“It’s not the big things that make us saints; it’s the little things every day,” said Audrey Ahern, a West Virginia University alumni and star of “Therese: The Story of a Soul.”
St. Therese’s story is a brief, yet impactful one. She became a Carmelite nun at age 15 after her mother died years prior, with the sole intention to just save souls.
While there, St. Therese discovered the “Little Way” to become a saint: “To do small things with great love,” according to the play’s press release.
Ahern is excited to fill this role for many reasons, but the show’s message is the driving force behind her experience.
“People don’t have to be Catholic to love St. Therese,” Ahern said. “Her message is so universal that I think it has a lot to say, no matter your background. It’s the things we can all do.”
Ahern was first exposed to the story of St. Therese in her middle school days. Her school’s saint was St. Therese, and Ahern even chose St. Therese as her sacred Confirmation saint.
Confirmation is a sacrament for Catholics in which they receive the Holy Spirit in a special way, and the saint is chosen as a model for the student to model themselves after so that they may receive sainthood as well.
Considering her difficult past, Ahern saw St. Therese as the perfect fit for her.
“St. Therese always had a lot of anxieties and worries,” Ahern said. “She was always worried and did something wrong and was going to hell, and was tormented with this as a child.”
Ahern said that, as someone who has anxiety all the time as well, she needed to model after someone who took those anxieties with stride and put their trust in God to get through it. That model is St.Therese.
“It’s an awesome, huge blessing to be playing her,” Ahern said.
But that’s actually the thing that’s scaring her the most.
“The most intimidating thing of all, beyond the technical aspects and the acting, is having to become your character. And people think you’re crazy,” Ahern said. “If I don’t become my character, I’m not doing my job.”
Ahern even took becoming her character beyond a literal sense.
“Everyone is called to become more like a saint - more like St.Therese - and do everyday things with as much love as possible; recognize your weaknesses and give them to God, and recognize your strengths and thank God for them.”
Ahern tries to convey St.Thérèse’s love to everyone through her performance because she has been such an impact in Ahern’s life.
“That’s the beautiful thing about St. Therese, she had so much trust in God and literally says that even if she’s done every bad thing she possibly would’ve done, she would still know how much God loves her and will forgive her,” Ahern said. “There’s no reason to feel we can’t pray or have a relationship with God. It’s the struggles that bring us closer to Him.”
The journey of the show started in February with some theatre training and has been a serious learning experience for Ahern’s acting skills and faith life.
“It’s been such a huge blessing,” she said. “I’ve met some of the most amazing people (that were) so on fire for their faith and so involved in church. People are embodying the faith in so many ways. It makes me think about how I can inspire other people to live the faith. It’s incredible.”
Ahern embodies her confirmation saint in the play “Therese: The Story of a Soul” tonight at 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s University Parish Center. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.