Thérèse of Lisieux
|Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, O.C.D.|
|Nun and Doctor of the Church|
January 2, 1873|
Alençon, Orne, France
|Died||September 30, 1897
Lisieux, Calvados, France
|Honored in||Catholic Church|
|Beatified||April 29, 1923 by Pope Pius XI|
|Canonized||May 17, 1925 by Pope Pius XI|
|Major shrine||Basilica of St. Thérèse in Lisieux, France|
October 3 in General Roman Calendar 1927–1969, Melkite Catholic Church
|Patronage||Missionaries; France; Russia; HIV/AIDS sufferers; florists and gardeners; loss of parents; tuberculosis; the Russicum.|
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Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (January 2, 1873 – September 30, 1897), or Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D., was a French Discalced Carmelite nun. She is popularly known as "The Little Flower of Jesus" or simply, "The Little Flower".
Thérèse has been a highly influential model of sanctity for Roman Catholics and for others because of the "simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life." Together with St. Francis of Assisi, she is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church. Pope Pius X called her "the greatest saint of modern times."
Therese felt an early call to religious life, and overcoming various obstacles, in 1888 at the early age of 15, she became a nun and joined two of her elder sisters in the cloistered Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy. After nine years as a Carmelite religious, having fulfilled various offices such as sacristan and assistant to the novice mistress, and having spent her last eighteen months in Carmel in a night of faith, she died of tuberculosis at the age of 24.
The impact of The Story of a Soul, a collection of her autobiographical manuscripts, printed and distributed a year after her death to an initially very limited audience, was great, and she rapidly became one of the most popular saints of the twentieth century. Pope Pius XI made her the "star of his pontificate". She was beatified in 1923, and canonized in 1925. Thérèse was declared co-patron of the missions with Francis Xavier in 1927, and named co-patron of France with Joan of Arc in 1944. On October 19, 1997 Pope John Paul II declared her the thirty-third Doctor of the Church, the youngest person, and at that time only the third woman, to be so honored. Devotion to Thérèse has developed around the world.
Thérèse lived a hidden life and "wanted to be unknown," yet became popular after her death through her spiritual autobiography. She also left letters, poems, religious plays, prayers, and her last conversations were recorded by her sisters. Paintings and photographs – mostly the work of her sister Céline – further led to her being recognized by millions of men and women.
According to one of her biographers, Guy Gaucher, after her death, "Thérèse fell victim to an excess of sentimental devotion which betrayed her. She was victim also to her language, which was that of the late nineteenth century and flowed from the religiosity of her age." However, Thérèse herself said on her death-bed, "I only love simplicity. I have a horror of pretence", and she spoke out against some of the Lives of saints written in her day, "We should not say improbable things, or things we do not know. We must see their real, and not their imagined lives."
The depth of her spirituality, of which she said, "my way is all confidence and love," has inspired many believers. In the face of her littleness and nothingness, she trusted in God to be her sanctity. She wanted to go to heaven by an entirely new little way. "I wanted to find an elevator that would raise me to Jesus." The elevator, she wrote, would be the arms of Jesus lifting her in all her littleness.
- 1 Life
- 1.1 Family background
- 1.2 Birth and survival
- 1.3 Early years
- 1.4 Illness
- 1.5 Complete conversion: Christmas 1886
- 1.6 Imitation of Christ, Rome, and entry to Carmel
- 1.7 The Little Flower in Carmel
- 1.8 Lisieux Carmel in 1888
- 1.9 Postulant
- 1.10 Novice (January 10, 1889 - September 24, 1890)
- 1.11 The Discreet life of a Carmelite - (September 1890 - February 1893)
- 1.12 Election of Mother Agnes
- 1.13 The discovery of the little way
- 1.14 Offering to merciful love
- 1.15 The final years, disease and night of faith
- 2 Spiritual legacy
- 3 Recognition
- 3.1 Canonization
- 3.2 Grand celebration of her canonization
- 3.3 Beatification of St. Therese's Parents
- 3.4 The cause of Léonie Martin,Thérèse's sister
- 3.5 Influence
- 3.6 Relics of St. Thérèse on a world pilgrimage
- 3.7 Religious congregations
- 3.8 Places named after St. Thérèse
- 3.9 Devotees of St. Thérèse
- 3.10 Works inspired by Thérèse
- 4 Bibliography
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
She was born Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin on Rue Saint-Blaise, Alençon, in the French Department of Orne on January 2, 1873, the daughter of the Blessed Marie-Azélie Guérin, usually called Zélie, a lacemaker, and the Blessed Louis Martin, a jeweler and watchmaker. Both her parents were devout Catholics. Louis had tried to become a canon regular, wanting to enter the Great St Bernard Hospice, but had been refused because he knew no Latin. Zélie, possessed of a strong, active temperament, wished to serve the sick, and had also considered entering consecrated life, but the prioress of the canonesses regular of the Hôtel-Dieu in Alençon had discouraged her enquiry outright. Disappointed, Zélie learned the trade of lacemaking. She excelled in it and set up her own business on Rue Saint-Blaise at age 22.
Louis and Zélie met in early 1858 and married on July 13 of that same year. Both of great piety, they were part of the petit-bourgeoisie, comfortable Alençon. At first they decided to live as brother and sister in a perpetual continence, but when a confessor discouraged them in this, they changed their lifestyle and had 9 children. From 1867 to 1870 they lost 3 infants and 5-and-a-half-year-old Hélène. All 5 of their surviving daughters became nuns:
- Marie (February 22, 1860, a Carmelite in Lisieux, in religion, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, d. January 19, 1940),
- Pauline (September 7, 1861, in religion, Mother Agnes of Jesus in the Lisieux Carmel, d. July 28, 1951),
- Léonie (June 3, 1863, in religion Sister Françoise-Thérèse, Visitandine at Caen, d. June 16, 1941),
- Céline (April 28, 1869, a Carmelite in Lisieux, in religion, Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face, d. February 25, 1959),
- and finally Thérèse.
Zélie was so successful in manufacturing lace that by 1870 Louis had sold his watchmaking shop to a nephew and handled the traveling and bookkeeping end of her lacemaking business.
Birth and survival
Soon after her birth in January 1873, the outlook for the survival of Thérèse Martin was very grim. Enteritis, which had already claimed the lives of four of her siblings, threatened Thérèse, and she had to be entrusted to a wet nurse, Rose Taillé, who had already nursed two of the Martin children. Rose had her own children and could not live with the Martins, so Thérèse was sent to live with her in the forests of the Bocage at Semallé. On Holy Thursday April 2, 1874, when she was 15 months old, she returned to Alençon where her family surrounded her with affection. She was educated in a very Catholic environment, including Mass attendance at 5:30 AM, the strict observance of fasts, and prayer to the rhythm of the liturgical year. The Martins also practiced charity, visiting the sick and elderly and welcoming the occasional vagabond to their table. Even if she wasn't the model little girl her sisters later portrayed, Thérèse was very sensitive to this education. She played at being a nun. One day she went as far as to wish her mother would die; when scolded, she explained that she wanted the happiness of Paradise for her dear mother. Described as generally a happy child, she was emotional too, and often cried: "Céline is playing with the little one with some bricks... I have to correct poor baby who gets into frightful tantrums when she can't have her own way. She rolls in the floor in despair believing all is lost. Sometimes she is so overcome she almost chokes. She is a very highly-strung child." At 22, Thérèse, then a Carmelite, admitted: "I was far from being a perfect little girl."
On August 28, 1877, Zélie Martin died of breast cancer, aged 45. From 1865 she had complained of breast pain and in December 1876 a doctor told her of the seriousness of the tumour. Feeling the approach of death Madame Martin had written to Pauline in spring 1877, "You and Marie will have no difficulties with her upbringing. Her disposition is so good. She is a chosen spirit." Thérèse was barely 4 1/2 years old. Her mother's death dealt her a severe blow and later she would consider that the first part of her life stopped that day. She wrote: "Every detail of my mother's illness is still with me, specially her last weeks on earth." She remembered the bedroom scene where her dying mother received the last sacraments while Thérèse knelt and her father cried. She wrote: "When Mummy died, my happy disposition changed. I had been so lively and open; now I became diffident and oversensitive, crying if anyone looked at me. I was only happy if no one took notice of me... It was only in the intimacy of my own family, where everyone was wonderfully kind, that I could be more myself."
Three months after Zélie died, Louis Martin left Alençon, where he had spent his youth and marriage, and moved to Lisieux in the Calvados Department of Normandy, where Zélie's pharmacist brother Isidore Guérin lived with his wife and their two daughters, Jeanne and Marie. In her last months Zélie had given up the lace business; after her death, Louis sold it. Louis leased a pretty, spacious country house, Les Buissonnets, situated in a large garden on the slope of a hill overlooking the town. Looking back, Thérèse would see the move to Les Buissonnets as the beginning of the "second period of my life, the most painful of the three: it extends from the age of four-and-a-half to fourteen, the time when I rediscovered my childhood character, and entered into the serious side of life." In Lisieux, Pauline took on the role of Thérèse's Mama. She took this role seriously, and Thérèse grew especially close to her, and to Céline, the sister closest to her in age.
