Talk:Thérèse of Lisieux/Franglais
Thérèse Martin, in religion sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, more known as saint Thérèse of Lisieux or saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus or little Thérèse, is a nun canonised born in Alençon, 2nd January 1873, and died in Lisieux, 30 September 1897.
This young norman felt an early call to religious life. Overcoming the obstacles she entered the Carmelite convent of Lisieux at 15. After nine years of religious life, whose last two spent in a night of faith, she dies of tuberculosis the 30 September 1897 at the age of 24.
The impact of her posthumous publications, including The Story of a Soul published shortly after her death, in fact one of the greatest saints of the twentieth century. Considered by Pius XI as the star of his pontificate , she is quickly beatified and canonised and then declared patron saint of missions and secondary patroness of France with Joan of Arc. Devotion to saint Thérèse has developed around the world.
The novelty of her spirituality, called the theology of the little way, has inspired many believers. It proposes to seek holiness, not in great actions, but in acts of everyday life, even the most insignificant, provided that they perform for the love of God. [? - ] In 1997, Pope Jean-Paul II made her the 33rd doctor of the Church, recognising the same, the exemplary writings and life of saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
1 Biography - 1.1 Childhood - 1.1.1 Alençon - 1.1.2. Arrival at Lisieux - 1.1.3 Education among Benedictines - 1.1.4 Departure of Pauline to the Carmelite convent in Lisieux - 1.1.5 A strange disease - 1.1.6 First communion and confession - 1.1.7 Scruples - 1.1.8 Conversion of Christmas 1886 - 1.1.9 Pranzini - 1.1.10 application to the convent - 1.1.11 Pilgrimage to Rome - 1.1.12 permission of the bishop
- 1.2 Life in the Carmelite convent - 1.2.1 - The Carmelite convent of Lisieux in 1888 - 1.2.2 - the period of the postulate 1.2.3 - Novitiate - 1.2.4 discrete life of a carmelite - 1.2.5 Election of Mother Agnes - 1.2.6 Discovery of the little way - 1.2.7 Offering to merciful love - 1.2.8 Disease and night of faith - 1.2.9 worsening of the disease
- 2 : Posterity of Thérèse of Lisieux
2.1 The writings of Therese - 2.1.1 Story of a Soul - 2.1.2 other writings - 2.2 Popular fame - 2.3 saint and doctor of the Church - 2.4 the relics of saint Thérèse - 2.5 Monuments to Therese - 2.6 Works inspired by Thérèse - 2.6.1. In the cinema - 2.6.2 in the theatre - 2.6.3 In music
- 3 : Spiritual doctrine of saint Thérèse
3.1 - The call to saintliness - 3.2 The little way - 3.2.2 track from childhood 3.2.3 constantly advancing - 3.3 Charity - 3.3.1 loving God 3.3.2 united in love 3.3.3 brotherly love 3.4 Trust in mercy
- 4 Complements
4.1 Related articles - 4.2 External links - 4.3 Bibliography
- 5 Notes and references
The father of Thérèse, Louis Martin (1823-1894), a watchmaker by training, and her mother Zélie-Marie Guérin (1831-1877), run a lace point d'Alençon business in which Louis becomes the accountant. They employ up to 20 workers. Both of great piety are part of the petty bourgeoisie, comfortable Alençon. Louis would have wanted to be in the canon of canons regular congregation Grand Saint-Bernard (Valais- Switzerland), but his ignorance of latin, prevented. Zélie-Marie had wanted to enter the convent,[sisters of the Hotel Dieu (Descouvemont)/Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul (Gorres)] as her older sister Marie-Louise, but the superior discouraged her inquiry outright.  Too, she promised herself, if she married, if possible to give all her children to the Church.
Louis and Zélie-Marie meet in 1858 and were married July 13, however decided to live as brother and sister in a perpetual continence. Their confessor who discourage them [in this] they have 9 children, but 4 died at a young age. All their children become religious:
- Marie (22 February 1860, becomes carmelite in Lisieux, in religion, sister marie of the sacred heart, dies 19 January 1940)
- Pauline ( 7 september 1861 , in religion Mother Agnes of jesus in the carmel of Lisieux , dies 28 July 1951)
- Leonie ( 3 June 1863, in religion sister Francoise-Therese, Visitandine at Caen (1894) (1899), dies 16 June 1941)
- Celine ( 28 April 1869 , in religion sister Genevieve of the Holy Face , dies 25 February 1959 in the Lisieux Carmel)
- and finally Therese
Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin born 12 rue Saint-Blaise in Alençon,[ 36 rue Saint-Blaise elsewhere ] 2 January 1873. She was soon baptised 4 January at the church Notre-Dame d'Alencon, with for godfather Paul Boul, son of a friend of the family, and for godmother her eldest sister Marie, both aged 13 years old. [Copying from the French - if born 22 Feb 1860, Marie in fact 12 years old!] In March, aged 2 months she comes close to death and has to be entrusted to a wet nurse, Rose Taille, who had already nursed 2 children of the Martin couple. (Enteritis which had already claimed the lives of four of her children, threatened her last little one. The doctor was clear; to be saved, the baby must be breast fed. It was a decisive year for the formation of her imagination. The odour of the stables and cut hay, the noise of te cackling poultry - all that was buried in the child's memory.)  Her health was restored and she grew up in the Normandy countryside. On her return to Alencon April 2 1874, her family surrounded her with affection. Her mother says of her that she is an intelligence superior to Céline, but less sweet, and especially of an almost invincible stubbornness..When she says 'no' nothing can be yielded. Mischievous and impish she gives joy to her family by her joy of life. But she is also emotional and often cries...
Therese is educated in a very Catholic family, attending each morning Mass 5h 30, strictly observe fasts and pray to the rythmn of the liturgical year. The Martins also practice charity and welcome the occasional vagabond to their table, visit the sick and elderly. Even if she isn't the 'model' little girl her sisters later portray, Therese is sensitive to this education. Thus, she plays a nun, often seeks to 'give pleasure to Jesus' and worries whether He is glad with her...one day she goes as far as to wish her mother would die, scolded, she says it's because she wants the happiness of Paradise for her.
From 1865 Zélie complained of breast pain. This cancer develops gradually. In December 1876 a doctor tells her the seriousness of the fibrous tumour; it is too late to attempt an operation. On February 24 1877 Zelie loses her sister Marie-Louise, died of tuberculosis in the convent of the Visitation in Le Mans, in religion sister Marie-Dosithee. After this loss the sickness worsens and the patient suffers more and more even if she hides it from her family.
In June 1877 Zelie leaves for Lourdes on pilgrimage hoping to be cured , but the miracle did not happen. She died August 28 1877, after several days of agony. At 4 and a half Therese has just lost her mother. She is deeply marked. Later, she would consider that the first part of her life stoppped that day. (After the burial, Louise Marais, the maid , looked sadly at the two youngest. 'Poor litttle ones, you have no mother!' Celine rushed into Marie's arms. Then Therese ran to Pauline, 'Very well! Pauline will be my mother!')  She chooses her older sister Pauline as an adoptive mother.
- Arrival at Lisieux
In November 1877, Louis and his five daughters moved to Lisieux to be close to Isidore, brother of Zélie and designated as surrogate tutor of the children by a family council. Isidore and his wife are indeed convinced that it is the most wise solution and they managed to convince Louis, initially reluctant to make this trip. To accommodate the Martin family, they found a private house surrounded by a park: Les Buissonnets. [Therese lived here from November 16 1877 to April 9 1888, the day she entered Carmel. The lease expired on December 31 1889, while Louis Martin was hospitalized at Bon-Sauveur in Caen]. Uncle Isidore, Lisieux pharmacist, then politically active, convinced monarchist, he defended Pope Leo XIII, and the development of social Catholicism. ( With 18,600 inhabitants, Lisieux was the first industrial city of the Calvados region at the end of the 19th century. Tanneries, cider factories, and distilleries processed the agricultural production of the region. Textile enterprises employed some 3000 workers around 1875. Lisieux was well known for its fine upholstery fabrics). Louis, who sold the family business of Alençon and now lives on his private income [rentes] dedicates himself to his daughters and especially Therese whom he calls his queen. He often walks with her around the place. Marie aged 17, took over the running of the house with the help of a maid that is taken on. Pauline , 16, deals with the education of the two little ones, especially Thérèse. Therese feels deeply the change of atmosphere; from the animation of the shop in Alencon always full of customers and workers, succeeds the silence and solitude of this withdrawn home where one receives few visitors. Her mother is missing all the more and she will write ; " After Mama died my character changed..so lively, I became shy and docile, sensitive to excess " Despite the love her father and Pauline , her 'mother', lavish on her, life is austere in Les Buissonnets and she will consider later that it is the second period of my existence, the most painful of the three.
Sundays and holidays bring a little fantasy into the well-regulated life of the girl, there was Mass at the Cathedral Saint-Pierre, where they meet up with the Guerins, then it is a joyous meal with them. Therese sometimes spends afternoons with one of her sisters at the house of her cousins Jeanne and Marie. But the beautiful Sundays pass too quickly for her taste.
At 7, in 1880, Therese makes her first confession. She doesn't know yet, fear and scruples. Since then I returned to confess every great Feast Day and it was a real feast for me every time I went there. On May 13 1880 it was Céline's First Communion, whose joy Therese shares. I think I received great graces that day and I consider it as one of the most beautiful of my life. She is in a hurry to receive in her turn her first communion and decides to use well the 3 years that separate her from that day by preparing herself for the event.
A disturbing incident occurred during a summer afternoon (in 1879 or 1880). She perceives from a window overlooking the garden, a man dressed exactly like Papa, having the same size and gait, only he was much more bent over. His head covered with a kind of apron of undecided colour, so that I could not see his face..He wore a hat similar to those of Papa. I saw him advancing with a regular step, along my little garden..Immediately a feeling of supernatural terror invades my soul.. Frightened , she called her father, who was away that day. Her sisters tried to reassure her, asked the maid about the incident, searched the garden, but in vain. The Martin sisters will only make sense of this vision 15 years later with the sickness of their father, struck with cerebral paralysis.
- Education among Benedictines
At 8 and a half years of age, October 3, 1881, Thérèse enters ,in her turn, the Benedictine school in Lisieux. She returns home at night since the boarding school is close to home. The lessons of Pauline and Marie had given her a good foundation and she finds herself at the head of the class. However, she discovers the community life something for which she is unprepared. Persecuted by older companions who envy her, she cries and dares not complain. She does not like the noisy bustle of recreation. Her mistress describes her as an obedient student, quiet and peaceful, thoughtful, or sometimes sad. She later claims that these five years were the saddest of her life and she found consolation only in the presence at the school of her Céline cherie, dear Céline.
Thérèse saw as a relief her return to Les Buissonnets in the evening, after school, finding there, the intimacy of her family, and her joy of life. Thursdays and Sundays become important days. With her cousin Marie Guérin she invents a new game; to live as solitaries at the end of the garden. They are moments of silence, prayers, rituals invented at the small altars set up by the wash house.
She loves equally to read, whichh meets her need for calm. Passionate tales of chivalry - she feels a great admiration for Joan of Arc. She thinks too, she is born for glory, but a hidden glory. The Good Lord made me understand that my glory would not appear to mortal eyes..it would consist in becoming a great saint!!!
- Departure of Pauline to the Carmelite convent in Lisieux
During the summer of 1882 Thérèse accidentally learns that her sister Pauline, her second 'mama' wants to enter the Carmel of Lisieux. The prospect of that departure causes great pain. Having learnt by surprise, it was as if a sword plunged into my heart. Pauline , seeking to console her, describes the life of a Carmelite religious to her sister. Thérèse feels then called, her also, to the Lisieux Carmel. She wrote: I felt that the Carmel was the desert where the good God wanted me to go also to hide...I felt so strongly that there was not the slightest doubt in my heart; this was not a child's dream who is carried away, but the certainty of a Divine call. I wanted to go to the Lisieux Carmel, not for Pauline, but for Jesus only.. One Sunday, during a visit to Carmel she manages to speak alone with the prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague. She believes in her vocation but does not accept a postulant under the age of 16. Thérèse will wait; she knows now that she has found her way.
