Editor’s note: Highlights of the valedictorian address given by Aidan Powell during the commissioning celebration for the St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission’s graduating class of 2022 were recently published in The Little Way magazine Summer 2022 edition (used with permission). St. Therese Institute this year celebrates 15 years as a post-secondary Catholic institute providing adult faith formation in a common life of prayer, study and fellowship, inspired by the life and teachings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
By Aidan Powell, Class of 2022, St. Therese Institute
Do you know how powerful your simple smile can be in the mission of the Church?
St. Thérèse’s little way is seeking holiness of life in the ordinary and every day. So your pearly whites may be the kind act that turns another to God. A simple “thank you, God bless” may be the only gospel message someone hears. Picking up garbage, setting the table, mowing the lawn, getting out of bed, praying when you’re tired, anything done with great love can be a proclamation of the Good News.
This is Thérèse’s way, but we found out quickly it is not all roses. The vocation of love takes a constant conversion of the heart, sacrifice, discipline, an awareness of your littleness, that you cannot do it alone and trusting that you are not alone. Jesus is our destination, but He is also our companion on our journey. He will not lead you astray, but accompany you in the dark valleys and the high views.
This year, like all years past, was unique. The journey has been filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, joys and sorrows. Upon arriving, our community was hit with a shift, finding out we would be cloistered for a time (as an isolated household). This small sacrifice brought great graces. September is our month of orientation, a time of first encountering one another and the way of life. During this time, the heart of this community was beginning to beat. Complete strangers from across Canada found a common love in Jesus Christ. A simple yet profound truth was realized that “the One who loves me, loves you,” let us love one another.
Jesus is the foundation on which we built our relationships. I can recall many moments of awe-struck wonder at the gift of orientation. From making the trip to Mount Carmel, to waking up at 7 a.m. for morning prayer, from hearing a jam session down one hallway and immense laughter down the other. We went from strangers to family. Just like that, we were lighting our candles of commitment to live out the little way of love.
Then October hit. Everything we had learned and committed to in orientation was put to the test. Our community suffered a Covid outbreak in-house that left us feeling isolated and physically split.
Although the foundation was shaking, our community and staff remained strong and rooted in Christ. What emerged was a beautiful witness to joy in sorrow. To perseverance in trial. To hope over fear. I remember the day we reunited in the chapel with a simple “peace be with you.” Our hearts burned with the joy found in communion.
Another event on our walk this year was our conference — our Advent conference, which turned into an Epiphany conference, then finally into a Lenten conference — with the Bishop of the Canadian military, Bishop Scott McCaig. We were all filled with a soldier’s zeal to enter the battle of life with courage in our Catholic faith. We are all torch bearers who bring the light of the gospel into the dark realities of our world.
As the second trimester classes ended and the “Spring Course Series” began, we encountered the grace of guests. We all encountered Christ in a profound way and then this encounter was encountered by others. The heart of hospitality and immense joy of this community proclaimed the goodness of the Lord. It had people saying, “Whatever they have, I want it.”
In the spirit of little things, I want to share the grace of some more simple moments along our journey. Our year was full of times where joy and love abounded in the ordinary: spontaneous jam sessions, huddling under blankets at campfires, apple picking day, sledding down hills on a tractor tube, listening to Nick’s puns in class, cryptic crosswords on Sunday mornings, dodgeball on Friday nights, seeing the stars from the front steps, or simply having an intentional conversation with friends.
I’m going to slip in a quote from the TV show, The Office, because I want to. “There’s a
lot of beauty in ordinary things, isn’t that kind of the point?” The very last line of the show encapsulates the beauty of the little way of love that we experienced this year. A life of holiness is the call to love in the ordinary, simple, and everyday, and that’s kind of the point.
Journeying with all my St. Therese brothers and sisters along the little way has pierced my heart and changed my life. You are young people who love Jesus and want to share Him with others. Pursue your desires and passions. Go set the world on fire through your witness of faith and love. Be not afraid to give an account of the hope that is within you.
Read more: The Little Way magazine Summer 2022 edition