Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin, 1873-1897
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus – also known as St. Thérèse of Lisieux and the Little Flower – was born Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin in Alençon, France on January 2, 1873. She was the youngest of five surviving children, all girls, of Louis and Azélie-Marie Martin.
Thérèse had a happy childhood, surrounded by good influences. She wrote that her earliest memories were “of smiles and tender caresses”. When her mother died in 1877, her father sold his watchmaking business and moved the family to Lisieux so that the children could be near an aunt who would help to raise them. Mary, an older sister, ran the household and Pauline, the eldest, took charge of the family’s religious training.
When Thérèse was nine, Pauline entered the Carmelite convent at Lisieux, something that Thérèse also longed to do. Mary entered the same convent when Thérèse was nearly fourteen. It was at this time that Thérèse experienced her first vision of the baby Jesus.
During the next few months, Thérèse made known her wish to enter the Carmelite convent. While her father agreed, the Carmelites and the bishop felt that, at fourteen, she was too young. Shortly thereafter, when her father took Thérèse on a pilgrimage to Rome, she boldly spoke up at a general audience with the pope seeking his permission to enter the convent. “You shall enter if it be God’s will,” Pope Leo XIII told her in a kindly dismissal.
Some time later, the bishop gave her permission to enter. Only fifteen, Thérèse joined her two sisters in the Carmelite convent in April, 1888. (A fourth sister, Céline, also entered the convent a few years later after the death of their father.) In the convent, Thérèse was content with the life of hard work and prayer. "I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul," echoing her way of life.
Thérèse’s superiors, one of whom was her sister Pauline, recognized the saintliness of this humble girl and directed her to write her autobiography. This book, L’histoire d’une âme (The Story of a Soul), was instantly successful and is still read and loved throughout the world.
During Holy Week in the year 1896, Thérèse took ill. Over the next eighteen months, her disease worsened and she died on September 30, 1897 at the age if twenty-four. Shortly before that, she wrote, "I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth." She also said that “After my death I will let fall a shower of roses,” a prophecy that has become a sign of the saint’s intercession even to our own time.
Due to her popularity and the miracles which were attributed to her soon after her death, the Holy See dispensed with the period of fifty years which ordinarily elapsed in those days before the beatification process could begin. Pope Pius XI beatified her in 1923 and declared her a saint in 1925.
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus is the patroness of all foreign missions and of all works for Russia. She is also a patroness of aviators. We honor St. Thérèse with a Memorial on October 1.
Thérèse's message today: “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.” Thérèse understood that anything we do for another in God’s name is done for love. Even in doing the humblest and most mundane of chores, Thérèse was serving God in the most magnificent manner. We too should dedicate our daily tasks to God and do them with love.