Monday 2 October 1882, Pauline entered the Carmel, where she takes the name Sister Agnes of Jesus. A sad day for Thérèse who has to take up again the route to school for another year. Skipping a class, she enters the troisième, third, where she prepares for first communion. Religious instruction will be one of the important subjects, a subject in which Thérèse excels. The prospect of Communion, so much waited upon, is a ray of sunshine for her. But, misfortune, she is excluded on account of a recent rule of the bishopric, which sets the age of communicants. Her uncle Isidore had no qualms about traveling to Bayeux to request an exemption from the bishop - in vain.
Even the half hour that the prioress accords to Pauline to meet her family in the parlour every Thursday becomes a torture for Thérèse. The young Carmelite neglects her a little. There often only remains two or three minutes to speak to Therese Ah! what I suffered in this parlour of Carmel! At 10 it seems to her she loses her mother for the second time. I told myself in the bottom of my heart - Pauline is lost to me!!!
- A strange disease
Towards the end of December 1882 the health of Thérèse degrades strangely - she is taken continually with headaches, and pains in her side. She eats little, spots appear. Her character also changes, sometimes she gets upset with Marie and even squabbles with Céline, though so close to her. In the parlour of the convent, Pauline is worried about her young sister, on whom she lavishes loving advice and reprimands.
During the Easter holidays, 1883, Louis Martin organises a trip to Paris with Marie and Léonie. Uncle Isidore Guerin welcomes Céline and Thérèse to his home. On March 25, Easter night, at the meal, the memory of Zélie is evoked. Thérèse then collapses in tears and has to be put to bed. She spends a very restless night. Her worried uncle calls a doctor the next day. This doctor diagnoses a very serious illness which no child has ever been struck down with. Given the seriousness of her condition he sends a telegram to Louis , who returns in haste from Paris.
Several times a day she suffers from nervous tremors, halluciinations and fits of terror. Then she is taken by a great state of weakness and although she retains all her lucidity, she can not be left alone. However, the patient repeats that she wants to attend the taking of the habit by Pauline, scheduled for April 6. The morning of the fateful day, after a particularly strong attack, Thérèse gets up as if by miracle , and apparently cured, went with her family to the Carmel. She spends the whole day, full of gaiety and enthusiasm. But the next day, a sudden relapse, the patient was delirious and seemed deprived of reason. The doctor, very worried, still does not find the source of her pain. Louis wonders if his poor little girl will die or sink into madness.
The whole family prays for Thérèse, and say a novena of masses, they place a statue of the Virgin in her room. But the patient only finds her reason temporarily when she receives a letter from her sister Carmelite, which she reads and re-reads many times.
On May 13, 1883, Day of Pentecost, Léonie, Marie and Céline try to calm Thérèse who does not recognise them. Powerless to relieve her, they kneel at the foot of the bed and turn toward the statue of the Virgin. Thérèse will write later ; Finding no relief on earth, poor little Thérèse had also turned to her mother of Heaven, she prayed to her with all her heart to have pity on her. Thérèse then is overwhelmed by the beauty of the Virgin and especially by the smile she sends her. Ah! I thought, the Holy Virgin has smiled on me, I'm happy... At this moment, the patient relaxes in front of her amazed sisters. From the next day all traces of the disease disappeared except two small warnings in the following month. She remains fragile but she will not suffer in the future any new manifestation of these disorders.
The doctor having advised the family to steer the girl clear of any strong emotion, she is now pampered to excess by her entourage.
At the end of May 1883 she can resume visits to Pauline in the parlour of Carmel. Some years before her death she will consider that her illness was most probably/certainly the devil, rightly enraged at the entrance of Pauline to Carmel and anxious to take revenge on the youngest.
Questioned by Marie, Thérèse, who had promised herself to keep the secret of the Virgin's smile, finally tells her everything. The Carmelites scream, miracle, and press her with questions. Her joy turns then into suffering; she imagines she has betrayed the Virgin. So much that an insidious doubt seeps into her: did she not feign her illness? She will write; I have lied to myself...I wasn't able to look at myself without a feeling of deep horror. Ah! what I experienced I can only say that in heaven! The doubt and guilt are going to worry her for five years.
- First Communion and Confession
As a precaution, they prolong the convalescence of Thérèse until summer vacations which provide an opportunity for her to leave Lisieux and make her entrance in the world. For the first time, she returns to Alençon and the places of her childhood, - but also the grave of her mother. Everywhere the Martins are received by the family friends, the good bourgeoisie of Alençon. Everywhere "was a holiday around me, I was fêted, spoiled, admired ". Thérèse seems recovered from her illness, and particularly appreciates this new world for her, full of charms and temptations. She is dazzled - but does not forget , for all that, Pauline and the Carmel of Lisieux.
October 1883. It is back to school , finally with the prospect of the long awaited First Communion. Throughout the year Thérèse is first in catechism. ( One day according to Mother Saint Francis de Sales, who taught catechism, when she was explaining the lesson on baptism, Therese stopped her 'But then, the little children who die without baptism will never see God? Never? Never? But they have not sinned.' The teacher repeated the formal answer of the catechism... they will never see God during all eternity.. This did not appease Therese, who immediately said, with great sadness, 'But, not to see God is terrible; since the greatest happiness is to see God, they will never be happy!..Then after some words of regret, 'Well, since God can do everything, if I were God I would show myself!') She prepares herself equally at Les Buissonnets. Each week Pauline writes to her from Carmel; she advises her sister on daily sacrifices and prayers to offer Jesus. Thérèse takes these lists very seriously and applies herself to following them scrupulously. She puts herself in Marie's hands, who helps her in following the spirituality of Francis de Sales. Communion is set for 8 May 1884, the day also for the profession of Pauline. It is a period without clouds for Thérèse.
During the First Communion mass, Thérèse cries profusely, tears of joy, and not pain. She perfectly describes the whole intensity of this first mystical encounter - " Oh! it was sweet, this first kiss of Jesus in my soul!...It was a kiss of love, I felt loved, and I said also, I love you, I give myself to you forever.....There were no demands, no struggles, no sacrifices; for a long time Jesus and poor little Thérèse looked at each other and understood each other. " Receiving the host she feels equally and always in communion with her mother in heaven and her sister in Carmel. The spiritual depth of this day does not prevent the communicant from appreciating the family celebration and the many gifts she receives.
Thérèse is impatient to receive again the Eucharist, but communion is then subject to the permission of the confessor. Against all hope Fr. Domin, chaplain to the Benedictines of Lisieux, authorises her to receive communion for the second time two weeks later, 22 May 1884, Ascension Day. During the following year she receives great graces, but also the intuition that sufferings await. She feels herself ready to confront them and experiences , a great desire of suffering , whilst the doubts and scruples born of her illness disappear.
June 14 1884, she is confirmed by Monsignor Hugonin, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux. By receiving the Holy Spirit, the young confirmed one, is amazed by this sacrament of Love, that, she is sure, will give her the strength to suffer.
The holidays of the summer 1884 are splendid: Thérèse spent the month of August at the home of her aunt's mother, Madame Fournet, at Saint-Ouen-le-Pin, 10 km. west of Lisieux. This stay in the Normandy countryside delighted the young girl, as evidenced by Mme. Guerin in a letter to her husband : "The face of Thérèse is always beaming with happiness."
After these wonderful holidays, the girl made her return to school in October 1884. A school year without incident, even if she still suffers from the misbehaviour of some classmates. Her mistress will remember her as a student, gentle and sensitive, ready to burst into tears when she is not the first .
In May 1885 Thérèse prepares for what was then called the second communion , the renewal of her First Communion. At the time of the retreat, following the tone of a part of the clergy in this epoch, Father Domin stresses the faults one must not commit, mortal sins, death, and the last judgement.
The soul's troubles that had so tormented Thérèse and which seemed to have disappeared, suddenly re-awaken. The girl, so fragile, slips back, anew, into the terrible disease of scruples.
Thérèse believes herself to be to blame and develops a strong sense of guilt about everything. "the most simple thoughts and actions became for her a source of trouble". She does not confide in Pauline who seems so distant to her in Carmel. It is Marie, her last mother to whom she henceforth tells all, including her wildest thoughts. Marie helps her to prepare her confessions, in leaving aside all her fears. Docile, Thérèse obeys her. This has the effect of hiding her ugly disease, from her confessors, thereby depriving her of their advice.
The summer holidays are a moment of diversion for Thérèse. With her sister Céline , they spend a fortnight at Trouville by the seaside. "Thérèse is openly happy", her aunt notices, "I never saw her so cheerful". But perhaps she is only hiding her suffering.
The return to school in October 1885 did not begin auspiciously. In effect, Céline, her play companion, the big sister always ready to defend her, completed her studies. Her cousin Marie, often ill, does not return to the school. Thérèse is alone at the Abbey school. She tries hard to link with friends but in vain. In addition the year begins with a retreat where once again sin is emphasised, hell and death.
At the beginning of 1886, aged 13, Thérèse begins to suffer from headaches. In early March the headaches become constant: before the continuing absences of the girl, her father decides to withdraw her from the Abbey. Henceforth she goes 3 or 4 times a week to a Madame Papineau, for private lessons. It is a very different ambience, at the home of this 50 year old lady, " a very good person, very educated, but having a little the look of an old maid " - she lives with her mother and her cat. [Often the lesson was interrupted by visitors and the gossip of the town was overheard. Sometimes she would hear them asking,'Who is this pretty girl? What beautiful hair!' Therese recognised that she was not at all indifferent to these compliments.'These words, especially flattering because they were not spoken in my presence,left in my soul an impression of pleasure which showed me clearly how I was filled with self-love. Oh! how I feel for souls that are drifting..']
The girl took advantage of her manifold free time to kit out a garret at Les Buissonnets "a real mess" . She is at home and spends hours studying, devouring books, meditating and praying.
In June, for a change, she is sent back to Trouville. But without Céline she is bored and falls sick. Worried, her aunt brings her back to Lisieux. Immediately, she recovers, - it was only homesickness for Les Buissonnets she acknowledges.
In October 1886 her older sister Marie also enters the Carmel of Lisieux and becomes Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, while Léonie (7 October 1886), is admitted to the Poor Clares in the rue Demi-Lune. Surprised and sad, Louis Martin retains with him at Les Buissonnets only his two youngest daughters. After the departure of her third mother Thérèse passes through a period of depression and cries frequently.
Her crisis of scruples reaches its climax and she does not know in whom to confide, now that Marie has left for Carmel. She then prays spontaneously to her four brothers and sisters who died at an early age. She addresses herself to them with simplicity asking them to intercede for her and that she may recover the peace that has left her. The answer comes quickly and she feels at once calmed. "I realised that if I was loved on earth, I was also loved in heaven".
In spite of this healing which removes her scruples Thérèse is still excessively emotional: "I was really unbearable with my too great emotionality" The adolescent, who will soon be 14, [yet in some ways] barely out of her childhood, how could she support the hard life of the Discalced Carmelites? It would require a miracle for that.
- The Conversion of Christmas 1886
On Christmas Eve, Louis Martin and his daughters, Léonie, Céline and Thérèse, attend a midnight mass at the Cathedral but there was very little heart left in them. [On 1 December Léonie had returned to Les Buissonnets after just seven weeks of the Poor Clare regime in Alencon - her sisters were helping her get over her sense of failure and humiliation]. Back at Les Buissonnets as every year, Thérèse puts her shoes before the fireplace for presents to be placed in them. Tired and annoyed by this childishness, Louis said to Céline, "Fortunately it is the last year." Thérèse begins to cry and then, suddenly, pulls herself together and wipes her tears. Happy, she then opens her presents in front of Céline who can't believe it.
