Therese The Strong Cactus

The starkness of today’s readings is in sharp contrast to the saint we celebrate today. Against the readings of Babylonian captivity and the Psalmist’s lament over the defiling of the Temple and Jerusalem, and Jesus’ words of condemnation of the cities who refused to hear the Good News, we celebrate the Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the 24-year-old Carmelite nun from Lisieux, often referred to as “The Little Flower” for her humility and childlikeness. This charming nickname may obscure the truth that Therese, though young, was a mighty and heroic spiritual warrior, who fought victoriously against temptations to doubt and despair amidst a prolonged interior dryness and desolation. A little flower with the tenacity of a Saguaro cactus in the desert, growing and blossoming.

Many of us have St. Therese tales, but let me share one with a lesson. Once, when I had a serious decision to make, one that would affect a big project and many other people as well, I did my due diligence: prayed for light and peace, sought spiritual direction, talked with other people involved, etc. There was mixed feedback, but it seemed clear that Choice B was better than Choice A, even though it would be very difficult. In spiritual direction, I was told “If X doesn’t happen, then you will need to choose B.” Well, X did not happen, but I really didn’t want to choose B, because I knew it would have a negative affect on this good project. 

I had to decide by the end of the day. So I prayed to St. Therese: “I don’t usually ask for a sign, but this is really serious, and really difficult. So could I please receive some of those roses you promised to shower from heaven?” Then I prayed my “cheater novena” – every hour for nine hours I prayed, “St. Therese the Little Flower, show me your power within the hour.” No roses came. The moment of decision arrived, and I was in knots of confusion; either choice would involve some hardship for me and my family and others. “St. Therese, help me see this with your simplicity!” I prayed, and then gently knew I had to simply follow the spiritual direction I’d been given. So, I chose B, let all the people involved know of my decision, and drove home, weary and stressed. And there, on the kitchen table were a dozen roses! My first thought was, “What? Why didn’t these come an hour ago?!” But the answer came in the second thought: I had to learn to OBEY the spiritual direction I receive, even when it’s truly confusing, but St. Therese sent those roses as a confirmation of my decision. This confirmation brought me the peace I needed to endure the difficult repercussions of that difficult decision.

St. Therese, with her tender heart, hears our prayers and intercedes for our tender hearts, so that we receive just what we need to get us through difficult times.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is

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