Pray Imperfectly

This homily was given at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University, Menlo Park, CA on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7, 2022.

In an obscure convent in France, a young nun worked in the sacristy.

Day in and day out, as the sacred vessels passed through her hands, like the beads on her rosary, each chalice, each paten, became a prayer rising up to Heaven.

The nun was St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

But this great saint, this doctor of prayer, who taught the Church her “little way” of doing small things with great love, struggled with praying the rosary.

Thérèse confesses, in her Story of a Soul, “The recitation of the rosary is more difficult for me than wearing an instrument of penance! I force myself in vain to meditate on the mysteries; I don’t succeed in fixing my mind on them.”

But in her struggle with the rosary, Our Lady taught St. Thérèse a secret.

“For a long time,” says Thérèse, “I was desolate my this lack of devotion, but now I think the Queen of heaven, my MOTHER, must see my good will, and she is satisfied with it.”

Dear friends, the struggle for sanctity, the battle of prayer, is fought and won … in the will. Not the emotions, not external successes, but the choice to love.

At the Annunciation, heaven and earth waited for Mary’s choice, her fiat, the determination of her free will to love God and abandon herself to Him.

Likewise, the “great love” that Thérèse talks about consists, not in pious thoughts or feelings, not in successes, not in doing it all perfectly, but only in the determined choice of our free will to love God and please Him.

At work and in prayer, Thérèse learned to offer everything simply, humbly, to le bon Jésus, and Jesus, her Beloved, was well pleased to accept such offerings, made beautiful and spotless not so much by the labor of her hands, polishing the chalices, as by the determination of her will to love Him in all things.

Today, at this Holy Mass, as we receive Jesus in the spotless Host, ask Him for that same simplicity of heart, the grace to offer our work and prayer today and every day with determined love, and surrender everything else to Him. 

As we work and pray the way Mary taught St. Thérèse, simply, but with ever more determined love, we shall rejoice in the final victory of love with Our Lady, St. Thérèse, and all the saints, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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