I love the beginning of October because three things harmonize on the calendar of prayer.
October first is the memorial of St Therese of Lisieux who teaches the little way of spiritual childhood. Then today, October 2 is the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels and then October 4 we remember St Francis.
The theme running through all three days is the little way, the way of spiritual childhood, the way of weakness, the week of being weak.
St Therese is famous for her little way, but the gospel for the guardian angels reminds that they watch over the little ones and “unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom” Then two days later little St Francis reminds us in his own way of the paradox that “God uses the foolishness of the world to confound the wise” and “when I am weak then I am most strong.”
When the gospel says “unless you become like a little child….” we like to think that this is perhaps one of the spiritual options, but the gospel does not state is as an option. It states it as mandatory. It is not a way. It is the way. The gate is narrow. The door is low. You have to be child sized to get in. No grown ups allowed.
This little way is not the kind of humility that shows off its humility by outward show. This littleness is natural, like it is with children. What are the traits of true littleness?
First, there is an innocence to the little way. The truly humble person has the carefree innocence of a child. This is something that is lost through lust, cynicism, greed, fear and ambition, but it can be regained as a gift. Adults who were once cynical, greedy and lustful can have, through grace, the gift of innocence restored.
Second, the child has an innate sense of trust. The child trusts others implicitly. He has to learn distrust and suspicion. This trust can also be restored after a person has been betrayed and hurt. Grace heals the broken heart and the suspicious mind.
How are these gifts restored? They are restored by an active participation in the little way. Not by being outwardly “humble” in either a showy way or in a way that is artificially groveling, but by slowing down, thanking God for the little blessings and serving others with simplicity and awareness. This, combined with genuine prayer and contemplation will, in time, restore the gift of childhood that we see most beautifully exemplified in St Francis and St Therese.
Finally, where do the guardian angels fit in? I know they are always around us, but our vision becomes cloudy and we fail to appreciate their presence. We lose awareness. They seem distant or we fail to know their presence at all. But as innocence, trust and joy return we also become more aware of the presence of the Guardian Angels. We are not aware of them as some sort of paranormal beings.
Instead we are aware of them as part of the supernaturally normal world we have got used to. They are part of our world as truly as the trees and as simply as the sky. They are there. They are real. They are our companions, guardians and guides, and we are aware.
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