Thérèse was taught at home until she was eight and a half, and then entered the school kept by the Benedictine nuns of the Abbey of Notre Dame du Pre in Lisieux. Thérèse, taught well and carefully by Marie and Pauline, found herself at the top of the class, except for writing and arithmetic. However, because of her young age and high grades, she was bullied. The one who bullied her the most was a girl of fourteen who did poorly at school. Thérèse suffered very much as a result of her sensitivity, and she cried in silence. Furthermore, the boisterous games at recreation were not to her taste. She preferred to tell stories or look after the little ones in the infants class. "The five years I spent at school were the saddest of my life, and if my dear Céline had not been with me I could not have stayed there for a single month without falling ill." Céline informs us, "She now developed a fondness for hiding, she did not want to be observed, for she sincerely considered herself inferior." On her free days she became more and more attached to Marie Guérin, the younger of her two cousins in Lisieux. The two girls would play at being anchorites, as the great Teresa had once played with her brother. And every evening she plunged into the family circle. "Fortunately I could go home every evening and then I cheered up. I used to jump on Father's knee and tell him what marks I had had, and when he kissed me all my troubles were forgotten...I needed this sort of encouragement so much." Yet the tension of the double life and the daily self-conquest placed a strain on Thérèse. Going to school became more and more difficult.
When she was nine years old, in October 1882, her sister Pauline who had acted as a "second mother" to her, entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux. Thérèse was devastated. She understood that Pauline was cloistered and that she would never come back. "I said in the depths of my heart: Pauline is lost to me!" The shock reawakened in her the trauma caused by her mother's death. She also wanted to join the Carmelites, but was told she was too young. Yet Thérèse so impressed Mother Marie Gonzague, prioress at the time of Pauline's entry to the community that she wrote to comfort her, calling Thérèse "my future little daughter."
At this time, Thérèse was often sick; she began to suffer from nervous tremors. The tremors started one night after her uncle took her for a walk and began to talk about Zélie. Assuming that she was cold, the family covered Therese with blankets, but the tremors continued; she clenched her teeth and could not speak. The family called Dr. Notta, who could make no diagnosis. In 1882, Dr Gayral diagnosed that Thérèse "reacts to an emotional frustration with a neurotic attack." An alarmed, but cloistered, Pauline began to write letters to Thérèse and attempted various strategies to intervene. Eventually Thérèse recovered after she had turned to gaze at the statue of the Virgin Mary placed in Marie's room, where Thérèse had been moved. She reported on 13 May 1883 that she had seen the Virgin smile at her. She wrote: "Our Blessed Lady has come to me, she has smiled upon me. How happy I am." However, when Thérèse told the Carmelite nuns about this vision at the request of her eldest sister Marie, she found herself assailed by their questions and she lost confidence. Self-doubt made her begin to question what had happened. "I thought I had lied - I was unable to look upon myself without a feeling of profound horror." "For a long time after my cure,I thought that my sickness was deliberate and this was a real martyrdom for my soul." Her concerns over this continued until November 1887.
In October 1886 her oldest sister, Marie, entered the same Carmelite monastery, adding to Thérèse's grief. The warm atmosphere at Les Buissonnets, so necessary to her, was disappearing. Now only she and Céline remained with their father. Her frequent tears made some friends think she had a weak character and the Guérins indeed shared this opinion.
Thérèse also suffered from scruples, a condition experienced by other saints such as Alphonsus Liguori, also a Doctor of the Church and Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. She wrote: "One would have to pass through this martyrdom to understand it well, and for me to express what I experienced for a year and a half would be impossible."
Complete conversion: Christmas 1886
Christmas Eve of 1886 was a turning point in the life of Therese; she called it her "complete conversion." Years later she stated that on that night she overcame the pressures she had faced since the death of her mother and said that "God worked a little miracle to make me grow up in an instant." "On that blessed night ... Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me, saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood."
On Christmas Eve 1886, Louis Martin and his daughters, Léonie, Céline and Thérèse, had attended the midnight mass at the cathedral in Lisieux - "but there was very little heart left in them. On 1 December Léonie, covered in eczema and hiding her hair under a short mantilla, had returned to Les Buissonnets after just seven weeks of the Poor Clares regime in Alençon", and her sisters were helping her get over her sense of failure and humiliation. Back at Les Buissonnets as every year, Thérèse " as was the custom for French children, had left her shoes on the hearth, empty in anticipation of gifts, not from Father Christmas but from the Child Jesus, who was imagined to travel through the air bearing toys and cakes." While she was going up the stairs she heard her father, "perhaps exhausted by the hour, or this reminder of the relentless emotional demands of his weepy youngest daughter", say to Céline, "Well, fortunately this will be the last year!" Thérèse had begun to cry and Céline advised her not to go back downstairs immediately. Then, suddenly, Thérèse pulled herself together and wiped her tears. She ran down the stairs, knelt by the fireplace and unwrapped her surprises as jubilantly as ever. In her account, nine years later, of 1895 : "In an instant Jesus, content with my good will, accomplished the work I had not been able to do in ten years." After nine sad years she had "recovered the strength of soul she had lost when her mother died and, she said, she was to retain it forever." She discovered the joy in self-forgetfulness and added ; "I felt, in a word, charity enter my heart, the need to forget myself to make others happy - Since this blessed night I was not defeated in any battle, but instead I went from victory to victory and began, so to speak, "to run a giant's course." (Psalms 19:5) "
"Thérèse instantly understood what had happened to her when she won this banal little victory over her sensitivity, which she had borne for so long... she had been vouchsafed a freedom which all her efforts had been unable to win. A long, painful period of growth lasting almost ten years was now over; ...freedom is found in resolutely looking away from oneself.. and the fact that a person can cast himself away from himself reveals again that being good, victory is pure grace, a sudden gift..It cannot be coerced, and yet it can be received only by the patiently prepared heart." Biographer Kathryn Harrison : "After all, in the past she had tried to control herself, had tried with all her being and had failed. Grace, alchemy, masochism: through whatever lens we view her transport, Thérèse's night of illumination presented both its power and its danger. It would guide her steps between the mortal and the divine, between living and dying, destruction and apotheosis. It would take her exactly where she intended to go."
The character of the saint and the early forces that shaped her personality have been the subject of analysis, particularly in recent years. Apart from the family doctor who observed her in the 19th century, all other conclusions are inevitably speculative. For instance, author Ida Friederike Görres whose formal studies had focused on church history and hagiography wrote a book that performed a psychological analysis of the saint's character. Some authors suggest that Thérèse had a strongly neurotic aspect to her personality for most of her life. A recent biographer, Kathryn Harrison, concluded that, "her temperament was not formed for compromise or moderation...a life spent not taming but directing her appetite and her will, a life perhaps shortened by the force of her desire and ambition."
Imitation of Christ, Rome, and entry to Carmel
Before she was fourteen, when she started to experience a period of calm, Thérèse started to read The Imitation of Christ. She read the Imitation intently, as if the author traced each sentence for her: "The Kingdom of God is within you... Turn thee with thy whole heart unto the Lord; and forsake this wretched world: and thy soul shall find rest." She kept the book with her constantly and wrote later that this book and parts of another book of a very different character, lectures by Abbé Arminjon on The End of This World, and the Mysteries of the World to Come, nourished her during this critical period. Thereafter she began to read other books, mostly on history and science.
In May 1887, Thérèse approached her 63-year old father Louis, who was recovering from a small stroke, while he sat in the garden one Sunday afternoon and told him that she wanted to celebrate the anniversary of "her conversion" by entering Carmel before Christmas. Louis and Thérèse both broke down and cried, but Louis got up, gently picked a little white flower, root intact, and gave it to her, explaining the care with which God brought it into being and preserved it until that day. Thérèse later wrote: "while I listened I believed I was hearing my own story." To Therese, the flower seemed a symbol of herself, "destined to live in another soil". Thérèse then renewed her attempts to join the Carmel, but the priest-superior of the monastery would not allow it on account of her youth.
During the summer, French newspapers were filled with the story of Henri Pranzini, convicted of the brutal murder of two women and a child. To the outraged public Pranzini represented all that threatened the decent way of life in France. In July and August 1887 Thérèse prayed hard for the conversion of Pranzini, so his soul could be saved, yet Pranzini showed no remorse. At the end of August, the newspapers reported that just as Pranzini's neck was placed on the guillotine, he had grabbed a crucifix and kissed it three times. Thérèse was ecstatic and believed that her prayers had saved him. She continued to pray for Pranzini after his death.
