|Little Straws to Throw Upon the Embers|
Image via Microsoft Clip Art May 2013
"In times of aridity when I am incapable of praying, of practicing virtue, I seek little opportunities, mere trifles, to give pleasure to Jesus; for instance a smile, a pleasant word when inclined to be silent and to show weariness. If I find no opportunities, I at least tell Him again and again that I love Him; that is not difficult and it keeps alive the fire in my heart. Even though this fire of love might seem to me extinct I would still throw little straws upon the embers and I am certain it would rekindle."
From "Thoughts of Saint Therese by Tan Publisher: XVI Letter to Her Sister Celine
When we are going through the times that it feels impossible to pray, when it is tortuous to sit in quite with ourselves and the Lord, it is a very un-holy and un-saintly feeling. Sometimes there is a feeling of being very far away from God, and what sorrow that causes when the soul longs to be closely embraced by the One it loves! And sometimes even the love seems not to be there, although we want it to be there. How miserable and alone we can feel and most especially during prayer times.
What consolation to know that even the saints experienced this aridity! St. Therese even says that at times she felt as though the "...fire of love might seem to me extinct..." So we know we are not alone, that there is hope for us yet!
St. Therese talks of throwing "little straws upon the embers" with the certainty of rekindling that fire in her heart, that love of Jesus that doesn't seem to be burning, but she know it is there. We may not believe it is there still within us, but that fire was really planted at our baptism. Maybe we don't feel the warmth of it at the moment, but like St. Therese we can "throw little straws upon the embers."
Our little straws can be very simple, just as St. Therese's were simple. A smile when we are feeling depressed or sadden, a kind word to one we would rather snap out or ignore, short aspirations that speak of our love and trust in the Lord - "Jesus, I trust in You!" or whatever has spoken to our heart in the past or at the moment.
And most of all, when we would like to run and hide from our prayer time, to watch a TV show instead of embrace the misery of time alone with God, or to write a blog post in order to avoid approaching what feels like the barren desert, we must push on and pick up that little straw to throw upon the fire, too.
We give our time to Him in prayer, as much as we can manage even when it is miserable. Why? Because it is how we choose to love Him, it is how we choose to fan the flames that we can no longer feel. We trust Him. We love Him. And we are not alone in this suffering, even saints have gone before us along this at times quite painful path. But this season will change. The straw will ignite and the glow will warm our souls once more.
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