She explains the mystery of this conversion in her writings. Speaking of Jesus she says that," on that night when he made himself weak and suffering out of love for me, he made me strong and courageous". She discovers the joy in self forgetfulness and adds : I felt, in a word, charity enter my heart, the need to forget myself to make others happy, and since then,I was happy.. Suddenly she is released from the defects and imperfections of her childhood : this grace received on Christmas night makes her grow into adulthood. She had found, " the strength of mind she had lost " at the death of her mother, and "she was to retain it for ever."
Many things will change after this Christmas night 1886, which marks the beginning of the third part of her life, the best. She will call it the "night of my conversion" and will write: "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)
A few weeks before her death she will speak of this event: "I think today about my past life, the act of courage I had made before at Christmas! And the praise for Judith came back to my memory: You have acted with virile courage and your heart is your strength. Many souls say; but I have not the strength to accomplish such a sacrifice. So they should do then, what I did: a great effort! the good God never refuses this first grace which gives the courage to act, after that, the heart gains strength and one goes from victory to victory."
Transformed and expansive, Thérèse develops on all fronts. She then draws closer to Céline again, her new confidante. With the permission of her confessor, she goes to communion 4 or 5 times a week, which makes her cry with joy; "I felt in my heart, rushes unknown until then, I sometimes had real transports of love. " All interests her and she reads widely, notably The Imitation of Christ, that she knows by heart and she amuses others when they make her recite it when she goes to the Guerins.
She felt at this time the need to pray for the conversion of sinners. The newspapers speak at this time abundantly of a man condemned to death, Henri Pranzini, whom they describe as a monster, because he has never expressed any regret for his murders. The execution must take place during the summer of 1887 and Thérèse decides to obtain his conversion. She makes sacrifices for this and prays even more intensely. Trusting in the mercy of God she asks for a simple sign of conversion, to be encouraged in her prayers. At the execution, on August 31 at dawn in the Grande Roquette prison, Pranzini refuses to see the priest, but at the last moment he turns and kisses the Cross before dying.
The story of the death of Pranzini that she reads in the paper of her father, (disregarding her father's ruling not to read the newspapers), marks Thérèse and strengthens her vocation. She will spend her life in Carmel and become a nun to pray for all sinners. She continues her prayers for Pranzini and asks that Masses be celebrated for the man that she calls her first child.
This episode illuminates a crucial aspect of the theology to be developed by Thérèse of Lisieux, that of divine mercy : she is certain that God has forgiven Pranzini. This vision is more radical than the public opinion and the newspapers of the time that have very little forgiveness towards criminals.
- Application to the convent
Thérèse feels herself now ready to enter the Lisieux Carmel. She has even fixed the date: 25 December 1887, the anniversary of her conversion. She also knows that she must overcome many obstacles, and, thinking perhaps of Joan of Arc, she resolves to "conquer the fortress of Carmel at the point of the sword."
She must first obtain the consent of her family and particularly, of her father. Determined, but timid, she hesitates before confiding her secret to him, especially as Louis Martin has undergone a few weeks earlier a slight stroke that left him paralysed for several hours. On June 2 , the day of Pentecost, after praying all day, she presents him with her request in the evening, in the garden of Les Buissonnets. Louis argues that she is too young - but he is quickly convinced. He adds that God does him " a great honour to ask of him in this way his children."
Her sisters are divided : Marie tries to delay the decision, while Pauline encourages it. Céline, who suffers in advance from the departure of her sister, supports her nevertheless.
But an obstacle of substance stands in the way in October 1887: her uncle Isidore, surrogate-tutor of the Martin girls , who puts his veto on the desire of his niece. Cautious, the pharmacist of Lisieux fears the gossip and if he does not doubt the religious vocation of Thérèse, he asks her to wait until the age of 17. The girl, confident despite everything, confides in Pauline. But from 19 to 22 October, she feels for the first time in her life, an inner aridity. This dark night of the soul disorientates her, she who has received so many graces since Christmas 1886. "I felt that I was alone, finding no consolation either on earth or from heaven.." Seeing her sister's dismay in the parlour, Pauline decides to write to Isidore Guerin. The latter, by esteem for his god-daughter, finally gives his assent, 22 October.
Thérèse is not yet out of the woods, since she now faces the categorical rejection of Canon Delatroëtte, ecclesiastical superior of the Lisieux Carmel. Scalded by the failure of a similar case which was still the talk of Lisieux, he no longer accepts postulants of less than 21. Only the bishop could deflect him from this course. To console his daughter in tears, Louis promises to take her to meet Mgr. Hugonin, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux.
He receives Thérèse in Bayeux on October 31. and listens as she expresses the wish to devote herself to God, she felt since she was a child. But he will give his decision later, when he has taken the advice of canon Delatroette.
There remains only one hope: Pope Leo XIII, that Louis Martin will meet shortly during a pilgrimage to Rome organised by the diocese of Coutances. Thérèse and Céline will travel, and the departure is fixed for 4 November 1887.
- Pilgrimage to Rome
The pilgrimage which the Martin family join is organised for the jubilee of Leo XIII. Led by Mgr. Germain, the Bishop of Coutances ( considered the most passionate ultramontane in the French episcopate), it brings together 197 pilgrims, including 75 priests. In the absence of Mgr. Hugonin, it is the Abbé Révérony, his vicar general who represents him. The cost of the trip has enforced a strict selection, a quarter of the pilgrims belong to the nobility. "In order to gain more participants" said Mgr. Laveille who participated in the journey, " the pilgrimage was to be arranged not only as an act of piety towards the Holy Father, but also as a lavish pleasure trip." The pilgrims were to be put up only in first-class hotels. Thérèse herself had but one purpose: to fight for her vocation, to speak to the Pope.
The rendez-vous being fixed in Paris, Louis took advantage to make a visit round the capital with his daughters. It is during a Mass , 4 November, at Our Lady of Victories, a church very dear to Louis, that Thérèse is finally delivered from the last of her doubts about the Virgin's smile. For four years she had borne that trial. There at Our Lady's feet she re-found her happiness: "It really was her who had smiled at me and cured me" She entrusts to her the trip, and her vocation.
The special train leaves the Gare de l'Est on Monday , 7 November at 6.35 a.m. in the rain. It brings them to Italy, after passing through Switzerland. The girl is never tired of admiring the scenery she discovers during the trip. She is aware of what she will lose; "I said to myself: later in the hour of trial, when a prisoner in Carmel, I shall only be able to watch a little piece of starred heaven, I shall remember what I'm seeing today."
The pilgrims are received in the best hotels. Formerly shy and reserved, Thérèse appears very comfortable in all this luxury, in the midst of this good company. The youngest in the pilgrimage, bright and pretty with her beautiful dresses, she does not go unnoticed. " In Bologna a student boldly jostled against her on purpose - an experience which often befalls blonde girls in Italy. Then he took her in his arms and carried her across the street. However a single look on her part was enough to make the young gallant let her go and retreat in embarrassment." 
Visits follow one after another: Milan, Venice, Loreto; finally is the arrival in Rome. In the Colosseum, Thérèse braves the prohibitions and enters the arena to kiss the sand where the blood of martyrs has flowed. She asks the grace to be a martyr for Jesus, then adds "I felt in the depths of my soul that my prayer had been heard." She seeks to see eveything, visit everything...the days are not long enough. Moreover, her juvenile enthusiasm does not please some clerics - in the evening , with Céline, she sits on the floor of their hotel room and discusses the day's events late into the night. Fr Vauquelin would knock on the dividing wall to make the girls keep quiet.
But Thérèse does not forget the purpose of her trip. A letter from her sister Pauline encourages her to present her request to the Pope. She answers, "It is tomorrow, Sunday, that I shall speak to the Pope". On November 20 1887 heavy rain fell on Rome - a bad sign for Thérèse who noticed that in all the important events of her life nature reflected the state of her soul. Early, 7.30 , the pilgrims attend the papal chapel for a Mass celebrated by the Pope. Then comes the long awaited moment of the audience: the vicar general presents each in turn to the pope. But, an old man of 77, being tired, it is forbidden for the pilgrims to speak to him. In spite of this, her turn come, Thérèse kneels and says, crying, "Most Holy Father, I have a great favour to ask you". The vicar explains that it is a question of a young girl who wants to enter the Carmelite convent of Lisieux at 15. "My child, do what the superiors tell you" replies the pope. The young girl insists: "Oh, Most Holy Father, if you said yes, everyone would be yes.." Leo XIII replies "Well..well...you will enter if God wills it!" But Thérèse wants a decisive word and waits, her hands joined on the pope's knees. Two guards have to carry her to the exit.
The same evening, she wrote to Pauline, to tell her the failure: " I have a sad heart. However, God can not give me tests that are beyond my strength. He has given me the courage to bear this too." Soon,the whole pilgrimage knows Thérèse's secret, and even at Lisieux, since a journalist from Louis Veuillot's newspaper L'Univers publishes the incident.
The trip continues: they visit Pompeii, Naples, Assisi; then it's back via Pisa and Genoa. In Nice, a glimmer of hope for Thérèse: the vicar general promises to support her request. On 2 December the long and complicated journey comes to an end back in Paris at one in the morning, and the following day they are back in Lisieux.
Here is a pilgrimage of nearly a month which ends in failure for Thérèse, a fiasco Céline will write. However, the trip comes 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. She crossed France, Switzerland, and visited up and down Italy. Attentive to all she saw and heard, she understood something of the history and peoples of the Church. Notably she, who only knew priests in the exercise of their ministry was in their company, heard their conversations, not always edifying. She discovered they are not perfect, that they are simply men and sometimes weak and vulnerable men. Henceforth , she knows why the Carmel prays especially for this : "I understood my vocation in Italy"
She also learned more about herself; she proved lively, humorous, very at ease in the world. She became aware of her femininity, of her beauty, to which the young Italian men did not remain indifferent. The way to a brilliant marriage could have opened out before her. "Easily my heart couild have got caught by affection". But her resolution is only stronger, and it is freely that she accepts to be prisoner for love in Carmel. Back in Lisieux, she acknowledges this: " a less strong vocation could have been shaken".
- Permission of the bishop
Following her return to Lisieux, Thérèse goes to the parlour of Carmel - where a strategy is put in place. But the canon Delatroëtte remains intractable and distrusts the manouevres of the carmelites. He rebuffs Mother Geneviève, the founder of the Lisieux Carmel, and Mother Marie de Gonzague, the current Mother Superior, who goes to plead the cause of Thérèse with him. Uncle Isidore Guerin intervenes in his turn, but in vain. On December 14 Thérèse writes to Mgr Hugonin and to his vicar general and reminds him of the promise made in Nice. Humanly, everything has been tried, she must now wait, and pray.
On Christmas Eve, the anniversary of her 'conversion', Thérèse attends the midnight mass. She can not hold back her tears but feels that the test increases her faith and her abandonment to divine will: she had been wrong to want to impose a date.
Finally, 1 January 1888, the eve of her fifteenth birthday, she receives a letter from Mother Marie de Gonzague - the bishop leaves the decision to her. Thérèse is expected in Carmel, but a delay is set, on the advice of Pauline, she will not be able to enter until April, after the rigours of Lent. This wait is a new test for the future postulant who sees in it nevertheless an opportunity to prepare herself interiorly.
The date of her departure for Carmel is fixed for the 9 April 1888, the feast of the Annunciation. Thérèse is 15 years and 3 months old. It may be noted that in this time a girl could make her religious profession at age 18. It was therefore not uncommon to see, in religious orders, postulants and novices as young as 16. The precocity of Thérèse, given the ways of the period is not then exceptional.
Life in the Carmel
- The Carmel of Lisieux in 1888
The Carmelite order had been reformed in the sixteenth century by Teresa of Avila. The Carmelite life is essentially devoted to personal and collective prayer. The times of silence and of solitude are many but the foundress had also planned for time for work and relaxation in common. The austerity of this life should not hinder sisterly and joyful relations. However, over the centuries, some drift occurred in line with a spirit of penance, 'indiscreet ascetical practices', sometimes excessive, and a narrow moralism. The Carmel of Lisieux does not escape these faults present in the French Catholicism of the nineteenth century.