In November 1887, Louis took Céline and Thérèse on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome for the priestly jubilee of Pope Leo XIII. The cost of the trip enforced a strict selection, a quarter of the pilgrims belonged to the nobility. The birth, in 1871, of the French Third Republic had marked a decline of the conservative right's power. Forced onto the defensive, the royalist bourgeoisie perceived a strong Church as an important means of safeguarding France's integrity and its future. The rise of a militant nationalist Catholicism, a trend that would, in 1894, result in the anti-Semitic scapegoating and trumped-up treason conviction of Alfred Dreyfus was a development that Thérèse did not at all perceive. Still a sheltered child, Thérèse lived in ignorance of political events and motivations. She did notice however, the 'social ambition and vanity'. "Céline and I found ourselves mixing with members of the aristocracy; but we were not impressed..the words of the Imitation, 'do not be solicitous for the shadow of a great name', were not lost on me, and I realised that real nobility is in the soul, not in a name." The youngest in the pilgrimage, bright and pretty, Thérèse did not go unnoticed. In Bologna a student boldly jostled against her on purpose. Visits followed one after another: Milan, Venice, Loreto; finally the arrival in Rome. On November 20, 1887, during a general audience with Leo XIII, Thérèse, in her turn, approached the Pope, knelt, and asked him to allow her to enter Carmel at 15. The Pope said: "Well, my child, do what the superiors decide.... You will enter if it is God's Will" and he blessed Thérèse. She refused to leave his feet, and the Swiss Guard had to carry her out of the room.
The trip continued: they visited Pompeii, Naples, Assisi; then it was back via Pisa and Genoa. The pilgrimage of nearly a month came at a timely point for her burgeoning personality. She learnt more than in many years of study. For the first and last time in her life, she left her native Normandy. Notably she, "who only knew priests in the exercise of their ministry was in their company, heard their conversations, not always edifying - and saw their shortcomings for herself." She had understood that she had to pray and give her life for sinners like Pranzini. But Carmel prayed especially for priests and this had surprised her since their souls seemed to her to be as pure as crystal. A month spent with many priests taught her that they are weak and feeble men. She wrote later: "I met many saintly priests that month, but I also found that in spite of being above angels by their supreme dignity, they were none the less men and still subject to human weakness. If the holy priests, 'the salt of the earth', as Jesus calls them in the Gospel, have to be prayed for, what about the lukewarm? Again, as Jesus says, 'If the salt shall lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?' I understood my vocation in Italy." For the first time too she had associated with young men. "In her brotherless existence, masculinity had been represented only by her father, her Uncle Guérin and various priests. Now she had her first and only experiences - troublesome and tempting ones. Céline declared at the beatification proceedings that one of the young men in the pilgrimage group fell in love with Thérèse ("developed a tender affection for her"). Thérèse confessed to her sister, "It is high time for Jesus to remove me from the poisonous breath of the world...I feel that my heart is easily caught by tenderness, and where others fall, I would fall too. We are no stronger than the others."
In 1889, her father suffered a stroke and was taken to a private sanatorium, the Bon Sauveur at Caen, where he remained for three years before returning to Lisieux in 1892. He died on July 29, 1894. Upon his death, Céline, who had been caring for him, entered the same Carmel as her three sisters, on September 14, 1894; their cousin, Marie Guérin, entered on August 15, 1895. Léonie, after several attempts, became Sister Françoise-Thérèse, a nun in the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary at Caen, where she died in 1941.
The Little Flower in Carmel
Lisieux Carmel in 1888
The Carmelite order had been reformed in the sixteenth century by Teresa of Ávila, essentially devoted to personal and collective prayer. The times of silence and of solitude were many but the foundress had also planned for time for work and relaxation in common — the austerity of the life should not hinder sisterly and joyful relations. Founded in 1838, the Carmel of Lisieux in 1888 had 26 religious, from very different classes and backgrounds. For the majority of the life of Thérèse, the prioress would be Mother Marie de Gonzague, born Marie-Adéle-Rosalie Davy de Virville. When Thérèse entered the convent Mother Marie was 54, a woman of changeable humour, jealous of her authority, used sometimes in a capricious manner; this had for effect, a certain laxity in the observance of established rules. "In the sixties and seventies of the [nineteenth] century an aristocrat in the flesh counted for far more in a petty bourgeois convent than we can realize nowadays... the superiors appointed Marie de Gonzague to the highest offices as soon as her novitiate was finished... in 1874 began the long series of terms as Prioress."
Thérèse's time as a postulant began with her welcome into the Carmel, Monday April 9, 1888, the Feast of the Annunciation. She felt peace after she received communion that day and later wrote, "At last my desires were realized, and I cannot describe the deep sweet peace which filled my soul. This peace has remained with me during the eight and a half years of my life here, and has never left me even amid the greatest trials." From her childhood, Thérèse had dreamed of the desert to which God would some day lead her. Now she had entered that desert. Though she was now reunited with Marie and Pauline, from the first day she began her struggle to win and keep her distance from her sisters. Right at the start Marie de Gonzague, the prioress, had turned the postulant Thérèse over to her eldest sister Marie, who was to teach her to follow the Divine Office. Later she appointed Thérèse assistant to Pauline in the refectory. And when her cousin Marie Guerin also entered, she employed the two together in the sacristy. Thérèse adhered strictly to the rule which forbade all superfluous talk during work. She saw her sisters together only in the hours of common recreation after meals. At such times she would sit down beside whomever she happened to be near, or beside a nun whom she had observed to be downcast, disregarding the tacit and sometimes expressed sensitivity and even jealousy of her biological sisters. "We must apologize to the others for our being four under one roof," she was in the habit of remarking. "When I am dead, you must be very careful not to lead a family life with one another...I did not come to Carmel to be with my sisters; on the contrary, I saw clearly that their presence would cost me dear, for I was determined not to give way to nature."
Though the novice mistress, Sr. Marie of the Angels, (Jeanne de Charmontel ), found Thérèse slow, the young postulant adapted well to her new environment. She wrote, "Illusions, the Good Lord gave me the grace to have none on entering Carmel. I found religious life as I had figured, no sacrifice astonished me." She sought above all to conform to the rules and customs of the Carmelites that she learnt each day with her four religious of the novitiate. (Sr Marie of the Angels, 43, Sister Marie-Philomene, 48, 'very holy, very limited'; Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, her oldest sister and godmother; Sister Marthe of Jesus, 23, an orphan, 'a poor little unintelligent sister' according to Pauline). Later, when Thérèse had become assistant to the novice mistress she repeated how important respect for the Rule was: "When any break the rule, this is not a reason to justify ourselves. Each must act as if the perfection of the Order depended on her personal conduct." She also affirmed the essential role of obedience in religious life. She said, "When you stop watching the infallible compass [of obedience], as quickly the mind wanders in arid lands where the water of grace is soon lacking." She chose a spiritual director, a Jesuit, Father Pichon. At their first meeting, May 28, 1888, she made a general confession going back over all her past sins. She came away from it profoundly relieved. The priest who had himself suffered from scruples, understood her and reassured her. A few months later, he left for Canada, and Thérèse would only be able to ask his advice by letter and his replies were rare. (On 4 July 1897, she confided to Pauline, 'Father Pichon treated me too much like a child; nonetheless he did me a lot of good too by saying that I never committed a mortal sin.') During her time as a postulant, Thérèse had to endure some bullying from other sisters because of her lack of aptitude for handicrafts and manual work. Sister St Vincent de Paul, the finest embroiderer in the community made her feel awkward and even called her 'the big nanny goat'. Thérèse was in fact the tallest in the family, 1.62 metres (approx. 5'3"). Pauline, the shortest, was no more than 1.54m tall (approx.5'). During her last visit to Trouville at the end of June 1887, Thérèse was called, with her long blond hair, 'the tall English girl.' Like all religious she discovered the ups and downs related to differences in temperament, character, problems of sensitivities or infirmities. After nine years she wrote plainly, "the lack of judgment, education, the touchiness of some characters, all these things do not make life very pleasant. I know very well that these moral weaknesses are chronic, that there is no hope of cure." But the greatest suffering came from outside Carmel. On June 23, 1888 Louis Martin disappeared from his home and was found days later, in the post office in Le Havre. The incident marked the onset of her father's steep physical and mental decline.
