a concept I find difficult to put into practice. I often race ahead of myself looking for some end goal, but it’s really an unsatisfying way to live.

@Sami
Another great quote, and yes, I agree with you. I think we are all spiritual beings, though I wouldnt’ push that point with some aethiests I know.

@Lance
Anything that unites us as the same is powerful, don’t you think, Lance? We just need to find more ways to agree and see ourselves in each other.

Kelly

14 Kelly 04.01.09 at 5:21 pm

@Maureen
Thanks for stopping by and clarifying that about the quote. It’s amazing how much misinformation there is on the internet. I have written a postscript to the article with a link to your site for anyone who wants to find out more about St. Therese, who sounds inspiring regardless.

@Colin
Dad, how nice to have you leave a comment. I think your point about the role of religion in the past as compared to now is an important one. The Catholic Church definitely has some core beliefs that I am strongly opposed to, however, I believe that some people do amazing things under the umbrella of religion and any good that comes from that must be honoured and celebrated. Thanks for coming out of hiding. :)

Kelly

15 Kelly 04.01.09 at 6:55 pm

@Vered
Great minds think alike :)

@Cath
Religion has never particularly appealed to me for the exact reasons you describe - I don’t feel a need for rules to go with my spiritual beliefs and I don’t think God cares what faith we are. It’s who we are and what we do that counts.

@Laurie
Sharing inspiration is what I’m all about, Laurie :)

@B.C
I’m actually quite curious now to read up about some saints. The only ones I knew of before this were ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ and Saint Christopher

Kelly

16 Robin 04.02.09 at 1:15 pm

Hi Kelly - love your “differing believers”!

I love the quote, too - and it is just what a wanted to hear today - I have been beating myself up lately (at least I’ve spotted myself doing it, and I know it isn’t real). So I am focusing on accepting myself exactly as I am - so the words are very timely. I also, to this end, am sitting here with no clothes on (it’s a warm day) - to enhance my acceptance of my body. Just thought I’d share that.

Robin’s last blog post..What If? The Movie, A Review

17 Kelly 04.03.09 at 1:08 pm

@Robin
“Differing believers” works, doesn’t it? I couldn’t think how else to put it. And I think it’s a big call to never fall into periods where we beat ourselves up. But I like your solution - now you just need to do a nudie run and you’ll really free yourself up :)

Kelly

18 Jay 04.03.09 at 7:08 pm

I have no problems embracing the good parts of various religions, either. Why not? The people speaking the wisdom are just people, after all, whatever they call themselves. It is right that we should recognise the good wherever we see it, just as we should recognise (and avoid) the evil wherever we see it - whether it is in a church or outside it.

I like St Therese’s philosophy!

19 Rowe 04.03.09 at 8:09 pm

Hi Kelly,
I was a practicing Christian many years ago. Today, I do not practice Christianity as far as attending church regularly but in my heart I still believe in God and pray to him randomly. I fell pregnant naturally almost 3 years ago (aged 44) and now have a healthy girl, and I like to thank God for her, a great blessing in my life.
I agree with you ‘An empowering message of love and inspiration stands alone, regardless of the source’.

Rowe’s last blog post..Domicilium Pursuits

20 Warren 05.03.09 at 8:09 am

You might enjoy reading her book, “Story of a soul”.

Warren

P.S. You had me hooked on that She-Power story, with Clarissa. I’m just hanging here, and it’s positively cruel, I tell you. Cruel. ;-)

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