Founded in 1838, the Carmel of Lisieux in 1888 has 26 religious. The average age is 47. These women called to pray and live in community are from very different social classes and backgrounds. Their schooling being stopped early, the cultural level of the religious is quite poor. Some have benefited from more education - this is for example the case with the Martin sisters and the prioress Marie de Gonzague and two or three other nuns.
The schedule is as follows. In summer, rising at 4:45 . Personal prayer from 5 to 6. From 6 to 8, liturgucal office and Mass. At 8, breakfast - soup, nothing on fast days, then work. At 10, meal , followed by communal recreation. A midday siesta, free time , silence. At 13h , work for one hour, followed by the liturgical office of Vespers. At 14:30 , spiritual reading. 15h, work. 17h, personal prayer. 18h dinner, followed by recreation and 19:40 the office of Compline. At 20h free time in silence. At 21h , liturgical office Matins and Lauds, then examination of conscience. Towards 22;30 or 23h :sleep. (Six hours of sleep in summer, plus one hour of siesta, seven hours continuous sleep in winter) (Summer - Easter - September 14, winter September 14 - Easter)
The religious keep silence during meals, when a spiritual reading is read aloud. In winter, the hour of rising is delayed an hour and the midday nap withdrawn.
One sees this vocation is essentially contemplative, with two hours of personal prayer, four and a half hours of liturgical offices, a half hour of spiritual reading. There remain five hours of manual labour (laundry, cooking, sewing, sacristy...) two hours of free time, in silence, and two hours of communal recreation. [To remind themselves that they owned nothing, the Cramelites of Thereses time habitually referred to 'our breviary', 'our cell'.]
For the majority of the life of Thérèse , the prioress will be Mother Marie de Gonzague, born Marie-Adèle-Rosalie Davy de Virville, from 1874 - 1882, then from 1886- 1893, and from 1896 until her death in 1904. The prioress, head of the community was elected for three years and was required to cede her place every six years. When Thérèse enters the Carmelite convent, Mother Marie is 54. She is a distinguished woman, convincing, and whose judgement is appreciated by the priests of Lisieux. She is however of changeable humour. Jealous of her authority, she sometimes uses it too harshly, or in a capricious manner; this has for effect , a certain laxity in the observance of established rules.
- The period of the postulate
Thérèse's time as a postulant begins with her welcome into the Carmel, 9 April 1888. At the time of her entry canon Delatroëtte reminds her that he personally has always opposed it. Her vocation has been the source of tensions between the priest and the Carmelites. Her arrival had been desired by many sisters, starting with Marie de Gonzague. Is Thérèse going to attract too much attention on her? And still so sensitive and pampered, shortly before, will she succeed in getting used to the austere way of life? Moreover, with Pauline (sister Agnès) and Marie (Sister Marie of the Sacred-Heart), the Martin sisters are now three in the community. Will they not seek to recreate the family atmosphere of les Buissonnets? But the young postulant adapts 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.." Her two older sisters want to take care of her as if they were still at Les Buissonnets. It is Thérèse who helps them to keep their distance. She seeks, above all, to conform to the rules and customs of the Carmelites that she learns each day with her four religious of the novitiate. ( Sister Marie of the Angels, 43, the novice mistress; 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 she had become assistant to the novice mistress, she repeats how important respect for the Rule is, making of her experience a maxim: "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" Thérèse also affirms the essential role of obedience in religious life: "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."
On the 17 May Mother Marie de Gonzague writes of her :"..I would never have believed in a judgement so advanced in someone just 15 years of age! not a word has to be said to her, everything is perfect" However the Mother Prioress does not treat her considerately. At each meeting, she humiliates her in some way or another, wanting perhaps to test her vocation or reduce her pride. It is all the more painful for Thérèse because she admires the prioress. She would like to confide more in her , or ask her for one or other permission. She resists however this desire. (Note on Marie de Gonzague, source Gorres , p201 - " Mother Marie de Gonzague - in the world Marie-Adele Rosalie Davy de Virville , from a respected and noble family. She had entered the Lisieux Carmel in 1860, at the age of 26. Tall and stately. She did not permit the stinging nettles to be hoed out, because she used them for mortifications. There is no more dangerous flatterer than inferior surroundings This profound epigram of Madame Swetchine was illustrated in the fate of Marie de Gonzague. Conservative pious circles are apt to have an ingrained respect for titles and names. In the 60s and 70s of the 19th 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 1866 she became sub-prioress, in 1874 began the long series of terms as Prioress which lasted until her death. Particular indignation was aroused in the convent by the excessively close ties she maintained with her relations in the world. Against all the regulations and customs of the Carmel, a friend came daily to the parlour and retailed to the Prioress all the latest news of her circle. Frequently her sister, the countess appeared with her grandchildren for a lengthy visit, and Marie de Gonzague placed the whole convent vurtually at the countess's disposal, just as if she were the lady of her own chateau. It seemed natural to the Prioress to put her nuns at the countess's service on such days - to keep her company and entertain her. All those in the house who had skilled fingers were enlisted to embroider coats of arms for her, mend her lingerie, paint mementoes and little pictures, and even freshen up and copy old, dim family portraits. Equally reprehensible was the fact that Marie de Gonzague used convent funds to help her sister out of financial embarrassments. " )
She chooses as spiritual director, a jesuit, Father Pichon. At their first meeting (28 May) she makes a general confession going back over all her past sins. She comes away from it profoundly relieved. This priest who had himself suffered from the disease of scruples, understands her and reassures her. He tells her: "In the presence of God, and the Holy Virgin, and all the saints, I declare that you have never committed a single mortal sin." A few months later, father Pichon leaves for Canada. Thérèse will only be able to ask his advice by letter and his replies will be, unfortunately, rare. [On July 4 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 has to endure some bullying from other sisters because of her lack of aptitude for handicrafts/manual work. Sister St Vincent de Paul, the finest embroideress in the community, made her feel awkward and even gave Therese the nickname, 'the big nanny goat. (Therese was in fact the tallest in the family , 1.62m - Pauline the shortest, no more than 1.54m tall. During her last visit to Trouville at the end of June 1887, Therese was called, with her long blond hair, the tall English girl. ) Like all religious she discovers the ups and downs related to differences in temperament, character, problems of sensitivities or infirmities. (After nine years she wrote baldly: "the lack of judgement, 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 comes from outside Carmel. On June 23 1888 Louis Martin disappeared from his home. The following day a telegram arrived from Le Havre, but with no address for him there. He is found on the 27th in the post office in Le Havre. His mind had cleared but he spoke of wanting to withdraw into solitude and live as a hermit. For Thérèse who has always loved and deeply admired her father, the blow is painful. Added to the guilt of not being able to be at his side to help him, the rumours of the town echo within the Carmel that receives them If monsieur Martin has become 'mad', isn't it down to the departure of his daughters into religion, espescially the youngest that he loved so much? On the basis of his symptoms noted at the time, doctors today think that Louis suffered from cerebral arteriosclerosis.
The end of Thérèse's time as a postulant arrives on the 10 January 1889, with her clothing , which marks her entry into the novitiate. The ceremony is presided over by Mgr Hugonin. Louis whose state has temporarily stabilised is able to attend. She wears henceforth the Carmelite habit: rough homespun and brown scapular, white wimple and veil, leather belt with rosary, woollen 'stockings', rope sandals. She chooses the name soeur Thérèse de l'Enfant Jésus et de la Sainte Face. [ ?? check]
Twelve days after her clothing her father has a particularly serious crisis. He is delirious, believes he is on a battlefield, grabs a revolver...He has to be disarmed by force and is put in the asylum of Bon Sauveur in Caen. For the Martin sisters who have always venerated their father, the trial is terrible, even incomprehensible. Given all the comment , Thérèse opts for silence. She relies on prayer, helping herself with verses from the Bible. A handwriting analysis, done in the 20th century, of her letters, shows her in a state of great tension, sometimes to the brink of collapse.
In this period she deepens 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 who wants to become a great saint, does not deceive herself. She writes : "I applied myself especially to practice little virtues, not having the facility to perform great ones."She absorbs the work of John of the Cross, spiritual reading uncommon at the time, especially for such a young nun.
Contemplation of the Holy Face nourishes her inner life. This is an image representing the disfigured face of Jesus during his passion. She deepens her knowledge and her love for Jesus by meditating on his humiliation using a passage from the Book of Isaiah on the suffering servant (Isaiah 53, 1-2).
She will say Me also, I wanted to be without beauty, alone to tread the wine press, unknown to any creature. This meditation also helps her understand the humiliating situation of her father. She had always seen him as an image of the Heavenly Father. Now she discovered that the Son, Jesus, humiliated, despised, unrecognisable, was also the image of her father. [ on January 10 1889, the day she received the habit, she added to her religious name the title of the Holy Face. She often used stamps bearing the image of the Holy Face.]
Thérèse finds comfort in her strong spiritual friendship that she keeps up with the founder of the Carmel of Lisieux, Mother Genevieve. This woman helps and guides her at several points in her life as a nun. Therese will later praise her: "I've said nothing yet of my happiness to have known our holy mother Genevieve ; and well, the good God who had already given me so much wanted that I live with a saint, not one who could not be imitated, but a Saint sanctified by the practice of the ordinary hidden virtues." Thus Mother Genevieve advises her to serve God, "with peace and with Joy, remember, my child, that our God is a God of peace."
On September 8 1890, aged 17 and a half, she makes her religious profession. This ceremony happens within Carmel. The young Carmelite faces the canonical examination as to why she has responded to this vocation: " I came to save souls and especially to pray for priests."
On 24 September 1890 the public ceremony takes place, of the taking of the veil. The Carmelite exchanged the white veil of the novice for the black veil of a professed nun. Her father can not attend, which greatly saddens her. Hers was the 48th profession in the Carmel of Lisieux. She would be 18 in just over 3 months but it was, according to Mother Marie de Gonzague an accomplished religious who takes the veil: " this angelic child, at 17 and a half, with the sense of a 30 year old, the religious perfection of an old and accomplished novice, and self mastery, she is a perfect nun"
- The discreet life of a carmelite
The years which follow are those of a maturation of her vocation. Therese prays without great sensitive emotions, but with fidelity. She avoids becoming involved in the debates which sometimes disturb the community life. She multiplies the small acts of charity and care for others, doing small services, without making a show of them. She accepts criticism in silence, even unjust criticisms, and smiles at the sisters who are unpleasant to her. She tries to do every thing, including the smallest, through love and with simplicity. She prays 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 had left the Catholic Church in 1869. Three years later he married a young American widow, a Protestant, with whom he had a son. After major excommunication had been pronounced against him, he continued to travel around France giving lectures. In 1891, he was in Normandy, at Coutances, then at Caen. His presence was given wide coverage in the local press. Thérèse received several articles from Celine, cut out of La Croix du Calvados. While clerical papers called Loyson the renegade monk and Leon Bloy was furiously lampooning him, Thérèse prayed for her brother. From that time until her death, she was not to cease praying for him. She offered her last communion, 19 August 1897, for Father Hyacinthe.
The chaplain of the Carmel, Father Youf was a very scrupulous person who insisted a lot on the fear of Hell. The preachers of spiritual retreats share the same defect at that time, did not refrain from stressing sin, the sufferings of purgatory, and even those of hell. This did not help Therese 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 is this time preached by Father Alexis Prou a Franciscan, from Saint-Nazaire, who insisted on mercy, confidence and abandonment in the hands of a loving God. This confirms Thérèse in her deep intuitions. She will write: " 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.."
