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A Spirituality of Imperfection
A Spirituality of Imperfection

Acting In Conscious Love

Friday, September 30, 2022

A few years ago, Father Richard was invited by Carmelite priest Bob Colaresi on a pilgrimage to Thérèse’s community in France. Richard shares:

Our small group of five visited the infirmary where Thérèse died. I stood nearest the window. I could see the black hole in the bushes that Thérèse likened to her own soul when she was in pain, dying of tuberculosis, and trying to believe that Jesus still loved her. The sister guiding our tour was telling us the story of Thérèse’s death when she suddenly paused and said, “We have a visitor!” The way she said it, we all got goose bumps!

We followed the sister’s gaze and saw by the window a beautiful orange and yellow butterfly. It was only April 3, way too early for butterflies in northern France. She said, “Let it out, let it out!” Since I was closest to the window, I tried to open the latch, but I didn’t understand how it worked and just kept struggling with it. All of a sudden, I felt as though I were levitating. I had to look down at my feet to make sure I was still on the ground. I was definitely standing there, but I felt such ecstatic feelings of presence, joy, love, and power. All the blood seemed to flow out of my head.

The sister could only see me from behind. She asked, “What’s wrong? Open the window. The butterfly wants out! The butterfly wants out!” I finally got the window open, and the butterfly flew away. I turned around and the others said my face was white. “What just happened?” I asked, even though I knew I had just been visited. I don’t know how else to say it: Thérèse was there.

Before she died, Thérèse promised to spend her heaven doing good on earth. [1] Whether we believe in miracles of the saints or not, it seems like everybody who loves Thérèse has some miraculous story. She gets involved in our lives. I think she is present in millions of lives. There is something beautiful happening through this woman who said she wanted to perfect “the science of love.” [2]

My own experience in her convent felt like an affirmation of what I truly believe and what has been a lot of my message. The little way is the spirituality of imperfection; we come to God not by doing it right, but by doing it wrong. It’s not a matter of doing great things. Whenever we act in conscious love, this is the little way. And I think whatever we do in conscious union and love is prayer. So many of our Catholic saints are examples of heroic martyrdom; the message they give is, “If I am perfect, then God will love me.” Because I was so programmed to think that way, I really needed to be released from that pursuit of perfection. Thank God both Thérèse and Francis of Assisi did that for me!  


[1] Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, trans. John Clarke, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1976), 263.

[2] Story of a Soul, 187.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Essential Teachings on Love, selected by Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018), 233–236.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Arthur Allen, Daily Meditations 9 (detail), 2022, photograph, France, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 8 (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Belinda Rain, Frost (detail), 1972, California, public domain. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: We pause to appreciate the seemingly insignificant and experience the awe of the simple and unexpected.

Story from Our Community:

When I make a mistake, I get angry at myself and then get frozen in my fear of making another mistake. I will reread this message daily to get past the perfection idea for myself and others. I treasure CAC every day as I read and reread the message. Blessings to the staff. You are my friends. —Diane L.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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