Saint Thérèse, De Lisieux,

Saint Thérèse, De Lisieux, books and biography

Thérèse of Lisieux


Saint Thérèse de Lisieux

Saint Thérèse, at age 15, before entering the Carmelite order
Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Born January 2, 1873(1873-01-02), Alençon, France
Died September 30, 1897 (aged 24), Lisieux, France
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified April 29, 1923 by Pope Pius XI
Canonized May 17, 1925 by Pope Pius XI
Major shrine Basilique de Sainte-Thérèse [1], Lisieux, France
Feast October 1
October 3 Traditional Catholic Calendar
Attributes flowers
Patronage AIDS sufferers; Anchorage, Alaska; Australia; aviators; bodily ills; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Fairbanks, Alaska; Fresno, California; Juneau, Alaska; Pueblo, Colorado; florists; France; illness; Kisumu, Kenya; loss of parents; missionaries; Russia; tuberculosis; Witbank, South Africa; CatholicTV, Massachusetts

Thérèse de Lisieux (2 January 187330 September 1897), or Sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus et de la Sainte Face, born Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin, was a Roman Catholic Carmelite nun who was canonized a saint and is recognized as a Doctor of the Church, one of only three women to receive that honor. She is also known as The Little Flower of Jesus.[2]


Early life

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was born in Alençon, France, the daughter of Blessed Louis Martin, a watchmaker, and Blessed Marie-Azélie Guérin, a lacemaker.[3] Both her parents were very religious. Louis had attempted to become a monk, but was refused because he knew no Latin. Azélie was rejected as a nun because she was considered to have no vocation; instead, she asked God to give her many children and let them all be consecrated to God. Louis and Zélie met in 1858 and married only three months later.[[1]] They had nine children, of whom only five daughters—Marie, Pauline, Léonie, Céline and Thérèse—survived to adulthood. Thérèse was their youngest child. Azélie's lace business was so successful that Louis sold his watchmaking shop to his nephew and handled the traveling end of her lacemaking business. Zélie died of breast cancer in 1877, when Thérèse was only four years old, and her father sold the business and moved to Lisieux, in the Calvados Department in Normandy, where Azélie's brother Isidore Guérin, a pharmacist, lived with his wife and two daughters.

Thérèse studied at the Benedictine Abbey of Notre Dame du Pré. When she was nine years old, her sister Pauline, who had acted as a "second mother" to her, entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux. Thérèse also wanted to enter Carmel, but was told she was too young. At 14, after her sister Marie entered the same Carmelite monastery, Thérèse renewed her attempts to join the order, but the priest-superior of the monastery would not allow this on account of her youth. Later, her father took Thérèse on a pilgrimage to Rome, and during a general audience with Pope Leo XIII, she asked him to allow her to enter at 15, but the Pope said: "Well, my child, do what the superiors decide."

Shortly thereafter, the bishop of Bayeux authorized the prioress to receive Thérèse, and in April 1888 she became a Carmelite postulant. In 1889 her father suffered a stroke and was taken to a private sanatorium, the Bon Sauveur at Caen, where he remained for three years before returning to Lisieux in 1892. He died in 1894. Upon his death, Céline, who had been caring for their father, entered the same Carmel as her three sisters, on 14 September 1894; their cousin, Marie Guérin, entered in 1895. Léonie, after several failed attempts, became Sister Françoise-Thérèse, a nun in the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary at Caen.[4]

The Little Way

Photograph of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux in the Carmelite Brown Scapular, 1895.

Thérèse is known for her "Little Way."[2] In her quest for sanctity, she realized that it was not necessary to accomplish heroic acts, or "great deeds", in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. She wrote,

"Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."

This "Little Way" also appeared in her approach to spirituality:[[3]]

"Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises, in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles in the way and a host of illusions round about it, my poor little mind soon grows weary, I close the learned book, which leaves my head splitting and my heart parched, and I take the Holy Scriptures. Then all seems luminous, a single word opens up infinite horizons to my soul, perfection seems easy; I see that it is enough to realize one's nothingness, and give oneself wholly, like a child, into the arms of the good God. Leaving to great souls, great minds, the fine books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because 'only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet'."

Passages like this have left Thérèse open to the charge that hers is an overly sentimental and even childish spirituality. Her proponents counter that she sought to develop an approach to the spiritual life that was understandable and imitable by all who chose to do so, regardless of their level of sophistication or education.

This is evident in her approach to prayer:[[4]]

"For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy; in a word, something noble, supernatural, which enlarges my soul and unites it to God.... I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers.... I do as a child who has not learned to read, I just tell our Lord all that I want and He understands."

Declining health and death

Funerary monument in the Church of Saint Francis, in Évora (Portugal).

Thérèse's final years were marked by a steady decline that she bore resolutely and without complaint. On the morning of Good Friday, 1896, she began bleeding at the mouth due to a pulmonary hemoptysis; her tuberculosis had taken a turn for the worse. Thérèse corresponded with a Carmelite mission in what was then French Indochina, and was invited to join them, but because of her sickness, she could not travel. In July 1897 she was moved to the monastery infirmary, where she died on September 30, 1897, at age 24. On her death-bed, she is reported to have said, "I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me."