Novice (January 10, 1889 - September 24, 1890)
The end of Thérèse's time as a postulant arrived on the January 10, 1889 with her taking of the habit. From that time she wore the 'rough homespun and brown scapular, white wimple and veil, leather belt with rosary, woollen 'stockings', rope sandals. " Her father's health having temporarily stabilized he was able to attend, though twelve days after her ceremony a particularly serious crisis led to his being put in the asylum of the Bon Sauveur in Caen where he would remain for three years. In this period Thérèse deepened the sense of her vocation; to lead a hidden life, to pray and offer her suffering for priests, to forget herself, to increase discreet acts of charity. She wrote, "I applied myself especially to practice little virtues, not having the facility to perform great ones." "In her letters from this period of her novitiate, Thérèse returned over and over to the theme of littleness, referring to herself as a grain of sand, an image she borrowed from Pauline...'Always littler, lighter, in order to be lifted more easily by the breeze of love.' The remainder of her life would be defined by retreat and subtraction." She absorbed the work of John of the Cross, spiritual reading uncommon at the time, especially for such a young nun. "Oh! what insights I have gained from the works of our holy father, St. John of the Cross! When I was seventeen and eighteen, I had no other spiritual nourishment..." She felt a kinship with this classic writer of the Carmelite Order (though nothing seems to have drawn her to the writing of Teresa of Avila), and with enthusiasm she read his works, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, the Way of Purification, the Spiritual Canticle, the Living Flame of Love. Passages from these writings are woven into everything she herself said and wrote. The fear of God, which she found in certain sisters, paralyzed her. "My nature is such that fear makes me recoil, with LOVE not only do I go forward, I fly"
With the new name a Carmelite receives when she enters the Order, there is always an epithet - example, Teresa of Jesus, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Anne of the Angels. The epithet singles out the Mystery which she is supposed to contemplate with special devotion. "Thérèse's names in religion - she had two of them - must be taken together to define her religious significance." The first name was promised to her at nine, by Mother Marie de Gonzague, of the Child Jesus, and was given to her at her entry into the convent. In itself, veneration of the childhood of Jesus was a Carmelite heritage of the seventeenth century - it concentrated upon the staggering humiliation of divine majesty in assuming the shape of extreme weakness and helplessness. The French Oratory of Jesus and Pierre de Bérulle renewed this old devotional practice. Yet when she received the veil, Thérèse herself asked Mother Marie de Gonzague to confer upon her the second name of the Holy Face.
During the course of her novitiate, contemplation of the Holy Face had nourished her inner life. This is an image representing the disfigured face of Jesus during His Passion. And she meditated on certain passages from the prophet Isaiah (Chapter 53). Six weeks before her death she remarked to Pauline, "The words in Isaiah: 'no stateliness here, no majesty, no beauty,...one despised, left out of all human reckoning; How should we take any account of him, a man so despised (Is 53:2-3) - these words were the basis of my whole worship of the Holy Face. I, too, wanted to be without comeliness and beauty..unknown to all creatures." On the eve of her profession she wrote to Sister Marie, Tomorrow I shall be the bride of Jesus 'whose face was hidden and whom no man knew' - what a union and what a future!. The meditation also helped her understand the humiliating situation of her father.
Usually the novitiate preceding profession lasted a year. Sister Thérèse hoped to make her final commitment on or after January 11, 1890 but, considered still too young for a final commitment, her profession was postponed. She would spend eight months longer than the standard year as an unprofessed novice. As 1889 ended, her old home in the world Les Buissonnets, was dismantled, the furniture divided among the Guérins and the Carmel. It was not until September 8, 1890, aged 17 and a half, that she made her religious profession. The retreat in anticipation of her irrevocable promises was characterized by absolute aridity and on the eve of her profession she gave way to panic. "What she wanted was beyond her. Her vocation was a sham." Reassured by the novice mistress and mother Marie de Gonzague, the next day her religious profession went ahead, 'an outpouring of peace flooded my soul, "that peace which surpasseth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7) Against her heart she wore her letter of profession written during her retreat. "May creatures be nothing for me, and may I be nothing for them, but may You, Jesus, be everything! Let nobody be occupied with me, let me be looked upon as one to be trampled underfoot...may Your will be done in me perfectly...Jesus, allow me to save very many souls; let no soul be lost today; let all the souls in purgatory be saved.." On September 24, the public ceremony followed filled with 'sadness and bitterness'. "Thérèse found herself young enough, alone enough, to weep over the absence of Bishop Hugonin, Père Pichon, in Canada; and her own father, still confined in the asylum." But Mother Marie de Gonzague wrote to the prioress of Tours, "The angelic child is seventeen and a half, with the sense of a 30 year old, the religious perfection of an old and accomplished novice, and possession of herself, she is a perfect nun."
The Discreet life of a Carmelite - (September 1890 - February 1893)
The years which followed were those of a maturation of her vocation. Thérèse prayed without great sensitive emotions, she multiplied the small acts of charity and care for others, doing small services, without making a show of them. She accepted criticism in silence, even unjust criticisms, and smiled at the sisters who were unpleasant to her. She prayed always much for priests, and in particular for Father Hyacinthe Loyson, a famous preacher who had been a Sulpician and a Dominican novice before becoming a Carmelite and provincial of his order, but who had left the Catholic Church in 1869. Three years later he married a young widow, a Protestant, with whom he had a son. After major excommunication had been pronounced against him, he continued to travel round France giving lectures. While clerical papers called Loyson a renegade monk and Leon Bloy lampooned him, Thérèse prayed for her brother. She offered her last communion, 19 August 1897, for Father Hyacinthe.
The chaplain of the Carmel, Father Youf insisted a lot on the fear of Hell. The preachers of spiritual retreats at that time did not refrain from stressing sin, the sufferings of purgatory, and those of hell. This did not help Thérèse who in 1891 experienced, great inner trials of all kinds, even wondering sometimes whether heaven existed. One phrase heard during a sermon made her weep - "No one knows if they are worthy of love or of hate." But the retreat of October 1891 was preached by Father Alexis Prou, a Franciscan from Saint-Nazaire. "He specialized in large crowds (he preached in factories) and did not seem the right person to help Carmelites. Just one of them found comfort from him, Sister Thèrèse of the Child Jesus...[his] preaching on abandonment and mercy expanded her heart." This confirmed Thérèse in her own intuitions. She wrote, "My soul was like a book which the priest read better than I did. He launched me full sail on the waves of confidence and love which held such an attraction for me, but upon which I had not dared to venture. He told me that my faults did not offend God." Her spiritual life drew more and more on the Gospels that she carried with her at all times. The piety of her time was fed more on commentaries, but Thérèse had asked Céline to get the Gospels and the Epistles of St Paul bound into a single small volume which she could carry on her heart. She said, It is especially the Gospels which sustain me during my hours of prayer...I am always gaining fresh insights and finding hidden and mysterious meanings.
More and more Thérèse realised that she felt no attraction to the exalted heights of great souls. She looked directly for the word of Jesus, which shed light on her prayers and on her daily life. Thérèse's retreat in October 1892 pointed out to her a downward path. If asked where she lived, she reflected, must not she be able to answer with Christ, The foxes have their lairs, the birds of heaven their nests, but I have no place to rest my head. (Matthew 8:20). She wrote to Céline, (letter October 19, 1892), "Jesus raised us above all the fragile things of this world whose image passes away. Like Zacchaeus, we climbed a tree to see Jesus and now let us listen to what he is saying to us. Make haste to descend, I must lodge today at your house. Well, Jesus tells us to descend?" "A question here of the interior," she qualified in her letter, lest Céline think she meant renouncing food or shelter. "Thérèse knew her virtues, even her love, to be flawed, flawed by self, a mirror too clouded to reflect the divine." She continued to seek to discover the means, "to more efficiently strip herself of self." "No doubt, [our hearts] are already empty of creatures, but, alas, I feel mine is not entirely empty of myself, and it is for this reason that Jesus tells me to descend."
Election of Mother Agnes
On February 20, 1893 Pauline was elected prioress of Carmel and became Mother Agnes. Pauline appointed the former prioress novice mistress and made Thérèse her assistant. The work of guiding the novices would fall primarily to Thérèse. Over the next few years she revealed a talent for clarifying doctrine to those who had not received as much education as she. A kaleidoscope, whose three mirrors transform scraps of coloured paper into beautiful designs, provided an inspired illustration for the Holy Trinity. "As long as our actions, even the smallest, do not fall away from the focus of Divine Love, the Holy Trinity, symbolized by the three mirrors, allows them to reflect wonderful beauty. Jesus, who regards us through the little lens, that is to say, through Himself, always sees beauty in everything we do. But if we left the focus of inexpressible love, what would He see? Bits of straw ... dirty, worthless actions." "Another cherished image was that of the newly invented elevator, a vehicle Thérèse used many times over to describe God's grace, a force that lifts us to heights we can't reach on our own." Her sister Céline's memoir is filled with numerous examples of the teacher Thérèse. "Céline: - 'Oh! When I think how much I have to acquire!' Thérèse: - 'Rather, how much you have to lose! Jesus Himself will fill your soul with treasures in the same measure that you move your imperfections out of the way." And Céline recalled a story Thérèse told about egotism. 'The 28 month old Thérèse visited Le Mans and was given a basket filled with candies, at the top of which were two sugar rings. 'Oh! How wonderful! There is a sugar ring for Céline too!' On her way to the station however the basket overturned, and one of the sugar rings disappeared. 'Ah, I no longer have any sugar ring for poor Céline!' Reminding me of the incident she observed; 'See how deeply rooted in us is this self-love! Why was it Céline's sugar ring, and not mine, that was lost?' Martha of Jesus, a novice who spent her childhood in a series of orphanages and who was described by all as emotionally unbalanced, with a violent temper, gave witness during the beatification process of the 'unusual dedication and presence of her young teacher. "Thérèse deliberately 'sought out the company of those nuns whose temperaments she found hardest to bear.' What merit was there in acting charitably toward people whom one loved naturally? Thérèse went out of her way to spend time with, and therefore to love, the people she found repellent. It was an effective means of achieving interior poverty, a way to remove a place to rest her head."
