“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden to me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”
— Saint Thérèse of Lisieux/ Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1873–1897)
Seen here in a photograph taken by her sister, Celine Martin (Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face) on Easter Monday, 1894.
(Archives of Carmel of Lisieux)
The beautiful Carmelite nun Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is often referred to as one of the most venerated saints in modern history. Today, September 30, the Church observes the 119th anniversary of her death. We celebrate with her feast day tomorrow, October 1
Thérèse was born in 1873 in France and given the baptismal name Marie Françoise Thérèse Martin. The youngest Martin daughter, she had a childhood marked by illness, great familial affection, very devout Catholic parents, four close sisters, the untimely death of her mother when Marie was just four years old, followed by several years of depression and self-isolation, before realizing a childlike faith, hope, and a strong desire to do God’s will. This paved the way for her deeply spiritual life journey.
The Little Flower:
When Marie Françoise Thérèse was 14, her father told her a story while they were sitting in their garden. After she had asked her father if she could follow her two eldest sisters and enter the nearby cloistered Discalced Carmelite community, he gave her a small white flower and described to her how God loved and cared for her just as He had brought that perfect little flower in being and cared for it.
Young Marie Françoise Thérèse saw that flower as symbolic to her own life, and would later write, as Thérèse: "while I listened, I believed I was hearing my own story.” This story not only shaped part of her spiritual journey, but also explains the back story of how Thérèse would eventually become known as "The Little Flower of Jesus" or simply as "The Little Flower.”
The next year, at age 15, Marie Françoise Thérèse entered the Carmel in Lisieux. She was given the religious name of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D.
Her spiritual journey has been preserved through her letters and her writings, most importantly, her memoir Story of a Soul. Therese’s spirituality, called her “little way,” is based on seeing herself as a child of God and simply trusting in Him.
There is much to meditate on as we read about the experiences which shaped the Little Flower and molded her into a model of holiness for all of us, most especially as a spiritual role model for women.
Thérèse died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24 after suffering greatly from the effects of tuberculosis, which was not properly diagnosed at first. She looked ahead, “After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth. I will raise up a mighty host of little saints. My mission is to make God loved…”
Pope Pius X called Thérèse "the greatest saint of modern times.” Later, after miracles were attributed to her intercession, Pope Pius XI dispensed the waiting period and beatified her in 1923, and then canonized her two years later, only twenty-eight years after her death. In that era, the usual waiting period for beatification was fifty years.
Later, Pope Pius XII named Thérèse a co-patron saint of France in 1944 with Joan of Arc, one of her longtime heroines. Then in 1997, Pope John Paul II declared Thérèse to be a Doctor of the Church, only the fourth woman to be given this status.
Ten fun facts about Thérèse:
Did you know?
1. Thérèse always carried the Gospels and the Epistles of Saint Paul close to her heart. She noted,
“But it is especially the Gospels which sustain me during my hours of prayer, for in them I find what is necessary for my poor little soul. I am constantly discovering in them new lights, hidden and mysterious meanings.”
2. Thérèse’s parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, had nine children, four of whom would die in early childhood.
3. Louis and Zelie became saints of the Church on October 18, 2015. Notably, they were the first married couple to be considered together for sainthood, and then were the first to actually be canonized together.
4. Each of the five remaining children of Louis and Zelie, all girls, would enter religious life:
--Thérèse’s two oldest sisters were the first to enter the local cloistered Carmelite monastery in Lisieux:
--Marie Louise, the eldest, would became Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart;
--Marie Pauline, the second sister, who would eventually be elected as the mother prioress of Carmel, would be known as Mother Agnes of Jesus;
--Marie Françoise Thérèse, the youngest daughter, would enter in 1788 at the age of 15, taking the name Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D.;
--The fourth sister, Céline, who cared for their father until his death in 1894, entered Carmel that same year and became Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face.
--Their first cousin, Marie Guérin, followed them to Carmel in 1895 and became Sister Marie of the Eucharist.
--Finally, the third sister, Léonie followed a different path and entered the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary, taking the name Sister Françoise-Thérèse, and becoming the only Martin sister to not enter Carmel.
5. In 2012, Léonie Martin was declared “Venerable” and her cause for canonization was opened.
6. Archival photos: Céline Martin was given permission by her eldest sister, Mother Agnes, to bring her camera and the necessary supplies to process photographs to Carmel. The photos she took of Thérèse over the years have been a treasure to the Church and to all those who have devotion to the Little Flower.
7. Thérèse’s childhood heroine was Joan of Arc. Later, while at Carmel, she would write two plays about Joan for the Carmelite nuns to perform on feast days to honor of the Catholic woman who would become the patron saint of France.
8. Two years after her canonization, Pope Pius XI named Thérèse the Patroness of the Vatican Gardens in 1927.
9. Thérèse’s relics have traveled on religious pilgrimage and been venerated all over the world. Also, her writing desk from Carmel was on display throughout the United States in 2013.
10. The Basilica of Saint Thérèse in Lisieux is one of the most visited shrines in France
“For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus...I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers...I do like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me.”
—Saint Thérèse of Lisieux on prayer
Bring your special intentions to Saint Thérèse in prayer:
Miraculous Invocation to St. Thérèse:
O Glorious St. Thérèse,
whom Almighty God has raised up to aid
and inspire the human family,
I implore your Miraculous Intercession.
You are so powerful in obtaining every need
of body and spirit from the Heart of God.
Holy Mother Church proclaims you "Prodigy of Miracles…
the greatest saint of Modern Times.”
Now I fervently beseech you to answer my petition
(mention in silence here)
and to carry out your promises of
spending heaven doing good on earth…
of letting fall from Heaven a Shower of Roses.
Little Flower, give me your childlike faith,
to see the Face of God
in the people and experiences of my life,
and to love God with full confidence.
Saint Thérèse, my Carmelite Sister,
I will fulfill your plea "to be made known everywhere”
and I will continue to lead others to Jesus through you.
To learn more about Saint Thérèse of Lisieux:
The Society of the Little Flower:
Spreading Devotion to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: The Greatest Saint of Modern Times
September 30, 2016 03:45
By Patti Murphy Dohn