One of the things these women of the 20th century - St. Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) and Dorothy Day - had in common, other than their belief in God, was their simple spirituality that did wonders in their lives and in the lives of those they were around. Blessed Teresa and Dorothy Day learned a lot from St. Therese and her spirituality called the “Little Way,” which is about doing little things for God and for one’s neighbor, like helping an elderly person cross the street or picking up the trash. This spirituality is one of true humility. Practitioners of this little way are not out to gain fame for themselves; all that they do in their everyday life is for God and their neighbor. “Holy Simplicity” means living one’s ordinary life and doing small, unselfish things.
Blessed Teresa said she took the name “Teresa” to honor St. Therese as her example in life. She called St. Teresa of Avila the “Big Teresa,” while Therese she called the “Little Teresa.” She felt she could not live up to St. Teresa of Avila’s example, although she did follow her example in founding new houses. Dorothy Day carried a special devotion to St. Teresa of Avila. She gave her daughter the name, “Teresa” as her middle name, although she did not hear of St. Therese until later. She would pick up on St. Therese’s little way, too. St. Therese was named after St. Teresa of Avila.
This reviewer, a Benedictine monk, recognizes some Benedictine influence in Dorothy Day’s life, as Joel Schorn writes about her in this book - Dorothy Day was a Benedictine Oblate. The Little Way and Benedictine spirituality both call for one to live in the ordinary day-to-day events of life. One does not have to do extraordinary things to reach holiness; humility and balance of life are important ingredients of these two spiritualities. All three women did this.
Simplicity, or the “little way,” can be, as these three showed, used in living or embracing suffering. As Schorn and others have said, suffering for suffering’s sake is crazy and leads nowhere, but sharing in suffering with Christ in his Passion can be very rewarding to the sufferer and to others. Blessed Teresa asked those who were suffering to join the Missionaries of Charity by offering their suffering in union with the work the missionaries were doing. As Schorn points out, suffering and death are not the end results for Christians; the Resurrection and life with God are the end result that all should be aiming for. Christ’s suffering without the resurrection would have signified nothing. Suffering is worthwhile when one unites one’s sufferings with Christ, giving it much more meaning and value. It is a simple thing that can yield great results.
Schorn’s stories about these three women and events in their lives demonstrate how practicing this simple -or little - way can be accomplished and what effects it can have on that person and their neighbors. He discusses the troubling problem that not everyone who needs help can be reached, because there are just too many people who need help. Schorn says even though not all can be reached, Teresa and Dorothy did try as hard as they humanly could. They wanted to help everyone, but they were sensible enough to know that this could not be done. Still, they felt at least they tried and what they did was worthwhile. They helped humanity one person at time.
The author shows that practicing this simple little way can lead to holiness and that anyone can do it. It does not take much preparation, but it does take commitment and thought. This book flows very well with his inspirational stories about these three women depicting this spirituality as realistic and doable. Schorn provides timelines for the three women and endnotes, quoting from these women and from books about them by other authors.
Joel Schorn is a writer and editor. He is the author of God’s Doorkeepers: Padre Pio, Solanus Casey, and Andre Bessette (2006) and co-author of A Faith Interrupted: An Honest Conversation with Alienated Catholics (2004). His website is at
www.joelschorn.com. This book is highly recommended to those interested in Catholic spirituality, St. Therese, Bl. Teresa or Dorothy Day.