In September 1893, Thérèse, having been a professed novice for the standard three years, asked not to be promoted but to continue a novice indefinitely. As a novice she would always have to ask permission of the other, full sisters. She would never be elected to any position of importance. Remaining closely associated with the other novices, she could continue to care for her spiritual charges.
The nineteenth century rediscovered Joan of Arc. In 1841 Jules Michelet devoted the major part of the fifth volume of his History of France to a favourable presentation of the epic of the Maid of Orleans and Felix Dupanloup worked relentlessly for the glorification of Joan who on May 8, 1429 had liberated Orléans, the city of which he became bishop in 1849. Thérèse wrote two plays in honour of her childhood heroine, the first about Joan's response to the heavenly voices calling her to battle, the second about her resulting martyrdom.
The year 1894 brought a national celebration of Joan of Arc. On January 27 Leo XIII authorized the introduction of her cause of beatification, declaring Joan, the shepherdess from Lorraine 'venerable'. Thérèse used Henri Wallon's history of Joan of Arc - a book her uncle Isidore had given to the Carmel - to help her write two plays, 'pious recreations', "small theatrical pieces performed by a few nuns for the rest of the community, on the occasion of certain feast days." The first of these, The Mission of Joan of Arc was performed at the Carmel on January 21, 1894, and the second Joan of Arc Accomplishes her Mission on January 21, 1895. In the estimation of one of her biographers, Ida Görres, they "are scarcely veiled self-portraits."
On July 29, 1894 Louis Martin died. Sick, he had been cared for by Céline. Following his death, and supported by Thérèse's letters and the advice of her other sisters, she entered the Lisieux convent on September 14, 1894. With Mother Agnes' permission, she brought her camera to Carmel, and developing materials. "The indulgence was not by any means usual. Also outside of the normal would be the destiny of those photographs Céline would make in the Carmel, images that would be scrutinized and reproduced too many times to count. Even when the images are poorly reproduced, her eyes arrest us. Described as blue, described as gray, they look darker in photographs. Céline's pictures of her sister contributed to the extraordinary cult of personality that formed in the years after Thérèses death."
At the end of December 1894 and perhaps prompted by their fear that she was dying, her older sisters requested that Thérèse write about her childhood.
The discovery of the little way
Thérèse entered the Carmel of Lisieux with the determination to become a saint. But, by the end of 1894, six full calendar years as a Carmelite made her realize how small and insignificant she was. She saw the limitations of all her efforts. She remained small and very far off from the unfailing love that she would wish to practice. She understood then that it was on this very littleness that she must learn to ask God's help. Along with her camera, Céline had brought notebooks with her, passages from the Old Testament, which Thérèse did not have in Carmel. (The Louvain Bible, the translation authorized for French Catholics, did not include an Old Testament). In the notebooks Thérèse found a passage from Proverbs that struck her with particular force: "Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me" (Proverbs 9:4). And, from the book of Isaiah , she was profoundly struck by another passage: "you shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you. As one whom the mother caresseth, so will I comfort you." She concluded that Jesus would carry her to the summit of sanctity. The smallness of Thérèse, her limits, became in this way grounds for joy, more than discouragement. It is only in Manuscript C of her autobiography that she gave to this discovery the name of little way, petite voie.
"I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new. We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection. [...] Thine Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To get there I need not grow; on the contrary, I must remain little, I must become still less."
Echoes of this way however are heard throughout her work. From February 1895 she would regularly sign her letters by adding very little, toute petite, in front of her name. According to the writer Ida Gorres, however, this language should always be measured against the 'unfailing, iron self-conquest of her whole life.' "We know how intensely her life was given to the performance of duty, to the pursuit of good works, to the cultivation of all the virtues...[yet] she rejected all ascetic efforts which were directed not towards God but toward ones own perfection. It was on this view then, that she based her extraordinary refusal to consider her daily faults important.. because of her lack of illusions in her view of human beings, she assigned to these things, no more significance than they deserved." "I have long believed that the Lord is more tender than a mother. I know that a mother is always ready to forgive trivial, involuntary misbehavior on the part of her child. Children are always giving trouble, falling down, getting themselves dirty, breaking things - but all this does not shake their parents love for them."
Offering to merciful love
At the end of the second play that Thérèse had written on Joan of Arc, the costume she wore almost caught fire. The alcohol stoves used to represent the stake at Rouen set fire to the screen behind which Thérèse stood. Thérèse did not flinch but the incident marked her. The theme of fire would assume an increasingly great place in her writings. On June 9, 1895, during a mass celebrating the feast of the Holy Trinity, Thérèse had a sudden inspiration that she must offer herself as a sacrificial victim to merciful love. At this time some nuns offered themselves as a victim to God's justice. In her cell she drew up an 'Act of Oblation' for herself and for Céline, and on June 11, the two of them knelt before the miraculous Virgin and Thérèse read the document she had written and signed. In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask you lord to count my works.. According to biographer Ida Gorres the document echoed the happiness she had felt when Father Alexis Prou, the Franciscan preacher, had assured her that her faults did not cause God sorrow. In the Oblation she wrote, "If through weakness I should chance to fall, may a glance from Your Eyes straightway cleanse my soul, and consume all my imperfections - as fire transforms all things into itself."
In August 1895 the four Martin sisters were joined by their cousin, Marie Guerin, in religion, Sister Marie of the Eucharist. In October 1895 a young seminarian and subdeacon of the White Fathers, Abbé Bellière, asked the Carmel of Lisieux for a nun who would support - by prayer and sacrifice - his missionary work, and the souls that were in the future to be entrusted to him. Mother Agnes designated Thérèse. She never met Father Bellière but ten letters passed between them.
A year later Father Adolphe Roulland (1870–1934) of the Society of Foreign Missions requested the same service of the Lisieux Carmel. Once more Thérèse was assigned the duties of spiritual sister. "It is quite clear that Thérèse, in spite of all her reverence for the priestly office, in both cases felt herself to be the teacher and the giver. It is she who who consoles and warns, encourages and praises, answers questions, offers corroboration, and instructs the priests in the meaning of her little way."
The final years, disease and night of faith
Thérèse's final years were marked by a steady decline that she bore resolutely and without complaint. Tuberculosis was the key element of Thérèse's final suffering, but she saw that as part of her spiritual journey. After observing a rigorous Lenten fast in 1896, she went to bed on the eve of Good Friday and felt a joyous sensation. She wrote: "Oh! how sweet this memory really is!... I had scarcely laid my head upon the pillow when I felt something like a bubbling stream mounting to my lips. I didn't know what it was."
The next morning she found blood on her handkerchief and understood her fate. Coughing up of blood meant tuberculosis, and tuberculosis meant death. She wrote,
I thought immediately of the joyful thing that I had to learn, so I went over to the window. I was able to see that I was not mistaken. Ah! my soul was filled with a great consolation; I was interiorly persuaded that Jesus, on the anniversary of His own death, wanted to have me hear His first call!
Thérèse corresponded with a Carmelite mission in what was then French Indochina and was invited to join them, but, because of her sickness, could not travel.
As a result of tuberculosis, Thérèse suffered terribly. When she was near death “Her physical suffering kept increasing so that even the doctor himself was driven to exclaim, "Ah! If you only knew what this young nun was suffering!” During the last hours of Therese’s life, she said, "I would never have believed it was possible to suffer so much, never, never!” In July 1897, she made a final move to the monastery infirmary. On August 19, 1897, Therese received her last communion. She died on September 30, 1897 at the young age of 24. On her death-bed, she is reported to have said, "I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me."
Her last words were, "My God, I love you!"
Thérèse was buried on October 4, 1897, in the Carmelite plot in the municipal cemetery at Lisieux, where Louis and Zelie had been buried. Her body was exhumed in 1910; not Incorrupted, but had the pleasant Odour of Sanctity. In March 1923, however, before she was beatified, her body was returned to the Carmel of Lisieux, where it remains.
|Organizations and events|
At fourteen, Thérèse had understood her vocation to pray for priests, to be "an apostle to apostles." In September 1890, at her canonical examination before she professed her religious vows, she was asked why she had come to Carmel. She answered "I came to save souls, and especially to pray for priests." Throughout her life she prayed fervently for priests, and she corresponded with and prayed for a young priest, Adolphe Roulland, and a young seminarian, Maurice Bellière. She wrote to her sister "Our mission as Carmelites is to form evangelical workers who will save thousands of souls whose mothers we shall be."
