Catching some of this recently as a daily meditation in Magnificat prompted me to re-read it in the original book (We the Ordinary People of the Streets published by Eerdmans). I was very struck by just how closely it teaches the "little way" of St Therese of Lisieux. Where for Therese herself the doctrine is lived more from the side of "contemplation" (an enclosed convent), for Madeleine Delbrel it is lived more from the side of "action" (in a poverty ridden suburb of Paris); but the proximity of their teaching is striking. Madeleine had a connection to Lisieux, as she was an advisor to the project of the Mission of France and the seminary opened at Lisieux to train worker priests for that Mission. There are many points in this passage at which one might say "that is pure Therese".
We, the ordinary people of the streets, are certain we can love God as much he might desire to be loved by us.
We don't regard love as something extraordinary but as something that consumes. We believe that doing little things for God is as much a way of loving him as doing great deeds. Besides, we're not very well informed about the greatness of our acts. There are nevertheless two things we know for sure: first, whatever we do can't help but be small; and second, whatever God does is great.
And so we go about our activities with a sense of great peace.
We know that all our work consists in not shifting about under grace; in not choosing what we would do; and that it is God who acts through us.
There is nothing difficult for God; the one who grows anxious at difficulties is the one who counts on his own capacity for action.
Because we find that love is work enough for us, we don't take the time to categorize what we are doing as either "contemplation" or "action."
We find that prayer is action and that action is prayer. It seems to us that truly loving action is filled with light.
It seems to us that a soul standing before such action is like a night that is full of expectation for the coming dawn. And when the light breaks, when God's will is clearly understood, she lives it out gently, with poise, peacefully watching her God inspiring her and at work within her. It seems to us that action is also an imploring prayer. It does not at all seem to us that action nails us down to our field of work, our apostolate, or our life.
Quite the contrary, we believe that an action perfectly carried out at the time and place it is required of us binds us to the whole Church, sends us out throughout her body, making us disposable in her.
Our feet march upon a street, but our heartbeat reverberates through the whole world. That is why our small acts, which we can't decide whether they're action or contemplation, perfectly join together the love of God and the love of our neighbor.
Giving ourselves over to his will at the same time gives us over to the Church, whom the same will continuously makes our saving mother of grace.
Each docile act makes us receive God totally and give God totally, in a great freedom of spirit.
And thus life becomes a celebration.
Each tiny act is an extraordinary event, in which heaven is given to us, in which we are able to give heaven to others.
It makes no difference what we do, whether we take in hand a broom or a pen. Whether we speak or keep silent. Whether we are sewing or holding a meeting, caring for a sick person or tapping away at a typewriter.
Whatever it is, it’s just the outer shell of an amazing inner reality: the soul’s encounter, renewed at each moment, in which, at each moment, the soul grows in grace and becomes ever more beautiful for her God.
Is the doorbell ringing? Quick, open the door! It’s God coming to love us. Is someone asking us to do something? Here you are! … it’s God coming to love us. Is it time to sit down for lunch? Let’s go … it’s God coming to love us.