SAINT THERESE OF LISIEUX

St Therese of Lisieux, popularly known as St Teresa of the Child Jesus, was born Marie Francoise Therese Martin in Alencon, France, on 2 January 1873. She was the youngest of nine children. Her father, Louis Martin, was a watchmaker while her mother, Zelie Guerin, was a lacemaker.


(Young Therese with her parents)

Her mother died of breast cancer when Therese was four, and the family moved to Lisieux, where her older sister and an aunt raised her. Two of her sisters later became Carmelite nuns, and Therese wanted to be like them. At first, she was refused admission, but a year later, at the age of 15, Therese entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux, France.

She took the religious name of St Teresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, because of her devotion to the Infant Jesus, and at the monastery, there was a devotion to the suffering Holy Face of Jesus (reflected on the veil of Veronica during His journey to Calvary).

At the monastery, Therese lived a hidden life of prayer. Her gift was her great intimacy with God, and through her sickness and darkness, she remained faithful and rooted in God’s powerful love.

She died of tuberculosis on 30 September 1897, at the young age of 24.

(Therese as a novice at the age of 16)

The world came to know her through her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul”. In it, she described her life as “a little way of spiritual childhood”. She lived each day with unshakeable confidence in God’s love. What matters in life is “not great deeds, but great love”, she said.

The inspiration of her life and her powerful presence from heaven touched so many people so quickly that she was canonised on 17 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI. (Read his homily at her canonisation here). Four of her sisters were there at the ceremony. Had she lived, Therese would have been only 52 years old in the year she was canonised.

(Canonisation in Rome)

In 1927, she was declared co-patron of missions along with Saint Francis Xavier. It was Therese’s dream to be a missionary, but due to her poor health, she couldn’t travel. Instead, she took to praying for missionary priests and for missions.

In 1997, she was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II. There are only 35 Doctors of the Church in the history of the Catholic Church that stretches more than two millenia.

She said: “My mission – to make God loved – will begin after my death. I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.”

Countless lives have been touched by her intercessions, and millions have imitated her “little way”. Everywhere in the world, her roses continue to fall.

Therese’s spirituality is simple: For the smallest and littlest things and situations in life, even if they are ordinary, to do and handle them well and with love.

A smile here, an encouraging word there, suffering in silence, doing something for someone that is unnoticed are just some of the “little ways” to holiness.

Pope Francis, the current leader of the Catholic Church, turns to St Therese for help as well. He used to keep a photo of her in his office when he was in Argentina. In an interview conducted while he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he said: “Whenever I have a problem, I ask the saint (Therese) not to solve it, but to take it into her hands and to help me accept it, and I almost always receive a white rose as a sign.”

 

NOVENA ROSE PRAYER

O Little Teresa of the Child Jesus,
please pick for me a rose from the heavenly gardens and send it to me as a message of love.

O Little Flower of Jesus,
ask God today to grant the favours I now place with confidence in your hands.

(Mention your special prayer request here)

St Teresa, help me to always believe as you did, in God’s great love for me, so that I might imitate your “Little Way” each day.

 

(Images: Office de Lisieux, 1940)