Thérèse was devoted to Eucharistic meditation and on February 26, 1895, shortly before she died wrote from memory and without a rough draft her poetic masterpiece "To Live by Love" which she had composed during Eucharistic meditation. During her life, the poem was sent to various religious communities and was included in a notebook of her poems.
The Child Jesus and the Holy Face
Thérèse entered the Carmelite order on April 9, 1888. On January 10, 1889, after a probationary period somewhat longer than the usual, she was given the habit and received the name Thérèse of the Child Jesus. On September 8, 1890, Thérèse took her vows. The ceremony of taking the veil followed on the 24th, when she added to her name in religion, "of the Holy Face", a title which was to become increasingly important in the development and character of her inner life. In his "A l'ecole de Therese de Lisieux: maitresse de la vie spirituelle, "Bishop Guy Gaucher emphasizes that Therese saw the devotions to the Child Jesus and to the Holy Face as so completely linked that she signed herself "Therese de l'Enfant Jesus de la Sainte Face"—Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face. In her poem "My Heaven down here", composed in 1895, Therese expressed the notion that by the divine union of love, the soul takes on the semblance of Christ. By contemplating the sufferings associated with the Holy Face of Jesus, she felt she could become closer to Christ.
The devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus was promoted by another Carmelite nun, Sister Marie of St Peter in Tours, France in 1844. Then by Leo Dupont, also known as the Apostle of the Holy Face who formed the "Archconfraternity of the Holy Face" in Tours in 1851. Thérèse, who was a member of this confraternity, was introduced to the Holy Face devotion by her blood sister Pauline, known as Sister Agnes of Jesus.
Her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, had also prayed at the Oratory of the Holy Face, originally established by Leo Dupont in Tours. Thérèse wrote many prayers to express her devotion to the Holy Face. She wrote the words "Make me resemble you, Jesus!" on a small card and attached a stamp with an image of the Holy Face. She pinned the prayer in a small container over her heart. In August 1895, in her "Canticle to the Holy Face," she wrote:
"Jesus, Your ineffable image is the star which guides my steps. Ah, You know, Your sweet Face is for me Heaven on earth. My love discovers the charms of Your Face adorned with tears. I smile through my own tears when I contemplate Your sorrows."
"He sees it disfigured, covered with blood!... unrecognizable!... And yet the divine Child does not tremble; this is what He chooses to show His love."
She also composed the "Holy Face Prayer for Sinners",
"Eternal Father, since Thou hast given me for my inheritance the adorable Face of Thy Divine Son, I offer that face to Thee and I beg Thee, in exchange for this coin of infinite value, to forget the ingratitude of souls dedicated to Thee and to pardon all poor sinners."
Thérèse's devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus was based on painted images of the Veil of Veronica,[clarification needed] as promoted by Leon Dupont fifty years earlier. However, over the decades, her poems and prayers helped to spread the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.
The Little Way
In her quest for sanctity, she believed that it was not necessary to accomplish heroic acts, or great deeds, in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. She wrote,
Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.
This little way of Therese is the foundation of her spirituality. Within the Catholic Church Thérèse's way was known for some time as "the little way of spiritual childhood," but Thérèse actually wrote "little way" only once, and she never wrote the phrase "spiritual childhood." It was her sister Pauline who, after Thérèse's death, adopted the phrase "the little way of spiritual childhood" to interpret Thérèse's path. Years after Thérèse's death, a Carmelite of Lisieux asked Pauline about this phrase and Pauline answered spontaneously "But you know well that Thérèse never used it! It is mine." In May 1897, Thérèse wrote to Father Adolphe Roulland, "My way is all confidence and love." To Maurice Bellière she wrote "and I, with my way, will do more than you, so I hope that one day Jesus will make you walk by the same way as me."
Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles, surrounded by a crowd of illusions, my poor little mind quickly tires. I close the learned book which is breaking my head and drying up my heart, and I take up Holy Scripture. Then all seems luminous to me; a single word uncovers for my soul infinite horizons; perfection seems simple; I see that it is enough to recognize one's nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God's arms. Leaving to great souls, to great minds, the beautiful books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.
Passages like this have left Thérèse open to the charge that her spirituality is sentimental, immature, and unexamined. Her proponents counter that she developed an approach to the spiritual life that people of every background can understand and adopt.
This is evident in her approach to prayer:
For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus...I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers...I do like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me.
Autobiography – The Story of a Soul
St. Thérèse is known today because of her spiritual memoir, L'histoire d'une âme (The Story of a Soul), which she wrote upon the orders of two prioresses of her monastery because of the many miracles worked at her intercession. She began to write Story of a Soul in 1895 as a memoir of her childhood, under instructions from her sister Pauline, known in religion as Mother Agnes of Jesus. Mother Agnes gave the order after being prompted by their eldest sister, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart. While Thérèse was on retreat in September 1896, she wrote a letter to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart which also forms part of what was later published as "Story of a Soul." In June 1897, Mother Agnes became aware of the seriousness of Thérèse's illness. She immediately asked Mother Marie de Gonzague, who had succeeded her as prioress, to allow Thérèse to write another memoir with more details of her religious life. With selections from Therese's letters and poems and reminiscences of her by the other nuns, it was published posthumously. It was heavily edited by Pauline (Mother Agnes), who made more than seven thousand revisions to Therese's manuscript and presented it as a biography of her sister. Aside from considerations of style, Mother Marie de Gonzague had ordered Pauline to alter the first two sections of the manuscript to make them appear as if they were addressed to Mother Marie as well. Saint Therese had written her autobiography under obedience. While on her deathbed the Saint made many references to the book's future appeal and benefit to souls.
Since 1973, two centenary editions of Thérèse's original, unedited manuscripts, including The Story of a Soul, her letters, poems, prayers and the plays she wrote for the monastery recreations have been published in French. ICS Publications has issued a complete critical edition of her writings: Story of a Soul, Last Conversations, and the two volumes of her letters were translated by John Clarke, O.C.D.; The Poetry of Saint Thérèse by Donald Kinney, O.C.D.; The Prayers of St. Thérèse by Alethea Kane, O.C.D.; and The Religious Plays of St. Therese of Lisieux by David Dwyer and Susan Conroy.
Pope Pius X signed the decree for the opening of her process of canonization on June 10, 1914. Pope Benedict XV, in order to hasten the process, dispensed with the usual fifty-year delay required between death and beatification. On August 14, 1921, he promulgated the decree on the heroic virtues of Thérèse and gave an address on Thérèse's way of confidence and love, recommending it to the whole Church.
There may, however, have been a political dimension to the speed of proceedings, partly to act as tonic for a nation exhausted by war, or even a retort from the Vatican against the dominant secularism and anti-clericalism of the French government.
Thérèse was beatified on April 29, 1923 and canonized on May 17, 1925, by Pope Pius XI, only 28 years after her death. Her feast day was added to the Catholic calendar of saints in 1927 for celebration on October 3. In 1969, 42 years later, Pope Paul VI moved it to October 1, the day after her dies natalis (birthday to heaven).
Thérèse of Lisieux is the patron saint of aviators, florists, illness(es) and missions. She is also considered by Catholics to be the patron saint of Russia, although the Russian Orthodox Church does not recognize either her canonization or her patronage. In 1927, Pope Pius XI named Thérèse a patroness of the missions and in 1944 Pope Pius XII named her co-patroness of France alongside St. Joan of Arc.
By the Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia (The Science of Divine Love) of October 19, 1997, Pope John Paul II declared her a Doctor of the Church, one of only four women so named, the others being Teresa of Ávila (Saint Teresa of Jesus), Hildegard of Bingen and Catherine of Siena. Thérèse was the only saint to be named a Doctor of the Church during Pope John Paul II's pontificate.
According to some biographies of Édith Piaf, in 1922 the singer — at the time, an unknown seven-year-old girl — was cured from blindness after a pilgrimage to the grave of Thérèse, who at the time was not yet formally canonized.
Grand celebration of her canonization
Therese was declared a saint five years and a day after Joan of Arc. However, the 1925 celebration for Therese "far outshone" that for the legendary heroine of France. At the time, Pope Pius XI revived the old custom of covering St. Peter’s with torches and tallow lamps. According to one account, "Ropes, lamps and tallows were pulled from the dusty storerooms where they had been packed away for 55 years. A few old workmen who remembered how it was done the last time — in 1870 — directed 300 men for two weeks as they climbed about fastening lamps to St. Peter’s dome." The New York Times ran a front-page story about the occasion titled, “All Rome Admires St. Peter’s Aglow for a New Saint.” According to the Times, over 60,000 people, estimated to be the largest crowd inside St. Peter’s Basilica since the coronation of Pope Pius X, 22 years before, witnessed the canonization ceremonies. In the evening, 500,000 pilgrims pressed into the lit square.