The winter 1891-92 an influenza epidemic falls on France. The Carmel of Lisieux is not spared. Four nuns die from the outbreak. And all the sisters are affected, but for three of them, including Therese. She does not stint in her care for her sister religious confined to their beds. She provides care, contributes to the organisation of life in the Carmel, demonstrates courage and strength of soul in adversity, notably when she has to prepare the funeral of deceased nuns.
Her spiritual life feeds more and more on the Gospels that she carries with her at all times. This practice was not common in those days. The piety of her time was fed more on commentaries than by the actual sources of revelation. Therese had asked Celine to get the Gospels and the Epistles of St Paul bound into a single small volume which she could carry on her heart. " 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." She admitted that all other books left her cold. More and more she realised that she felt no attraction to the exalted heights of great souls. Therese looks directly for the word of Jesus, which sheds light on her prayers and on her daily life.
Her private retreat of October 1892 pointed out to her a downward path. On October 19 , 1892 she wrote to Celine : " Jesus..raised us above all the fragile things of this world whose image passes away. He has placed, so to speak, all things under our feet. Like Zacchaeus, we climbed a tree to see Jesus...And now what science is He about to teach us? Has He not taught us all?..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..Where, then, must we descend?..You understand there is question here of the interior. 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...he the King of kings humbled himself in such a way that his face was hidden and no one recognised him and I too want to hide my face, I want my beloved alone to be able to see it."
- Election of Mother Agnes
In 1893, mother Marie de Gonzague completes her second consecutive term as prioress. She therefore can not re-present herself. It is Pauline ( in religion Sister Agnes of Jesus), who is elected 20 February 1893, prioress of the Carmel for three years. This situation is not easy for Pauline, now called Mother Agnes, and her sisters. Mother Marie de Gonzague counts on still exercising her influence. In addition Canon Delatroëtte publicly encourages mother Agnes to let herself be advised by the former prioress. She has therefore to show herself particularly diplomatic. In addition, she must not give the impression that she might be favouring her two sisters, Marie of the Sacred Heart, and Thérèse.
Mother Marie de Gonzague becomes the novice mistress during this period. Mother Agnes asks Therese to help her in this task. Her role consists in teaching the religious life, to the novices. Therese finds herself in a delicate situation. She must obey both her sister, become Prioress, and Mother Marie de Gonzague, the two women sometimes being in disagreement. Her conception of obedience makes of her a meek assistant, even if she does not hesitate to give her point of view when asked. Thus she gives an opinion contrary to that of mother Marie who refused one of the novices to make her profession.
While a carmelite leaves the novitiate after three years Therese asks, 8 September 1893, to remain there permanently. She will therefore keep an inferior status to the majority of the other nuns, unable to exercise an important position. She will always have permissions to ask and a timetable and mandatory meetings specific to sisters of the novitiate.
In 1894 Thérèse writes her first pious recreations. These are small theatrical pieces performed by a few nuns for the rest of the community, on the occasion of certain feast days.
Her first creation is dedicated to Joan of Arc whom she has always admired and whose cause for beatification had just been introduced.
(The costume that Therese wore as Joan almost caught fire at the end of the second play. The alcohol stoves used to represent the stake at Rouen set fire to the screen behind which Therese stood. Mother Agnes ordered her not to move while the fire was being extinguished in its early stages. Therese did not flinch, but the incident marked her. The theme of fire would assume an increasingly greater place in her writings. On the following June 9 she would offer herself as a holocaust to the consuming Fire of Merciful Love.) Her talent for writing being recognised other pieces will be assigned, one being a second on Joan of Arc, real-ised in January 1895. She writes also spiritual poems at the request of other nuns.
At the beginning of the same year she began to be taken by a sore throat and pains in her chest. Unfortunately, Mother Agnes did not appeal to another doctor than Doctor de Cornière, a great friend of mother Marie de Gonzague and official doctor of the community. The cousin by marriage of Therese, Francis la Néele, doctor in Lisieux, is not then, able to examine Therese.
On July 29, 1894 Louis Martin died. Still sick, he was guarded and cared for by Céline, his fourth daughter. She has also been thinking for several years of Carmel. Supported by Therese's letters she has kept up this desire to devote herself to God in spite of two marriage proposals. Celine hesitates however between the Carmelite life and a more active life in the service of a mission conducted by Father Pichon in Canada. Finally, following the advice of her sisters she chooses Carmel. She enters the Lisieux convent on 14 September 1894. ( With Mother Agnes permission, Celine brought her camera to Carmel ; the box was 13 x 18 cm, with a Darlot lens). In August 1895 the four Martin sisters will be joined by their cousin Marie Guerin.
- Discovery of the little way
Therese entered the Carmel of Lisieux with the dream of becoming a great saint. But, at the end of 1894, the end of six full calendar years of life as a Carmelite, forces her to recognise that the objective is practically impossible to attain. She has still so many flaws and has not the charisma of a Teresa of Avila, a Paul of Tarsus and so many others. Above all, she who is very pro-active, sees clearly the limitations of all her efforts. She remains small and very far off from the unfailing love that she would wish to practice. She understands then that it is on this very littleness that she must lean to ask God's help. In the Bible the verse If anyone is very small, let him come to me! (Book of Proverbs ch4, verse 90.) gives her an initial response. She who feels herself so small and unable can turn toward God with confidence. But then, what is going to happen? A passage from the book of Isaiah gave her an answer that encouraged her profoundly: "As a mother caresses her child, so I shall console you ,I shall carry you at my breast and I shall swing you on my knees.." She concludes that Jesus herself will carry her to the summit of sanctity. She will write: " the elevator which must take me to Heaven are your arms, o Jesus! For that, I have no need to grow great, on the contrary, it's necessary I stay small, that I become it more and more."
The smallness of Therese, her limits become in this way grounds for joy, more than discouragement. For it is there that the merciful love of God for her is going to exercise itself. In her manuscripts she gives to this discovery the name of little way, petite voie. From February 1895 she is regularly going to sign her letters by adding very little toute petite, in front of her name. Until this point, Therese used the vocabulary of littleness to recall her desire for a hidden, discreet life. Now, she uses it to express also her hope: the more she feels small before God, the more she will be able to count on him.
It is also during this period that she begins , at the request of Pauline, Mother Agnes, to write her memoirs. She also continues to write theatrical pieces and hymns, of which the most well known is Vivre d'amour.
- Offering to merciful love
On June 9 1895, during the feast of the Holy Trinity Therese has 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. Their intention was to suffer in the image of Christ, and in union with him, to supplement the penances that sinners did not make. These nuns who offered themselves this way could suffer from particularly long and painful diseases and they did not fail to make the link between the suffering and the sacrifice they had made. The day before June 8 Therese has heard again in Carmel, the life and terrible agony of one of them, sister Marie of Jesus, carmelite of Luçon who had often offered herself as a victim to divine justice. [??] While admiring the generosity of this offering, Therese does not see herself doing it herself. The little way she has just discovered a few months before encourages her to innovate by offering herself rather to love and to the mercy of God. She senses that God is an inexhaustible fountain of love but these waves of love are held in check because men do not welcome them. She then offers herself, June 11, to merciful love to receive from God this love that is missing to accomplish everything she would like to do: "Oh my God, Blessed Trinity, I desire to Love you and make you Loved, to work for the glorification of the Holy Church by saving souls[...] I want to accomplish perfectly your will, and reach the degree of glory that you have prepared for me in your kingdom, in a word, I want to be a Saint, but I feel my powerlessness and I ask you, oh my God! to be yourself, my saintliness". A few days later when she is praying the Stations of the Cross, she is taken by an intense love for the good God. "I burnt with love and I felt that one moment, one second more, I would not have been able to bear the heat without dying". She sees in this episode, which is quickly followed by a sentiment of spiritual aridity, that she usually knew, the confirmation that her act of offring is accepted by God.
In August 1895 the four Martin sisters are joined by their cousin, Marie Guerin. In October a young seminarian and subdeacon of the White Fathers, abbé Belliere, asks the Carmel of Lisieux that a nun might support - by prayer and sacrifice - his missionary vocation, and souls that were in the future to be entrusted to him. Mother Agnes designates Therese, who, always having dreamed of having a brother priest, is delighted by this. She multiplies the little sacrifices that she offers for the mission of the future priest and encourages him in her letters. She never meets Ftaher Belliere - ten letters pass between them. And in February 1896, she knows another joy with the religious profession of her sister Celine (Sister Genevieve in the Carmel).
On March 21 1896 the election is held for prioress. After 3 years, where as required by the Regulation she [Mother Agnes] has had to give up her place to election again, mother Marie de Gonzague expects to recover her position as prioress. But the elections are strained and mother Marie de Gonzague only just prevails in front of Mother Agnes. Agitated by what has just happened, mother Marie decides to keep, whilst being prioress, the job of Novice Mistress too. She chooses, as her assistant, Therese. She is in fact responsible for the training of the novitiate, without officially having the title. The other novices know it and what is more, they are in majority, her elders. Therese performs this delicate task with great teaching skills, adapting to the personality of each novice, but without making concessions. She wants to help the nuns to become real Carmelites, even if the price to pay is she is judged sometimes too severe.
Vis a vis mother Marie de Gonzague, Therese remains in the greatest obedience, fulfilling to the letter, according to the testimony of one of her novices , the multitude of little rules that mother Marie de Gonzague established or destroyed according to her whims, unstable regulations of which the community paid little attention.
- Disease and night of faith
During Lent 1896, Therese follows rigorously the exercises and fasts. On the night of Thursday to Good Friday she suffers a first attack of hemoptysis. She signals this to mother Marie de Gonzague while insisting she is not suffering and needs nothing. A second crisis is repeated the following night. This time the prioress is worried and allows her cousin Dr La Néele to sound her chest. He thinks the bleeding could have come from a burst blood vessel in the throat. He prescribes: creosote by the spoon, throat sprays, rubbing with camphorated oil. Therese is under no illusions about the state of her health, but feels no fear. Quite the contrary, for death will soon enable her to ascend to heaven and find what she came to look for in Carmel: her joy is at its height. She continues to participate in all the activities of Carmel, without sparing herself.
This difficult period is also a period of dereliction, or night of faith. During Holy Week 1896 she suddenly enters into an interior night. The feeling of faith that inspired her for so many years, that made her rejoice to die of love for Jesus has disappeared in her. In her darkness, it seems she hears an inner voice mock her and her happiness at looking forward to death - she will advance toward the night of nothingness. Her fights are not on the existence of God but belief in eternal life [?check] A single impression in her henceforth: she will die young, for nothing. She nonetheless pursues her carmelite life. Only hymns and poems, that she continues to compose at the request of the sisters, suggest her inner struggle. My heaven is to smile, on the God that I adore, when he wishes to hide to test my faith. The darkness will not leave and persists until her death a year later. However she lives this night as the final battle, the opportunity to prove in spite of everything her unwavering trust in God. Refusing to yield to this fear of nothingness, she multiplies the acts of faith. She means by this that she continues to believe, though her mind is invaded by objections. This fight is all the more painful because she always expressed her desire to be active and to do much good after her death.
From May 1896 at the request of mother Marie de Gonzague Therese becomes the spiritual sister of a second missionary: Father Roulland. Her correspondence with her spiritual brothers is an opportunity to develop her conception of sanctity : "Ah! My brother, the kindness, the merciful love of Jesus are little known!..It's true that to enjoy these treasures it's necessary to be humble, acknowledge ones nothingness and this is what a lot of souls do not want to do."
In September 1896 Therese still has many desires - she wants to be a missionary, martyr, priest, doctor of the Church. She reads then the writings of St.Paul, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. The hymn to love, in chapter thirteen, illumines her deeply.Like a lightning strike that runs through her the profound sense of her vocation comes suddenly to her: "My vocation, at last I found it, MY VOCATION IS LOVE!..." In effect the vocation to love mbraces all the others, it thus meets all the desires of Therese. "I understood that Love containd all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and all places. In a word, it is Eternal." Therese strives then, increasingly, more and more, to live all by love. Many examples show her looking to do good for the nuns, particularly for those of a difficult temperament.
