It’s a common practice in our culture to bring a gift with you to someone’s house if you’ve been invited over for an occasion or a meal. You don’t want to be the one who shows up empty handed to a party or a dinner, especially when it’s hosted at someone’s house. We set these standards and societal norms for ourselves and for the most part, we’re all probably pretty good at sticking to them. 

It’s striking, then, to consider the standards we set for ourselves in relation to other people as opposed to the standards we set for ourselves in relation to God. You’ve perhaps never thought about the fact that quite often you might show up empty handed to the house of Our Lord and never think twice about it. I hadn’t really considered this reality myself until recently when I came across a poem by St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In her poem, “To Scatter Flowers,” Thérèse beautifully relates the daily action of going to visit Our Lord in His house, before the Tabernacle, and bringing with her a bouquet of flowers to scatter before Him as her offering. She recounts that these “flowers” are, in fact, “each sacrifice, [her] lightest sighs and pains, [her] heaviest, saddest hours, [her] hopes, [her] joys, [her] prayers” that she has gathered throughout her day, knowing that they will become the gift which she will bring to Our Lord when she kneels before Him in His house. In this way, she never shows up empty handed before the Lord, but always with a beautiful offering of her daily sacrifices, sufferings, and joys, which is a gift more precious to Our Lord than anything else we could possibly offer. 

I would undoubtedly feel some embarrassment if I showed up to a dinner party at a friend’s house with nothing to offer them, not even something simple like a loaf of bread. Yet I’ve never been embarrassed or ashamed when I show up to Mass or to visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and have nothing to offer Him, only requests to ask of Him. I have very rarely, almost never, gone to visit Our Lord in His house with a bouquet of flowers already prepared for Him and with the sole intent of scattering them before Him for His sake alone, and not because I’m seeking something in return. 

And then I consider how many times He’s invited me into His home and I’ve ignored the invitation, or only considered if it’s a convenient time for me and whether I can fit it into my schedule. Imagine if we treated our friends this way–I’ll only visit your house if it’s convenient for me and if I can show up empty handed, and I also expect you to fulfill all my requests while I’m there and to leave with more than I had before. We’d be left with no friends! Yet Our Lord’s response is to do just that, to never let us leave His house without more than what we came in with, and to always welcome us back, never offended by our often offensive behavior. He is the most generous of hosts.

Next time you pay Him a visit, remember to collect your bouquet of flowers beforehand, all the small offerings and acts of charity from your day or week, and bring it with you to lay before Him. There will never be a gift received with more love.

To Scatter Flowers

A poem by St. Thérèse of Lisieux

O Jesu! O my Love! Each eve I come to fling
Before Thy sacred Cross sweet flowers of all the year.
By these plucked petals bright, my hands how gladly bring,
I long to dry Thine every tear!

To scatter flowers! – that means each sacrifice,
My lightest sighs and pains, my heaviest, saddest hours,
My hopes, my joys, my prayers, I will not count the price.
Behold my flowers!

With deep, untold delight Thy beauty fills my soul.
Would I might light this love in hearts of all who live!
For this, my fairest flowers, all things in my control,
How fondly, gladly I would give!
To scatter flowers! – behold my chosen sword
For saving sinners’ souls and filling heaven’s bowers.
The victory is mine: yes, I disarm Thee, Lord,
With these my flowers!

The petals in their flight caress Thy Holy Face;
They tell Thee that my heart is Thine, and Thine alone.
Thou knowest what these leaves are saying in my place;
On me Thou smilest from Thy throne.To scatter flowers! – that means, to speak of Thee,–
My only pleasure here, where tears fill all the hours;
But soon, with angel hosts, my spirit shall be free,
To scatter flowers!