Beatification of St. Therese's Parents
A movement is now under way to canonize her parents, who were declared "Venerable" in 1994 by Pope John Paul II. In 2004, the Archbishop of Milan accepted the unexpected cure of a child with a lung disorder as attributable to their intercession. Announced by Cardinal Saraiva Martins on July 12, 2008, at the ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of the marriage of the Venerable Zelie and Louis Martin, their beatification as a couple (the last step before canonization) took place on Mission Sunday, October 19, 2008, at Lisieux. In 2011 the letters of Blessed Zélie and Louis Martin were published in English as A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, 1863-1885. On January 7, 2013,in Valencia, Spain, the diocesan process opened to examine a "presumed miracle" attributed to their intercession: the healing of a newborn girl, Carmen, who was born prematurely four days after their beatification and who inexplicably recovered from severe bleeding of the brain and other complications.
The cause of Léonie Martin,Thérèse's sister
Some interest has also been shown in promoting for sainthood Thérèse's sister, Léonie, the only one of the five sisters who did not become a Carmelite nun. She entered religious life three times before her fourth and final entrance in 1899 at the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen. She took the name Sister Françoise-Thérèse and was a fervent disciple of Thérèse's way. She died in 1941 in Caen, where her tomb in the crypt of the Visitation Monastery can be visited by the public. On March 25, 2012, Mgr Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, granted the imprimatur for a prayer asking that Leonie might be declared venerable.
Together with St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the most popular Catholic saints since apostolic times. As a Doctor of the Church, she is the subject of much theological comment and study, and, as an appealing young woman whose message has touched the lives of millions, she remains the focus of much popular devotion.
Relics of St. Thérèse on a world pilgrimage
For many years Thérèse's relics have toured the world, and thousands of pilgrims have thronged to pray in their presence. Although Cardinal Basil Hume had declined to endorse proposals for a tour in 1997, her relics finally visited England and Wales in late September and early October 2009, including an overnight stop in the Anglican York Minster on her feastday, October 1. A quarter of a million people venerated them.
On June 27, 2010, the relics of St. Thérèse made their first visit to South Africa in conjunction with the 2010 World Cup. They remained in the country until October 5, 2010.
The writing-desk St. Therese used at Carmel (a possession, not a "relic" like the relics of the bone)is touring the United States in September and October 2013, sponsored by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.
In November 2013, a new reliquary containing relics of St. Therese and of her parents, Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, is being given to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It will be first exposed for veneration at the Magnificat Day on November 9 and will then be given to the Carmelite monastery in Philadelphia.
The Congregation of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was founded on March 19, 1931 by Mar Augustine Kandathil, the Metropolitan of the Catholic St. Thomas Christians, as the first Indian religious order for brothers.
Places named after St. Thérèse
A number of locations, churches, and schools throughout the world are named after Saint Thérèse.
The Basilica of St. Thérèse in her home town of Lisieux was consecrated on July 11, 1954. It has become a centre for pilgrims from all over the world. It was originally dedicated in 1937 by Cardinal Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII. The basilica can seat 4,000 people.
Devotees of St. Thérèse
Over the years, a number of prominent people have become devotees of St. Thérèse. These include:
- Jorge Mario Bergoglio - Pope Francis
- Albino Luciani – Pope John Paul I
- Henri Bergson – Nobel prize winner
- Padre Pio of Pietrelcina – Italian saint
- Ada Negri – Italian poet
- Giuseppe Moscati – Italian saint
- Maria Valtorta – Catholic mystic
- Paul James Francis Wattson - Founder of the Atonement Friars
- Francis Bourne – British Cardinal
- Thomas Merton – monk and writer
- Dorothy Day – founder of the Catholic Worker movement
- Georges Bernanos – French author
- Jack Kerouac – American author
- Saint Maximilian Kolbe – Polish martyr of Auschwitz
- Jean Vanier – founder of l'Arche
- Édith Piaf - French singer
- Blessed Teresa of Calcutta - Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity
- Saint Alphonsa - First Indian Saint
Works inspired by Thérèse
- In films
- 1952: André Haguet, Procès au Vatican ("Trial at the Vatican"), life of Thérèse based on original documents in consultation with the abbé Combes.
- 1964: Philippe Agostini, Le Vrai Visage de Thérèse of Lisieux ("The True Face of Thérèse of Lisieux"), short documentary.
- 1986: Alain Cavalier, Thérèse, biographical evocation, a film rewarded in 1987 with 6 César Awards including the César Award for Best Film.
- 2004: Leonardo Defilippis, "Thérèse: The Story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux"
- In music
- The Carmelite monk and musician Pierre Éliane has released four discs on the poetry of Therese. Thérèse songs, three discs from 1992 to 1994, and Sainte Therese de Lisieux - poesies (1997). The original texts are sung in full over melodies composed by Pierre Éliane.
- In 2013 Grégoire set some of the poems of Thérèse to music in an album called Thérèse – Vivre d'amour, with collaborating artists Natasha St-Pier, Anggun, Michael Lonsdale, Grégory Turpin, Les Stentors, Sonia Lacen, Elisa Tovati, Monseigneur di Falco and The Little Singers of Paris.
- Story of a Soul: the Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, translated from the original manuscripts by John Clarke, O.C.D. Third edition, 1996. ISBN 0935216588
- Story of a Life: St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Guy Gaucher, O.C.D. HarperOne: 1193. ISBN 978-0060630966
- Thérèse of Lisieux: a biography by Patricia O'Connor, 1984 ISBN 0-87973-607-0
- Thérèse of Lisieux: the way to love by Ann Laforest, 2000 ISBN 1-58051-082-5
- The Story of a Soul by T. N. Taylor, 2006 ISBN 1-4068-0771-0
- Thérèse of Lisieux by Joan Monahan, 2003 ISBN 0-8091-6710-7
- Thérèse of Lisieux: God's gentle warrior by Thomas R. Nevin, 2006 ISBN 0-19-530721-6
- Therese and Lisieux by Pierre Descouvemont, Helmuth Nils Loose, 1996 ISBN 0-8028-3836-7
- St. Thérèse of Lisieux: a transformation in Christ by Thomas Keating, 2001 ISBN 1-930051-20-4
- Thérèse of Lisieux: Through Love and Suffering, by Murchadh O Madagain, 2003 ISBN
- 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Thérèse of Lisieux by Constant Tonnelier, 2011 ISBN 978-1-56548-391-0
- St. Therese of the Roses
- Carmelite Rule of St. Albert
- Book of the First Monks
- Constitutions of the Carmelite Order
- Byzantine Discalced Carmelites
- Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites
- National Shrine of the Little Flower
- Victim soul
- Works of Thérèse, Illustrated Manuscripts, Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux
- McBrien, Richard P. (2001). The Pocket Guide to the Saints (1st paperback ed.). New York: HarperCollins. p. 672. ISBN 0-060-65340-X. Retrieved May 29, 2013. "She was a highly influential model of sanctity for Catholics in the first half of the twentieth century because of the simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life. (p. 399)"
- Cumming, Owen F. (2007). Prophets, Guardians, and Saints. Shapers of Modern Catholic History. Jamaica Estates, Queens, New York City: Paulist Press. ISBN 0-809-14446-8. Retrieved May 29, 2013. "Therese of Lisieux has become one of the most popular saints of all time, commanding the devotion, for example, of the singer Edith Piaf, brought up in a brothel in Lisieux and not particularly active as a Catholic. (p. 178)"
- Flinn, Frank K. (2006). Encyclopedia of Catholicism. Manhattan, New York City: Infobase Publishing. p. 598. ISBN 0-816-07565-4. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
- Descouvemont, Pierre; Loose, Helmuth Nils (1996). Therese and Lisieux. Toronto: Novalis. p. 5. ISBN 2-890-88862-2. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
- Görres, Ida Friederike (1959). The Hidden Face. A Study of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (8th ed.). New York City: Pantheon. p. 4. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
- Thérèse of Lisieux: God's gentle warrior by Thomas R. Nevin, 2006 ISBN 0-19-530721-6 p. 26.