- Worsening of the sickness
January 1897, Therese has just turned 24, she writes: "I believe that my course will not be long" Yet in spite of the worsening of the disease during the winter, Therese yet manages to deceive the carmelites about the gravity of her illness and holds her place in the community. But in the spring, the vomiting, severe chest pain, spitting blood become daily and Therese weakens.
In April 1897 Therese is affected by the case of Diana Vaughan. Since 1895 Diana Vaughan is known for her memoirs, recounting her time in satanic circles, followed by her conversion through the example of Joan of Arc. Therese, struck like many Catholics by this testimony and admiring a prayer composed by Diana Vaughan, sent her a few lines.
And mother Agnes joined to the mail a photo of Therese playing the role of Joan in prison. Therese had also written , in June 1896, a short play based on the conversion of Diana, entitled The Triumph of Humility. Diana Vaughan, living hidden, it is a man named Leo Taxil, a former anti-clerical, converted also, who acts as her intermediary with the press. But from 1896 there are doubts about his sincerity. Leo Taxil then announces for April 19 1897, a conference that he will give with the famous young woman. During this public session, Taxil reveals that Diana Vaughan has never existed and the story is an entire hoax. For twelve years his writings had taken in thousands of credulous readers; Christians, priests, bishops, even the Pope. The audience is shocked. At Carmel, they hear the news on the 21 April. On the 24 Therese discovers that the photo showing her playing Joan of Arc was projected at the conference. She lives this episode as a humiliation, a trial, especially in this pereiod when she is tormented by doubts. She tore up the letter she had received from 'Diana Vaughan'.
In June mother Marie de Gonzague asks her to continue writing her memoirs. She writes in the garden in the invalid's chair used by her father in thelast years of his illness, and later donated to the Cramel. Her condition worsens, she is placed in the infirmary on July 8 1897, and she will remain there until her death twelve weeks later.
Knowing herself to die soon, and still living the night of faith that denies her the interior feeling of a life after death, Therese nevertheless continues to speak, several times of her hope. On the 17 July she confides her hope "I feel that I am going to enter into the sleep of the dead. But I feel especially that my mission is going to begin, my mission to make God loved as I love Him, to give my little way to souls...If God grants my desires, my Heaven will be spent on earth until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my Heaven doing good on the earth.".
On August 17, doctor La Neele examines Therese. His diagnosis is clear; it is tuberculosis at its most advanced , a lung is lost and the other affected; the intestines are affected. Her sufferings are at the extreme: "It is enough to make one lose ones mind". Then the suffering subsides in a lsat phase of remision. Therese takes back some strength, even finds again her humour. Her sisters record her words. They ask her how they should address her when they will pray to her later; she replies that they should call her little Therese.
As of 29 September 1897 her agony begins. She spends a last difficult night, watched over by her sisters. In the morning she tells them It is agony , all pure without any mixture of comfort. She asks to be prepared spiritually to die. Mother Marie de Gonzague reassures her telling her that always having practised humility, her preparation was made. Therese reflects an instant then replies : " Yes, it seems to me that I only ever looked for the truth; yes I understood humility of the heart." Her breathing is increasingly short, she suffocates. After more than two days of agony, she is exhausted by the pain. : "Never would I have believed it was possible to sufer so much! Never! Never! I can not explain this other than by the ardent desire I had to save souls." Around 7 in the evening she spoke her last words Oh! I love him!...My God..I love you.. She collapses and then reopens her eyes one last time. According to the carmelites present, her gaze was fixed a little above the statue of the Virgin of the Smile, which lasts the space of a credo, before giving up her last breath. She dies 30 September 1897 at 7:20pm at the age of 24. "I do not die, I enter life" she wrote in one of her last letters.
She was buried 4 October in the cemetery of Lisieux in a new concession acquired for the Carmel. The Carmelites are not able to leave the convent, and it is a very small procession that follows the hearse.
- Posterity of Thérèse of Lisieux
The writings of Thérèse
Story of a Soul
On the death of Thérèse, mother Agnes has at her disposal various autobiographical writings which she designates under the term of Manuscripts A, B and C.
- Manuscript A was prepared at the request of mother Agnes during 1895. In the winter of 1894, the sister of Therese, prioress of the Carmel, ordered her, at the urging of Threese's godmother, Marie of the Sacred Heart, to write all her childhood memories. In late January 1895 Therese acquires a small school notebook and gets down to the work, writing generally in the evening after Compline. With humour and a light touch without a set plan, she is not writing the story of her life [?], but the story of her soul [ of the graces she feels God has given her] - that she entitles The Springtime Story of a little white flower. This re-telling is beneficial because it helps her to better understand the meaning of what she has lived. There are finally 6 notebooks that she fills throughout 1895 and she hands over to the prioress on the 20 January 1896.
- Manuscript B is a set of letters adressed to the godmother of Therese, her sister Marie. In September 1896, when Therese knows the gravity of her illness and that she has entered into a night of faith, she begins her annual retreat. She uses the time of silence and of meditation to write the letters that she addresses directly to Jesus. She describes what she has lived in recent months and especially the graces received in September 1896 and the great disciovery she made then: love is her vocation. Marie having asked her to draft a presentation of her little doctrine she gives her these letters which constitute the charter of the little way of childhood.
- Manuscript C was written in obedience to mother Marie de Gonzague. In reality it is Pauline, mother Agnes, realising that her sister is going to die, who prompts the prioress to obtain from Therese a follow up of the narrative of her life. It is a little notebook with a black cover, beginning on the 3 or 4 June 1897 that the sick woman draws up her recllections: "To write my little life I do not break my head; it is as if I were fishing with a line and I write what comes along at the end of it". She describes the graces she received during her life, the spiritual discoveries she has made, notably the litle way. In early July taken by a fever more and more strong, she can no longer hold her pen and continues with a small pencil. Late August, gnawed at by her disease, she has to abandon the writing of her notebook.
Shortly before her death Therese knows that her writing will be sent out, at least in the Carmels in the form of a circular and perhaps even published as Pauline suggested in July 1897. She also states with confidence: "My Mother, these pages will do much good. One will know better then the sweetness of God.." She entrusts to Pauline the task of correcting the writings as she thinks fit, conscious of the necessary work of proofreading and correction.
Without wasting time mother Agnes goes to work after the death of Therese: under the auspices of mother Marie de Gonzague she melts the 3 manuscripts into a single volume, that she splits into chapters. She largely goes over the text, corrects what she considers incorrect. As claimed by Father Francois de Saint-Marie, specialist in Theresian manuscripts, She has practically rewritten the autobiography. [Gorres says different] On September 30 1898 a year to the day after the death of Therese The Story of a Soul appears, a bound volume of 475 pages in a run of 2000 copies. Funded by her Uncle Isidore Guerin, the publication received the imprimatur of Bishop Hugonin. The book is sent to all the Carmels and to some ecclesiastical personalities. In spite of some initial reluctance the reception is complimentary and re-issues succeed, then follows the english translation The Little Flower of Jesus in 1901 and in many languages. In 1915 , 211000 volumes have been sent out and 710000 copies of an abridged version. The carmelites of Lisieux and mother Agnes herself are amazed at this tidal wave.
Thousands of readers are profoundly touched. Some priests testify that this reading does them much good spiritually. In this way, Father Marie-Joseph Lagrange, founder of the Biblical School in Jerusalem will say in 1927: "I owe to Saint Therese not to have become a bookworm. I owe her everything, because without her I would have shrivelled up, my mind dried up." Reading of The Story of a Soul inspired also many vocations, for the Carmel, but also in other religious orders. Studies on the work of Therese multiplied and the desire to be able to read the original notebooks became stronger and stronger. But it is necessary to wait until 1956 and on the request of Pius XII that Father François de Saint-Marie publishes the Manuscrits autobiographiques in facsimile and then in a print edition which reaches 500 million readers worldwide. ( The first translation into english is made by Ronald Knox, as 'Autobiography of a Saint). Histoire d'une ame is translated , at present, into more than 40 languages and dialects.
- Other writings
Early in 1893, mother Agnes asks Therese to compose a hymn/song. This first religious poetry will be followed by many others in which the religious expresses the depths of her heart.
In January 1894 it is a theatrical recreation that she must write for the feast of the prioress. She chooses the theme of Joan of Arc, whom she regards as her dear sister and whose beatification was then in progress. She was applauded by the carmelites who are discovering her talent and seek her henceforth frequently, considering her the "poet of the community". She writes very freely, draws her inspiration from her reading , especially, the Song of Songs, and expresses her desires, her fears, her love of Jesus, without "worrying oneself about style."
The following year she writes and puts on Joan of Arc accomplishes her mission, a spectacular play with 16 costumed characters. She herself plays the role of Jeanne, then poses for Celine - the prioress authorised her to keep her camera, an exceptional thing in a Carmel at this time. On June 11 1895 Therese and Celine pronounce an act of offering to merciful love which Therese had drawn up on the 9 June. From April 1896 she enters into a deep night of faith, but she lets nothing of it appear. Only the songs that she continues to write express her shadows : " Supported without any support, without light and in the shadows, I go [ consuming myself by love?]"
During her religious life Thérèse has written also many letters that throw light for us on the development of her spirituality in particular those addressed to her sister Céline and her spiritual brothers, Fathers Roulland and Bellière.
Confined to bed in her last weeks, Therese spends more time writing, but illness exhausts her and 16 July 1897 she drafts har final letters of farewell. Mother Agnes who watches over the patient notes in a small yellow notebook the words of Therese right up to her last day.
Thus, Therese of Lisieux has written over 250 letters, 62 poems, 8 pious recreations (plays), and 21 prayers. After 1971, the writings of the saint are published pursuant to the originals.
- Popular fame
Parallel with the success of the book The Story of a Soul a popular devotion to Therese developed rapidly, in France and in the wider world. It is accompanied by testimonies of conversions and physical cures. From the end of the 19th century, long before she is canonised by the Church people pray to the little saint. During the First World War requests for intercession to Therese multiply and her fame grew , even on the German side. The anthology of short testimonials sent to the Carmel of Lisieux between the years 1914-1918 contains 592 pages by itself. In 1914 the Carmel of Lisieux receives an average 500 letters per day. In the years 1923-25 the number of letters received passes to 800 per day.
In 1920, Edith, a little girl suffering from a cataract is taken by her rgandmother to Lisieux, to the tomb of Therese. She recovers her sight, and , as Edith Piaf, will acknowledge all her life a real devotion to Therese of Lisieux, for what she regarded as a miracle.
The popular fervor is joined by the recognition of the Church, which canonises Therese in 1925.
The 30 September 1957, on the eve of his execution, Jacques Fesch, a murderer converted in prison, writes his last letter and mentions Therese.
The spirituality of Therese has equally touched in the 20th century, philosophers like Henri Bergson, Jean Guitton, Emmanuel Mounier..politicians of all persuasions such as Marc Sagnier or Charles Maurras. Many writers have become interested in her, among whom one can mention Paul Claudel, Georges Bernanos, Gilbert Cesbron, Julien Green, Maurice Clavel...Maxence Van Der Meersch, Vita Sackville-West, Kathryn Harrison, Henri Gheon, Frances Parkinson Keyes - without this list being exhaustive.
- Saint and doctor of the Church
Struck by the number of testimonies of answered prayers by Therese of the Child Jesus, the faithful around the world ask that she be recognised as a saint. On March 15 1907 Pope Pius X also wishes her glorification. The regular process of beatification, under the responsibility of the bishop of Lisieux opened on 3 August 1910. 37 witnesses came to give evidence on the life of Thérèse, of whom nine are Lisieux Carmelites. Her body was exhumed September 6 1910 in the presence of several hundred people. The cause was officially introduced by Pope Pius X, June 10, 1914.
