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Saint Thérèse of Lisieux


Feast Day: October 3

saintthereseThérèse Martin was born in Alanson, France in 1873. From her earliest days, Thérèse told her father she wanted to belong totally to God. “You are too young to be a religious sister,” he said.

Thérèse was a simple girl and wanted to find easy ways to pray. She is often called the Little Flower because she promised, “I will send down a shower of Rose Petals from Heaven.” And that is just what she did. Many miracles have happened because of her.

A very pretty, intelligent girl, who had captivating ways and the youngest of nine, [she was] the one God sent them in answer to their prayers for a priest. For a family dedicated to the raising of saints, this meant the attention, love and effort of all were focused on this one child in an intense way. She was everybody’s darling.

However, had her spiritual training been neglected by her parents, she might not have been a saint. St. Thérèse said later that a soul of a child is like softened wax, waiting to receive the imprint of good or evil from the parents who care for it.

When Thérèse learned that Heaven was the best possible place to be, she immediately wished both her father and mother would die and go there. But what about herself? Would she go to Heaven too? Her mother said she would if she were good. But if she were not good? Would she go to hell? Without waiting for an answer she said: “I know what I will do — I will fly to you in Heaven and you will hold me tight in your arms and how could God take me away then?”

As Thérèse grew in years she greatly grew in wisdom, seeing the beauty and truth of God in the nature around her.

The first time Thérèse saw the sea; she sat with her sister Pauline on a rock and watched the sun sink, leaving a path of gold across the water. She gazed for a long time on this symbol of grace lighting up the way for her tiny ship with its white sails. She promised never to steer out of sight of Jesus so as to sail on in peace to the homeland of Heaven. It is exactly what she did.

In addition her family, while cultivating her piety, did not neglect doctrine nor asceticism, both of which are necessary if piety is to last and put on flesh. Doctrine is essential for a strong faith and self-denial whets the appetite for God. Her mother wrote of her at the age of three: “Even Thérèse is anxious to practice mortification. Marie has given her little sisters a string of beads on purpose to count their acts of self-denial, and they have really spiritual but very amusing conversations together. The other day Céline asked: ‘How can God be in such a tiny Host?’ and Thérèse answered, ‘That is not strange because God is Almighty.’ ‘And what does Almighty mean?’ continued Céline. ‘It means,’ said Thérèse, ‘that He can do whatever He likes.’”

When she was several years older, she was upset to learn that not all souls enjoy the same glory in Heaven. This did not seem right. Pauline told her to get her thimble and her father’s water tumbler and fill them with water. She asked Thérèse which was fuller. But neither was fuller than the other; one simply contained more because it was bigger. Oh! That was it. Each soul in Heaven is filled to its brim and can hold no more; each, being full of God, is completely happy. “My Father’s house has many mansions.”

St. Thérèse despised the quasi-humility that pretended it had received no great gift when it had. “I made it a practice never to complain when my things were taken, and if at any time I were unjustly accused, I preferred to keep silence rather than attempt an excuse. There was, however, no merit in all this for it came to me quite naturally.”

Thérèse entered into the French Carmelites at the age of 15.

One of the most poignant of all the episodes toward the end of Thèrése’s life was the night she went to bed and felt something hot and thick surge up in her throat. She guessed what it was, “As our lamp was out I knew I must wait till morning to make sure of the happy news, for I suspected that I had vomited blood. Morning was not far off and as soon as I arose, I remembered that I had some good news to learn: going over to the window I found I had guessed right.” It does not mean, as some have believed, that she thought it was a good thing to have tuberculosis. It was a welcome portent to her because she longed to go and see God, and this meant that it was His will she go soon.

Thérèse, who died at the age of 24, would become the 33rd person in the long history of the Church to be given the unique title of Doctor, surely the youngest of this august group of thirty men and two women who preceded her.

The best known of St. Thérèse’s writings is her “autobiography,” The Story of a Soul. It was first published the year after her death and has been a powerful tool of spiritual development ever since. It has been translated into more than 50 languages. The Story of a Soul has helped profoundly to bring souls closer to the good God to whom Thérèse refused nothing from the age of three.

This article was taken from the following two books, which are both available from

The Saints and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland

The 33 Doctors of the Church by Christopher Rengers, O.F.M. Cap.

Other books available on this saint are:

The Story of a Soul, the Autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux

Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Volume I, translated from the original manuscripts by John Clarke, O.C.D.

Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Volume II, by John Clarke, O.C.D.

St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations, translated from the original manuscripts by John Clarke, O.C.D.

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