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Great change can start with small acts of love

When Marie Francis Martin was 10 years old, her father offered her painting lessons. Marie loved art and dreamed of painting beautiful masterpieces. But before she could accept the lessons, her older sister interrupted. “Marie doesn’t have the talent needed for painting lessons,” she said.

The small girl was livid—of course she had talent! Of course she could paint! But rather than object, she decided to offer up the lessons as a sacrifice. She decided to endure the criticism, in order to know Jesus more closely. Years later she would write: “I still wonder how I had the fortitude to remain silent.”

A few years later, Marie had become a religious sister—Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. In her Carmelite convent, she was assigned to work in the laundry. Sister Thérèse hated working in the laundry. A careless sister worked across from her and constantly splashed water in her face. With all her might, Sister Thérèse wanted to wipe her face and correct her companion. Instead, she endured the water and worked harder—in order to learn to love.

When Sister Thérèse died at the age of 24, she was universally regarded as a saint. In 1921, Pope Benedict XV declared her a saint: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Jesus. We celebrated her feast day on Monday. St. Thérèse believed in a little way to heaven: she denied her will, she trusted the Lord, she strove to do small things with great love. In her autobiography, St. Thérèse wrote that “far from being like those great souls who from their childhood practice all sorts of macerations, I made my mortification consist solely in the breaking of my will, restraining a hasty word, rendering little services to those around me without making anything of it, and a thousand other things of this kind.”

Offering to Jesus the small sacrifices of each day can have a tremendous effect. Trusting that our love, manifested in small acts, will produce great fruit, is the key to the little way. Each time we skip a meal, or give up a seat, or hold our tongue, and we offer that to Jesus Christ—we have participated in the suffering of the Cross. And so we will participate in the Resurrection.

Last week the Church began the 40 Days for Life—a period of 40 days of prayer and sacrifice for an end to abortion. Offer your sacrifices, these 40 days, for an end to abortion. Give the Lord your sufferings, however small they might be, with great love. Participate in prayer, fasting and witnessing to the dignity of human life. Most especially I urge you to spend an hour in prayer in front of an abortion clinic—parishes across the archdiocese are uniting for this effort. We will end abortion if we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ in the small sufferings of our lives.

On Oct. 3 the Archdiocese of Denver will celebrate a Rosary and Mass for Our Nation and Our Leaders, celebrated by Father Andreas Hoeck. I pray you will attend this liturgy at 5 p.m. in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Like St. Thérèse, when we offer our sacrifices in union with our prayers, great things can be accomplished. Great change is needed in our nation. We can help to bring it forth. Let us begin with small acts of great love.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).

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