The apostolic process, mandated by the Holy See then began at Bayeux in 1915. Delayed by the First World War, it ended in 1917. At this epoch a period of 50 years was necessary before a canonisation, but Pope Benedict XV exempted the cause of Therese from this delay. On August 14 , 1921 he promulgated the decree on heroic virtues.
Two miracles are necessary for the cause of beatification. Two cures submitted are accepted for submission to an investigation. The first concerns a young seminarian Charles Anne, suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis in 1906 and whose condition was judged hopeless by the doctor. After two novenas adressed to Sister Therese of the Child Jesus his health was quickly restored. A radiographic study effected in 1921 showed the stability of the cure, the hole in the lung having disappeared. The second case studied was that of a nun suffering from a disorder of the stomach degenerating ulcerated, too far advanced for surgery. Louise de Saint-Germain prays two novenas to Therese, at the end of which her condition improves. Two doctors confirmed the healing.
Therese was beatified 29 April 1923.
The remarkable events occuring after the beatification do not stint, from which two further examples: the case of a young Belgian woman, Mlle Maria Pellemans, suffering from advanced pulmonary and intestinal tuberculosis, miraculously cured at the tomb of Therese. The other case is that of an Italian, sister Gabrielle Trimusi, that arthritis of the knee and TB of the vertebrae requires her to wear a corset; she is suddenly relieved of her infirmities and left her corset after a triduum celebrated in honour of Therese. The decree approving the miracles was published in March 1925.
Therese of Lisieux was canonised May 17 1925 in the presence of 5000 people, by Pope Pius XI who calls her the star of his pontificate. At the canonisation, Pius XI will affirm of Therese of Lisieux; " The Spirit of truth opened to her and caused her to know what it usually hides from the wise and learned to disclose to little ones. Thus, according to the testimony of our immediate predecessor she possessed such knowledge of the realities from above that she was able to show to souls a secure route to salvation."
Therese of Lisieux was proclaimed patron saint of Missions in 1927, then sedcondary patron saint of France in 1944 by Pope Pius XII.
The influence of the new saint is not limited to the frame of her homeland. In 1931 a young Albanian woman took her vows in India, placing herself under the patronage of Saint Therese. In contradistinction to her patroness mother Teresa of Calcutta will have a long life, and a missionary life in the service of the most small that Therese would not have disowned. [translation??]
Theresian spirituality also exceeds the limits of the Order of Carmel. In 1933 the Oblates of Saint Thérèse are founded and in 1944 a congregation of men the Missionaries of Saint Thérèse. Cardinal Suhard, founder in 1941 of the Mission de France intends to real-ize a party of the mission of the saint. The seminary of the Mission de France establishes itself in Lisieux in October 1942.
If it does not expressly name Therese, the Second Vatican Council held between 1962 and 1965 is in line with her intuitions. It too advocates the return to the word of God, it emphasises the practice of faith, of love and of hope in daily life, it calls each baptised in holiness.
On October 19, 1997 the centenary year of her death, Saint Therese was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Jean Paul II. In his apostolic letter he explained ;
" In the writings of Therese without doubt do we not find, as in other doctors, a scholarly presentation of the things of God, but we can discover an enlightened testimony of fath which, in welcoming with a trusting love the merciful condescension of God and salvation in Christ, reveals the mystery and holiness of the Church." [translation ?]
Aged 24 at the time of her death, she is the youngest of the 33 doctors of the Church.
The parents of saint Therese, Louis and Zelie Martin were beatified October 19 2008 in Lisieux.
- The relics of saint Thérèse
The tomb of sister Therese very quickly became the object of devotion. Some pilgrims came from France and elsewhere rushed to commune with their saint, carrying off even the flowers and earth from the cemetery.
On September 6 1910, the remains of Therese are exhumed and transferred to another vault. A second exhumation took place August 10 1917. This time, two medical experts identify the bones which are placed in a box of carved oak, put itself into a coffin of rosewood lined with lead. Finally March 26 1923 the remains of the future blessed, henceforth regarded as relics, are transferred with great pomp to the chapel of the carmel of Lisieux. They are placed in two boxes, one silver, one in rosewood, both preserved in a reliquary. To celebrate the beatification the reliquary is carried in processions in Lisieux followed by a cortege of 30 prelates, 800 priests and several tens of thousands of people.
The devotion to Therese was amplified when she was canonized in 1925.
Therese had wished " to announce the Gospel in the five parts of the world and even in the remotest islands. Her wish is nearing completion because since 1994 the greta reliquary given by the dioceses of Brazil [?] trips around the entire world travelling in many countries [ list of 42 countries follows..]
- Monuments to Thérèse of Lisieux
Worldwide 1700 churches are dedicated to Therese. Many Catholic schools and chapels bear her name also.
Her declaration as secondary patroness makes her one of the most venerated saints in France: most of the churches in France possess a statue of Therese. She is represented in her Carmelite habit, holding in her hands a cross surrounded by roses.
- Foundation of the orphan apprentices of Auteuil
In 1923, Father Daniel Brottier, just appointed director of the work of the Orphan Apprentices of Auteuil, decides to build a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Therese of the Child Jesus. Blessed Daniel Brottier was convinced that he had been protected by her during the First World War and that she preserved his life so he could take care of her children of Auteuil. His belief is re-inforced when he learns that Therese already prayed for the children of Auteuil before her death. She will be the "little mama of the children of Auteuil". [Note : p. 264 de Meester, life times and teaching : "One of Therese's novices , sister Marie of the Trinity, often spoke to Therese of theis Work founded by father Roussel to serve the poor children of Paris. Marie's father, Victor Castel, a retired teacher, actually travelled throughout France to make Father Roussel's work known. Whenever Marie Louise Castel received a letter from her father, Therese was soon informed of the difficulties and developments of this Work. In 1923, Father Brottier's superiors from the Congregation of the Holy Spirit gave him the responsibility to resume this Work.]
The chapel was finished in a record time [?] and mass was celebrated there from 1925. it is the first sanctuary in France created and dedicated to Therese. The Foundation of Auteuil which houses some relics of saint Therese is open to the public all year.
- Basilica of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
In 1929, following the beatification and canonisation of Therese of Lisieux, to better accommodate the pilgrims coming to the grave, the bishop of Bayeux decided on the construction of the Basilica, supported in this by Pope Pius XI.
Work began on 30 september 1929 with the placing of the cornerstone by the cardinal Charost, legate of the pope. They are supervised by three architects from father to son , the Cordonnier - Louis Marie Cordonnier, who died in 1940, then his son Louis-Stanislas and his grandson Louis. Work continues until idle between 1939 and 1944 because of the Second World War. It is only after the war that the monument is finished, the worship is celebrated [ translation?] at the feast of the Ascension in 1951. [This is uncited in the French article. in de Meester edited book, Descouvement writes : "..the damage caused by the bombings was repaired and the mosaics and stained glass windows of the upper basilica were set in place. Once all the work was completed, it was solemnly consecrated on July 11, 1954." (p. 258 )]
Its style of architecture ( called Romano-Byzantine) is strongly influenced by that of the Sacred Heart Basilica, Paris.
- Basilica of Choubrah (in Cairo)
In 1926, some Carmelite brothers settled in the Choubrah neighbourhood in the city of Cairo. Struck by the grace of intercession of Thérèse, they decide to dedicate to her the little chapel that they are going to build. Many people come there, to the point that it is necessary to consider enlarging it and erecting a church. Work began in 1931, thanks to donations made by the egyptian population. The edifice was inaugurated in 1932 and the whole finished in 1942. The crowd there is important, the sanctuary being known and frequented by people of different religions.
- Works inspired by Thérèse
- In the cinema
- 1952: André Haguet, Le Procès au Vatican (The Trial at the Vatican), life of saint thérèse of Lisieux based on original documents in consultation with the abbé Combes.
- 1964: Philippe Agostini, Le Vrai Visage de Thérèse of Lisieux (The True Face of Therese of Lisieux)
- 1986 Alain Cavalier, Thérèse , biographical evocation of Therese of lisieux, a film rewarded in 1987 with 6 César Awards including the César Award for Best Film.
- In the theatre
- Therese of Lisieux, play written by Jean Favre. Played from december 1994 to february 1995 at the Tourtour Theatre (Paris), then toured in luxemburg and in belgium; with Corine Lechat and Anne Vassalo in the principal roles.
- In music
- The Carmelite monk and musician Pierre Eliane 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 Eliane.
- 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 , w:fr:Grégory Turpin , les Stentors , w:fr:Sonia Lacen, Elisa Tovati , Monseigneur di Falco and The Little Singers of Paris .
Spiritual doctrine of Saint Thérèse
The theology of Therese of lisieux is derived in large part from her life and her autobiography in which she develops a vision of faith which has made a school.
- The universal call to holiness
The theology of Therese is foremost a pedagogy of holiness. Her teaching is an encouragement to seek holiness, including the Christians who doubt their ability to respond to the call.
At the time of Therese, many believed that saintliness was reserved for a few elite souls, living with impressive mystical phenomena or achieving great things. Though having done nothing extraordinary, Therese yet steadfastly believed she could become a saint.
Thus, around the age of nine, reading the life of Joan of Arc, she has the intuition that she also can "become a great saint!!!" In carmel in 1890, a preacher was shocked when she told him of her hope of becoming a great saint and having the same love for god that Teresa of Avila had. At the end of her life she will write to Mother Marie de Gonzague: "You know, my Mother, I always wanted to be a saint."
She wants at first to arrive at saintliness in a very pro-active way and at the age of sixteen she wrote to Céline, citing Father Pichon: " Holiness! It's necessary to capture it at the point of the sword, it's necessary to suffer.."
Then, and more and more from 1893-1894, she entrusts her littleness to god and invites god to act on her. In 1895 she writes , "I still feel the same audacious confidence of becoming a great saint, because I do not count on my merits, not having a single one, but I hope in that which is Virtue, the very Holiness, it is He alone who contenting himself with my feeble efforts will lift me up covering me with his infinite merits, that will make me a saint."
Therese has thus shown by her life and her writings that holiness was accessible to all. Another doctor of the church had three centuries earlier an intuition as strong.Francis de Sales (1567-1622). He had encouraged christians living in the world to grow spiritually, in a way prpoper to their state of life, which is different to that of monks and nuns. the idea that therese had of a discreet holiness, without great blasts, based on trust in god, is adapted to all the baptised. it is also an anticipation of Vatican II. The dogmatic Constitution of the Church (Lumen gentium) of the council underlines in effect that all christians are called to holiness.
Sign that the conception of holiness of therese was ahead of its time several of her relatives do not understand in the years following her death that she is thought of for a process of beatification. some Carmelites, some residents of Lisieux, members of her own family can not find anything ununsualin her life to justify this process. To a young priest who suggests the canonisation of sister Therese in 1903 mother Marie de Gonzague responds laughing : " in that case how many Carmelites would it be necessary to canonise?"
- The little way
- Leaning on God with confidence
During the last three years of her life, Therese of Lisieux tried out daily the little way. She has written, in that way, the expression only once in manuscript C, in 1897. but she often made refernce to it, when she spoke to the novices or wrote to her spiritual brothers. she is aware that this little doctrine is what she has to transmit better, in her lifetime, and after her death.
The little way consists, for Therese, in recognising ones littleness, ones nothingness, and to rely then confidently on god. It is born of the desire for saintliness, and of the inability to accomplish this through ones own powers, this desire. Therese spared no effort to become a saint. She sought to live fully the vocation that was hers, multiplying acts of obedience, and charity and fidelity. But having at the same time a great concern for the truth she saw her faults, her lacks of generosity, her inability " to climb the rough stairway of perfection". She who would have liked to love God with the same ardor as Teresa of Avila realised she was very weak and small. She requires acceptance of her limitations. But without being discouraged, however. Because she understood that this weakness, this littleness, could attract the grace of God. It is a prophetic insight that makes her write - " I want to search for the way to get to heaven by a little straight way, very short, an entirely new little path." In the Book of Proverbs she reads , if someone is very small, let him come to me. It is not growing, but instead staying small, that she will come closer to God, in forcing him to stoop to her nothingness. She writes : " the lift which must raise me to heaven, are your arms, Oh Jesus! For that , I have no need to grow, on the contrary, I must remain small, and become it more and more."
