St. Therese was born into a well-off French family where she never wanted for material necessities but was given the simple faith of a child yearning for more. She knew she was not made exclusively for this life; a fact that was abruptly pounded into her with the death of her mother when Theresewas only 4 and a half. But, for all the suffering she encountered in her life, she never lost her zeal or her faith or her imagination, and she had a big imagination! She used all of her faculties to propel her towards the reality that this world is passing and that we are made for another.
Walt was a man of a simple, unorganized religious faith. What mostly encompassed him was patriotism, love of family, and imagination. He saw a picture bigger than himself and bigger than the reality he was living in, and let nothing stand in his way. Walt created and innovated until the day he died, never losing his grounding and affection for his family, and never losing sight of the bigger reality--that there is more to this world than what we see, more than the here and now.
When we think of Walt Disney, we think of this man who created Mickey Mouse and otherbeloved characters, along with theme parks and experiences to allow us to be a part of the magic. What we sometimes overlook is his dedication to humanity, to making the now as good as it can be and to making the future an even better place. It is easy to say Walt loved childhood and imagination, but really, Walt was obsessed with childhood and knew that in order to be a good adult, a person needs to have the virtue of childlikeness.
Childlikeness was thevirtue that paved the way for St. Therese's ascent to holiness. She knew that in order to be big, one must be very small. Who is smaller than a child? Even God chose to come into the world first and a tiny, vulnerable baby, a child. Upon entering the convent, Therese took the name Sr. There of the Child Jesus; she is sometimes still known by this today, although she is much more widely known as Therese of Lisiuex or The Little Flower. Her devotion to the Child Jesus is of no surprise, nor is it a surprise that we know her as the Little Flower--tiny, delicate, often overlooked, hidden. St. Therese truly took to heart and embodied Christ's words, "Let the children come to me" (Matthew 19:14) and she ran to Him!
Walt wanted the children to come, also. He envisioned a place where children could live out all of their fantasies and use their imagination and a place where their parents could come and spend time with them, once again opening their minds and imaginations to their younger days. He said, "Every child is blessed with a vivid imagination" and meant that we should never outgrow our imaginations, that imagination is what pushes us forward and makes us great.
It may be argued that Walt was a greater imagination than St. Therese as he made and produced 73 animated and live-action movies from 1937 through 1966 and also worked on "The Jungle Book" (released in 1967 after his death) which was the last movie and animated feature he worked on, opened one theme park and planned another, along with producing television shows, and many other ventures. But in three years, St. Therese wrote, directed, and starred in eight plays that she performed for the convent, wrote countless poems over her five years in the convent, and also wrote her autobiography at the request of her sisters. If you're into a little math, if you divide the number of plays St. Therese wrote in her three years as compared to the number of movies Walt made in 29 years, it comes out to almost the same number. But this isn't a numbers game, we're talking impact.
St. Therese was not seen as someone great really until her death, while Walt was known as someone great early on. St. Therese did nothing outward to gain affection or glory for herself and Walt leant his name to these great things that he dreamed up to let people know they were of good quality and wholesome--in different ways, both achieved becoming something greater than themselves.
While Walt Disney has made a much more outward impact on us, calling us on to childhood and imagination and innovation, St. Therese has had just as much of an impact calling us on to childlikeness, dependence on God, and holiness. Both show us that littleness, childlikeness is superior to bigness and pride, and that, perhaps, the way of childlikeness and littleness is the most pure and quickest way to our dreams and to holiness.