SAINT THÉRÈSE of the CHILD JESUS (1873-1897)
Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Patron saint of florists, missionaries,
France and those suffering from bodily ailments
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, also known as Thérèse of Lisieux and Thérèse, the Little Flower of Jesus. She was an obscure, cloistered Carmelite nun who lived her short life in perfect fidelity and childlike confidence in God’s Divine Providence and Merciful Love.
Marie Thérèse Martin was born at Alençon, France on January 2, 1873, the youngest of five daughters. Her father, Louis, was a watchmaker, and her mother, Zélie, who died of breast cancer when Thérèse was four, was a lace maker.
On Christmas Day in 1886, Thérèse had a profound experience of an intimate union with God, which she described as a “complete conversion”. Almost a year later, in a papal audience during a pilgrimage to Rome in 1887, she asked for and obtained permission from Pope Leo XIII to enter the Carmelite convent at the young age of fifteen.
On April 9, 1888, Thérèse Martin entered the convent of Lisieux where two of her sisters had preceded her. She made her final vows on September 8, 1890 at the age seventeen, taking the name Thérèse of the Child Jesus.
Sister Thérèse devoted herself to living a life of holiness, doing all things with love and childlike trust in God. She struggled with life in the convent, but decided to make an effort to be charitable to all, especially with those whom she did not feel comfortable. She always performed little acts of charity, and small sacrifices, not caring how unimportant they seemed. These acts helped her to realize a deeper understanding of her vocation as a bride of Jesus Christ.
She wrote in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, that she had always dreamed of being a missionary, an apostle, a martyr – yet she was a nun in a quiet cloister in France. How could she fulfill these longings? It was through her reflection upon her calling to the religious life, and upon the lives of all the saints and martyrs who had preceded her throughout the centuries, that she came to an awareness of what God was asking of her. She wrote, “O Jesus, my Love…my vocation, at last I have found it…My vocation is Love!”
Sister Thérèse offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the Merciful Love of God on June 9, 1895, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity; and the following year, on the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, she noticed the first symptoms of Tuberculosis, the illness which would lead to her death.
She recognized in her illness the mysterious visitation of her Divine Spouse, and welcomed the sufferings as an answer to her offering the previous year. She also began to undergo a terrible trial of faith which lasted until her death 18 months later. Pope Saint John Paul II stated 100 years after her death that “Her last words, ‘My God, I love You’, are the seal of her life.”
On September 30, 1897, at the age of twenty-four, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus passed into the arms of her Beloved Spouse. She was canonized a saint on May 17, 1925, by Pope Pius XI, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope Saint John Paul II. She is only the third woman to be so proclaimed, after Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa of Avila. Her remains are interred in the Carmelite chapel in Lisieux, France.
We commemorate her feastday on October 1.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus)
“God our Father, You have promised Your Kingdom to those who are willing to become like little children. Help us to follow the way of Saint Thérèse with confidence so that, by her prayers, we may come to know Your Eternal Glory.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”