This past week, I spoke to a local Catholic middle school about Olivia and the Little Way and how St. Therese inspired me to write the book. In the beginning of my presentation, I always talk about the life of St. Therese, including her childhood. Therese was a bit of a loner in school, and didn't really fit in with the rest of the girls. They teased her and called her names because they thought she was too smart for her own good, and they were tired of her always knowing the answers when the nuns (their teachers) would call on her. So she spent her recess time by herself when the other girls would be playing sports. Therese would wander off by herself and spend time alone with nature. In my speech, I mentioned that Therese was a sensitive child, that she had a big heart for all of God's creatures, and so when she'd find little birds that had died, she'd give them a Christian burial. Have you ever done this with creatures you find? In our house, we've buried goldfish out in the back yard with a little prayer. This is what Therese would do when she'd find dead birds.
After talking about St. Therese and Olivia and the Little Way for about 45 minutes, I opened the presentation up to questions from the audience. I had covered a lot of material by this time: her young adulthood and entrance into Carmel, her Little Way of serving God, and her influence on me and Mrs. LewAllen when working on the book. All of the questions were well thought out and interesting, but one question stood out for me. A shy little girl raised her hand tentatively. I called on her.
"Um...when Therese buried the birds...did she...um...bury any other dead animals too?"
I had to stifle a giggle. It was just so cute! After all of the information I had given the students during that presentation, the one thing that stood out in this little girl's mind was the fact that sweet Therese used to care for dead creatures she had found at recess. It must have really struck a chord with her. Not knowing whether or not Therese had truly done this for other animals, I answered her this way:
"Well, I am not sure, but judging by what we know about Therese, and how sweet and kind she was, I would venture to say that she probably would have, had she found them. She loved animals and nature and I think she would have had compassion for them, too."
All evening long, I couldn't get that little girl's question out of my head; she had recognized an act of kindness and love. And, of course, we know that Therese was all about love, wasn't she? After all, she once wrote excitedly, "I understood that love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and places...in a word, that it was eternal! My vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is LOVE!"
If that is what this little girl takes away from my presentation, the vision of an act of love from the saint who personifies love, then I am one happy author!