- A way of childhood
The little way is also sometimes called the way of spiritual childhood. Therese made in fact often reference to children who, while being small, can show great confidence in their fathers. She understands that, to love and unite with god in truth, " the first step is to let him join, to love and be shaped by his love. His love is free, that of a father for his children. It is always he who loves us first." (Pierre Descouvement)
Thus, in this spirituality, to grow in holiness is first to grow, by the action of the Holy Spirit, in filial confidence which sees in God a loving father. John Paul II during his visit to Lisieux in 1980, says , in this connexion: "the little way is the way of holy childhood. In this way, there is something unique (...) there is at the same time the confirmation and renewal of the truth the most fundamental and the most universal. What truth of the Gospel message is really more basic and universal than this: God is our father and we are his children ?"
- Constant progress
the fact of recognising ones littleness does not mean however, for therese, that its necessary to stop making efforts. Talking with sister marie of the Trinity, she clearly distinguishes this way from quietism. Until the end she will make sacrifices for the salvation of souls. On August 8 1897, she confided to Pauline (Mother Agnes) : " Many souls say: but I haven't the strength to accomplish such and such a sacrifice - so let them make what I've made ; a great effort. The good God never refuses the first grace which gives the courage to act." And until her death she will seek to love, concretely and daily, her sister carmelites. But this will be, according to the way she declares, in union with god who compensates for her weaknesses. this welcome of God's presence, that she wants to live through this little way, will bring her a deeper sense of charity, and her trust in mercy.
To love God
Therese has been called after her death, doctor of love. It is indeed practising charity and teaching it in her writings that she has most touched hearts.
The love of Therese is focused primarily on the person of Christ. From her early childhood, carried by a very Christian family atmosphere, she seeks to please him by her actions, her feeling for truth, her fidelity to the evening prayer. This love for Christ, this conviction and this conscience that she has of living in his presence remains throughout her life. Thus she described her first communion at the age of nine: " ..I felt loved, and I said, 'I love you, I give myself to you forever.' " The name of Jesus is present on virtually every page of her writings. He is cited about 1600 times. At the end of her life when she lives the ordeal of the night of faith, she engraves these words on the wall of her cell: "Jesus is my only [unique]love." And her last words are to God to whom she spoke her love before dying.
This love is lived in the exceptional way of a Carmelite vocation, which makes her, according to the symbolic vocabulary specific to nuns, the spouse of Christ. As indicated by her Carmelite name in religion (Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face) she meditates more specifically on the mystery of incarnation and the abasement of Christ. She especially gives witness of a God, who made himself very small for love.
Although she cites less the Father and the Holy Spirit than Christ her conception of God's love is profoundly trinitarian. As this verse testifies from her poem Vivre d'amour, "Ah! you know it divine Jesus, I love you. The Spirit of love burns me with its fire. It is in loving you that I am drawn to the Father."
According to François-Marie Léthel [secretary prelate of the Pontifical academy of Theology, Rome] : " the teaching of Therese is fully illuminated by love in Jesus, Therese contemplates the infinite love with which God loves us, merciful and saving love, a crazy love of the creator for his poor creature wounded by sin (...)" For Therese it is a question of returning love for love, to love God in return, and to love those around her and those for whom she prays testifying to the love of God.
- United to love
From 1894 with the discovery of the little way of trust and love, therese realised more and more how much charity is at the centre of her spiritual life. Having understood that she will only be able to really love, in union with God, she offers herself June 11, 1895, as the victim to merciful love, to live in an act of perfect love. She wants to renew this offering at every moment, an infinite number of times. Such a programme is possible only if God responds to her offering. A few days later she was seized with so much love for God that she feels immersed in fire. It is for her the sign that God has answered her prayers.
She steps over a further step in September 1896. Therese experienced wishes that seemed crazy to her - she wants to be at once a missionary, an apostle, martyr, priest, doctor of the church. Moreover she wants to live fully each of these vocations from the creation of the world until the end of time. She then opened her bible and her eyes run over chapter 12 of Saint Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians. Paul compares the Church there to a body where each memeber has a well defined place. This brings to her an answer that can cool her desires. But she continues and reads the hymn to Charity, in chapter 13. She suddenly realises that love is at the heart of the Church: " I realized that love alone caused the members of the Church to act, and if love were extinguished the apostles would not announce any more the Gospel, the martyrs would refuse to spill their blood...I realised that Love included all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and all places..in a word that it is Eternal." She understood then that her vocation, is Love.
The mystery that she plumbs is that of the communion of saints. The more she loves, there where she finds herself, and more she will participate in the life of the church and support the various vocations on earth. she does not fail to make there the link with her smallness and her act of offering to merciful love, begging again and again, Jesus to give his love. [E 59]in 1897 the year of her death she writes ; " Here is my prayer: I ask Jesus to draw me into the flames of his love, to unite me so closely to Him that he lives and acts in me."
This movement of welcome, in her littleness, of the love of God, will lead her to love still more her sister carmelites.
- Fraternal charity
On entering Carmel, Therese read the rule and constitutions of the order. She noted the importance of fraternal delicacy that she is going to apply herself to live. The love she has for the other religious is not ethereal. It rather shows itself with a lot of practical attentions. It is also through love for souls that she prays for them and makes daily small sacrifices.
Therese considered that charity can only exist when it is loosed from all selfishness and from all self-love. Since her conversion at Christmas 1886 she discovered the joy in forgetfulness of herself: " I felt, in a word, charity enter my heart, the need to forget myself in order to please, and since then I was happy." she says that " we can not do any good by looking for ourselves." From this view results a real requirement: she identifies her least faults in order to fight against them and especially to make way for more attention and generosity. [ref 29]
But it is at the end of her life that she realised how much her love for God is closely linked with that she should have for others. Confiding her thoughts, in 1897, to mother Marie de Gonzague, she writes that God gave her the grace that year to help her understand what charity is : " I applied my best to love god and it is by loving him that I understood that my love should not translate itself only by words." She meditates on the commandments of love present in the gospel and especially on the words spoken by christ: " Love each other as I have loved you." She realised that her love towards her sisters was still imperfect and decides to love them as the good God loves them. It is also a culmination of her offering to merciful love and her desire to make herself small so that Jesus can act in her. " yes, I feel when I am charitable, it is jesus alone who acts in me, more I am united to him, the more also I love all my sisters."
Thus, she develops a profound indulgence towards acts of others: " Ah, I see now that true charity consists in bearing with the faults of those about us, never being surprised at their weaknesses, but edified at the least acts of virtue." She even strives to excuse the blameworthy or to clothe them with good intentions. " should the devil draw my attention to the faults of any one of them...I call to mind at once her virtues and her good intentions. i tell myself that though I may have seen her fall once, there are probably a great many other occasions on which she has won victories.."
One day, when she is about to perform a task she is eager to do, she observes that a religious has the same inrention and she holds back to leave to her the benefit. She folds her needlework slowly. But it is taken as an act of laziness. Therese meditates on this disappointment :" I cannot tell you what I gained from this incident and how tolerant it made me to the weaknesses of others." She discovers how difficult it is to understand the intentions of someone: " Since one took my little acts of virtue for imperfections, we can equally well be mistaken in taking for virtue that which is only imperfection." When a sister does not please her, she tries to be particularly pleasant with her. A neurotic portress among the sisters drove all her assistants to despair by her everlasting nagging, her repeated instructions. "Out of love we must let her keep her idea that she is benefting us by all her good advice. And , after all, she is really giving us an opportunity to practise patience." During her novitiate Therese herself assisted at the door - when her successor took exception to the old womans nagging, the sister said indignantly; " What is the matter with you? Sister Therese of the Child Jesus never talked to me that way!"
Thus, we must aid human beings whenever we see them suffering. And human weaknesses and defects are forms of suffering, if only because they usually drive away the love of others. Even in the convent such nuns were the loneliest. what is the conclusion? Are not such nuns the poor man who has fallen among thieves and now lies by the wayside? ; " I must seek out the company of the Sisters who, naturally speaking, repel me, and be their Good Samaritan. Often a single word, a friendly smile, is enough too give a depressed or lonely soul fresh life. Nevertheless I do not always want to practise charity merely to bring consolation. I would soon be discouraged, for something said with the best of intentions may be taken completely the wrong way..I try to do everything to give pleasure to Our Lord, and to follow out this Gospel precept, " When thou givest a supper, do not ask thy neighbours to come, or thy brethren..invite poor men to come, the cripples, the lame , the blind..." a spiritual feast of gentle, joyful love is all I can set before my Sisters;.." ( Story of a Soul, ch X)
- Confidence in mercy
Increased awareness of the mercy of God is an essential aspect of the little way, discovered at the end of 1894, by Therese. Hardly has she realised that by remaining small she can become a saint, she exclaims ; " O my God, you have exceeded my expectations and I want to sing your mercies." She understands that the mercy of God is especially great for those who know themselves weak, imperfect, and who rely on Him. This word miséricorde mercy, which was previously quite rare in her writings now comes to the fore. Thus it is still to sing the mercies of the Lord that she agrees to write, in 1895, her memories of childhood, in what will be known as the manuscript A. And in the act of offering that she makes in June of the same year, she associates this merciful love with waves of infinite tenderness.
Mercy does not come down to for her the forgiveness of God, even if this dimension is important. It also relates to the sweetness and tenderness of God which bends over the most small. In the Old Testament the hebrew word Rah'amim, רחמים , means first the maternal breast and tenderness, merciful tenderness which flows from this. The word evokes the maternal tenderness of God for his people and his children, for the small and the poor. The discovery by Therese of the little way built up around a passage from the book of Isaiah ( ch 66 , 12-13) on the love of God for his people, comparable to that of a mother for her children.
If the little way opens, by a larger union to God, a charity more perfect, man remains yet imperfect and may still fall into sin. But in this case, he can run back, with confidence, to the forgiveness of God who relieves it/releases him[?] On this point, Therese is particularly prolix. She says, inspired as often, by children : " To be small...it is not to discourage oneself with ones faults, because children often fall, but they are too small to do much harm." She who for a long time suffered from scruples now reassures abbé Belliere who worries over his past faults. In June 1897, Therese writes to him ; "The memory of my faults humiliates me, carries me to the point where never rely on my strength, which is only weakness, but more this memory speaks to me of mercy and of love.How when one throws ones faults with a confidence all filial in the devouring flames of love, how could they not be consumed for ever ?"
this sense of mercy is crucial in the final months of her life, when she goes through the rdeal of the night of faith. During this period she is assailed by such temptations that she understands better what the greatest sinners live. Yet she continues to believe in the infinite mercy of God for who comes to him. she goes as far as to say, in July 1897, to her sister Pauline : ", my Mother, if I had committed all possible crimes, I would still have the same confidence, I feel that all this multitude of offences would be as a drop of water thrown in a blazing inferno."
Her last letter, to abbe belliere, in August 1897, finishes with these words : " I can not fear a god who made himself so small for me..I love him!..for he is only love and mercy!"
- 1926 : Lucie Delarue-Mardrus Sainte Therese de Lisieux
- 1930 : Antonin Eymiau Therese de Lisieux; la petite voie, la voie heroique, la voie royale, la voie triomphale
- 1934 Henri Gheon Sainte Therese de Lisieux
- 1939 : Jean Missol Sainte Therese de Lisieux. Son coeur, sa croix, sa mission
- 1947 : Maxence Van Der Meersch La petite sainte Therese
- Descouvemont p.14
- Descouvemont p.22
- Descouvemont p. 25
- Therese and Lisieux Pierre Descouvemont/ Loose p.10
- The Hidden Face, Ida Gorres p.153
- Guy Gaucher L'Histoire d'une vie Editions du cerf 1993