- Guy Gaucher, The Spiritual Journey of Therese of Lisieux, p.2
- Vatican website: Proclamation as Doctor of the Church
- Venerable and to-be-Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin: Their Lives
- Therese and Lisieux, Pierre Descouvement, p.14
- Ida Gorres, The Hidden Face p.41-42
- Descouvement, Therese and Lisieux, p.24
- Gaucher, Spiritual Journey of Therese of Lisieux, p.19
- Ordinary Suffering of Extraordinary Saints by Vincent J. O'Malley, 1999 ISBN 0-87973-893-6 page 38
- The Hidden Face p. 66
- Guy Gaucher The Spiritual Journey of Therese of Lisieux
- Summarium 1 1914
- The Hidden Face , Ida Gorres p.73
- Thérèse of Lisieux: a biography by Patricia O'Connor, 1984 ISBN 0-87973-607-0 page 19
- Pierre Descouvemont and Helmuth Nils Loose, "Therese and Lisieux", p. 53, Toronto, 1996
- Gaucher, Spiritual Journey of Thérèse of Lisieux, p.47
- Thérèse of Lisieux: a biography by Patricia O'Connor, 1984 ISBN 0-87973-607-0 page 22
- Thérèse of Lisieux: the way to love by Ann Laforest, 2000 ISBN 1-58051-082-5 page 15
- The Story of a Soul by T. N. Taylor, 2006 ISBN 1-4068-0771-0 page 32
- Manuscript A, chapter 3, Story of a Soul.
- Therese and Lisieux, Pierre Descouvement, p 52
- Thérèse of Lisieux by Joan Monahan, 2003 ISBN 0-8091-6710-7 page 45
- Thérèse of Lisieux by Joan Monahan, 2003 ISBN 0-8091-6710-7 page 54
- Harrison, p.61
- Gorres, The Hidden Face, p.112
- Kathryn Harrison, Therese of Lisieux,A short life. W&N, p.63
- Ida Friederike Görres, "The hidden face: a study of St. Thérèse of Lisieux", p. 83, London, 2003
- Karen Armstrong, "The Gospel according to woman: Christianity's creation of the sex war in the West", p. 234, London, 1986
- Monica Furlong Thérèse of Lisieux, p.9, London, 2001
- Jean François Six, La verdadera infancia de Teresa de Lisieux: neurosis y santidad, passim, Spain, 1976
- Kathryn Harrison, Saint Therese of Lisieux , p 21 Weidenfeld & Nicholson 2003
- The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, 2003 Dover Press ISBN 0-486-43185-1
- Ida Gorres, The Hidden Face, p. 126-127
- Ida Gorres, The Hidden Face, p. 149
- Thérèse of Lisieux: a biography, by Patricia O'Connor, 1984, p. 34, ISBN 0-87973-607-0
- Kathryn Harrison, p.69
- Gorres, p.153
- Phyllis G. Jestice, Holy people of the world Published by ABC-CLIO, 2004, ISBN 1-57607-355-6
- Gaucher, Spiritual Journey of Therese of Lisieux, p.77
- Gorres, The Hidden Face,p.153-154
- Clarke, John O.C.D. trans. The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, 3rd Edition (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1996)
- Gorres, p.202
- "An essay illustrated with 19th century photos to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the day St. Therese of Lisieux entered Carmel, April 9, 1888" at thereseoflisieux.org. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
- The Story of a Soul by T. N. Taylor, 2006 ISBN 1-4068-0771-0 page 63
- Gaucher, Spiritual Journey of Thérèse of Lisieux, p.92
- Gorres, p.260
- Gaucher p.99
- Harrison, p.91
- Gorres, p.250-251
- Gaucher, p.109
- Gorres, p.258
- Last Conversations, 5 August 1897
- Gorres, p.261
- Harrison p.97
- Harrison, p.98
- Gaucher p.118
- Harrison, p.108
- General Correspondence, volume 2, p.762
- Gorres, p.114,
- Harrison, p.111
- A Memoir of my Sister, Céline Martin
- Kathryn Harrison, p.111
- The Hidden Face, p.401
- Harrison, p.118
- (French) Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus (1985). Histoire d'une âme. Manuscrits autobiographiques. Paris: Cerf. pp. 236, 302. ISBN 2-20402076-1.
- Saint Thérèse de Lisieux (2012). The Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une Âme). The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux With Additional Writings and Sayings of St. Thérèse. Hamburg: Tredition GmbH. ISBN 3-84720699-0. "a-b-c"
- Gorres, p.331
- p.219 Descouvement, Thérèse and Lisieux
- Gorres, p.188
- Gorres, p.189
- The making of a social disease: tuberculosis in nineteenth-century France by David S. Barnes 1995 ISBN 0-520-08772-0 page 66
- Therese of Lisieux CTS Stories Great Saints Series by Vernon Johnson. Pg 54
- Therese of Lisieux CTS Stories Great Saints Series by Vernon Johnston. Pg. 62
- Therese and Lisieux by Pierre Descouvemont, Helmuth Nils Loose, 1996 ISBN 0-8028-3836-7 page 245
- Collected poems of St Thérèse of Lisieux by Saint Thérèse (de Lisieux), Alan Bancroft 2001 ISBN 0-85244-547-4 page 75
- Ida Friederike Gorres p.164 The Hidden Face ISBN 0-89870-927-X
- Thomas R. Nevin, Thérèse of Lisieux: God's gentle warrior Oxford University Press US, 2006 ISBN 0-19-530721-6 pages 184 and 228
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Reparation
- Dorothy Scallan, The Holy Man of Tours (1990) ISBN 0-89555-390-2
- Therese joined this confraternity on April 26, 1885. See Derniers Entretiens, Desclee de Brouwer/Editions Du Cerf, 1971, Volume I, p. 483
- Paulinus Redmond, 1995 Louis and Zelie Martin: The Seed and the Root of the Little Flower Cimino Press ISBN 1-899163-08-5 page 257
- Ann Laforest, Thérèse of Lisieux: The Way to Love Published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2000 ISBN 1-58051-082-5 page 61
- Pierre Descouvemont, Thérèse and Lisieux Eerdmans Publishing, 1996 ISBN 0-8028-3836-7 page 137
- "La petite voie - Le Carmel en France". Carmel.asso.fr. 2012-10-08. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- Clarke, John O.C.D. trans. The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, 3rd Edition (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1996, p. 207).
- "The Power of Confidence: Genesis and Structure of the "Way of Spiritual Childhood" of St. Therese of Lisieux. Staten Island, NY: Alba House (Society of St. Paul), 1988, p. 5
- Therese's prayer
- On the meaning and importance of Therese'poems we can made to the work of Bernard Bonnejean, La Poésie thérésienne, prefaced by Constant Tonnelier, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 2006, ISBN 2-204-07785-2; ISBN 978-2-20407-785-9, in French.
- Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 104
- Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 141
- Apostolic Letter Divinis Amoris Scientia, October 19, 1997.
- O'Connor, Patricia M. (1984). Thérèse of Lisieux: A Biography. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor. p. 153. ISBN 978-0879736071.
- Loose, Helmuth N (1996). Therese and Lisieux. Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans. p. 335. ISBN 978-0802838360.
- "Saint Therese of Lisieux - The events of Beatification Sunday, October 19". Thereseoflisieux.org. 2008-10-19. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
- "Béatification à Lisieux des parents de sainte Thérèse" (in French). L'essemtiel des saints et des prénoms. Prenommer. October 19, 2008. Retrieved 22 October 2008.
- "God's Word renews Christian life". l'Osservatore Romano (Holy See). 22 October 2008. Retrieved October 22, 2008.
- Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway
- Cumming, Owen F. (2006). Prophets, Guardians, and Saints: Shapers of Modern Catholic History. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press. p. 178. ISBN 978-0809144464. Retrieved May 24, 2013. "St. Therese of Lisieux has become one of the most popular saints of all time, commanding, for example, the devotion of the singer Edith Piaf, brought up in a brothel in Lisieux and not particularly active as a Catholic"
- Tens of Thousands Flock to St. Thérèse Relics, By Anna Arco, 25 September 2009, The Catholic Herald (UK) 
- "Saint Therese of Lisieux - St. Therese's Relics Visit South Africa". Thereseoflisieux.org. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- Fr. George Thalian: The Great Archbishop Mar Augustine Kandathil, D. D.: the Outline of a Vocation, Mar Louis Memorial Press, 1961. (Postscript) (PDF)
- Titles at the Internet Movie Database.
- Details at the Internet Movie Database.
- List of biographical films
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Thérèse of Lisieux|
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- Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux translated into English - official Little Flower Web site - 10,000 pages and 5,000 photos
- Web site of the Pilgrimage Office at Lisieux
- "Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway", a comprehensive Web site about the life, writings, spirituality,and mission of Saint Therese of Lisieux
- The miraculous intercession of St Therese in the lives of four Mystics
- Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux, biographie
- The Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une Âme): The Autobiography of St. Thérèse (early edition heavily edited by Thérèse's sister)
- http://www.saintetherese.org (Sainte Thérèse – Mansourieh / Liban) Parish site in the Lebanese language
- Pope John Paul II's Divini Amoris Scientia in English
- Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Works by Thérèse de Lisieux at Project Gutenberg early 20th century editions, heavily edited by Therese's sister
- Second Class Relic of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
- Saint Thérèse Memorial Page at FindaGrave
- A collection of pictures of Thérèse, on the Lisieux Sanctuary website
- Saint Theresa's Shrine, first shine dedicated to the saint in the world
- Shrine of Alençon, birthplace of St. Therese