Thérèse de Lisieux

St. Thérèse is known today because of her spiritual memoir, L'histoire d'une âme ("Story of a Soul"), which she wrote upon the orders of two prioresses of her monastery. She began the work in 1895 as a memoir of her childhood, under instructions from her sister Pauline, known in religion as Mother Agnes of Jesus. Mother Agnes gave the order after being prompted by their eldest sister, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart. While Thérèse was on retreat in September 1896, she wrote the second part, a letter to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart. In June 1897 Mother Agnes became aware of the extent of Thérèse's illness; she immediately asked Mother Marie de Gonzague, who had succeeded her as prioress, to allow Thérèse to write another memoir with more details of her religious life. It was published posthumously, and was heavily edited by Pauline (Mother Agnes). (Aside from considerations of style, Mother Marie de Gonzague had ordered Pauline to alter the first two sections of the manuscript to make them appear as if they were addressed to Mother Marie as well.)

Since 1973, two centenary editions of Thérèse's original, unedited manuscripts, including "Story of a Soul," her letters, poems, prayers, and the plays she wrote for the monastery recreations have been published in French. The authoritative English translation of the centenary edition of Therese's writings is available from ICS Publications in Washington, D.C. "Story of a Soul," "Last Conversations," and the two volumes of her letters were translated by John Clarke, O.C.D.; "The Poetry of Saint Therese" by Donald Kinney, O.C.D., and "The Prayers of St. Therese" by Alethea Kane, O.C.D.


Basilica of St. Thérèse in Lisieux

In 1902, the Polish Carmelite Father Raphael Kalinowski (later Saint Raphael Kalinowski) translated her autobiography "Story of a Soul" into Polish.

Pope Pius X signed the decree for the opening of her process of canonization on June 10, 1914. Pope Benedict XV, in order to hasten the process, dispensed with the usual fifty-year delay required between death and beatification. On August 14, 1921, he promulgated the decree on the heroic virtues of Thérèse and gave an address on Thérèse's way of confidence and love, recommending it to the whole Church. Thérèse was beatified in April 1923 and canonized on May 17, 1925, by Pope Pius XI, only 28 years after her death. Her feast day was added to the Roman Catholic calendar of saints in 1927 for celebration on October 3.[5] In 1969, 42 years later, Pope Paul VI moved it to 1 October, the day after her dies natalis (birthday to heaven).[6]

The Basilique Sainte-Thérèse in her home town of Lisieux was consecrated on 11 July 1954, and has become a centre for pilgrims from all over the world.

Thérèse of Lisieux is the patron saint of people with AIDS, aviators, florists, illness, and missions. She is also considered by Catholics to be the patron saint of Russia, although the Russian Orthodox Church officially recognizes neither her canonization nor her patronage. In 1927 Pope Pius XI named Thérèse a patron of the missions and in 1944 Pope Pius XII named her co-patroness of France alongside St. Joan of Arc.

By the Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia ("The Science of Divine Love") of October 19, 1997, Pope John Paul II declared her one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Universal Church, one of only three women so named [the others being Teresa of Avila (Saint Teresa of Jesus) and Catherine of Siena. Thérèse was the only saint to be given recognition as a Doctor of the Church during Pope John Paul II's pontificate.

A movement is now under way to canonize her parents, who were declared "Venerable" in 1994 by Pope John Paul II. In 2004 the Archbishop of Milan accepted the unexpected cure of a child with a lung disorder as attributable to their intercession. Announced by Cardinal Saraiva Martins on July 12, 2008, at the ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of the marriage of the Venerable Zelie and Louis Martin, their beatification[[5]] (the last step before canonization) took place on Misson Sunday, October 19, 2008, at Lisieux.[7][8] Some interest has also been shown towards promoting for sainthood Thérèse's sister, Léonie, the only one of the five sisters who did not become a Carmelite nun. Léonie Martin, in religion Sister Françoise-Thérèse, died in 1941 in Caen, where her tomb in the crypt of the Visitation Monastery can be visited by the public.

Together with St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the most popular Catholic saints since Apostolic times. As a Doctor of the Church, she is the subject of much theological comment and study and, as an appealing young girl whose message has touched the life of millions, she remains the focus of much popular devotion.

Her autobiography has inspired many people, including the Italian writer Maria Valtorta. For many years Thérèse's relics have toured the world, and thousands of pilgrims have thronged to pray in their presence.

Places named for Thérèse

United States

In 1925 the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles founded St. Theresa School in Coral Gables, Florida.

In 1925, the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, was built in honor of Thérèse of Lisieux.

In 1929 the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower, located in San Antonio, Texas, was established.

In 1939, Cardinal Dougherty built a high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in honor of St. Thérèse: Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls.

In 1991, Saint Theresa´s Catholic School was founded in Austin, TX


The municipality of Sainte-Thérèse-de-la-Gatineau, Quebec, is named in her honour.[9]

There is a St. Theresa of Lisieux Catholic High School in Richmond Hill, ON.

The Society of the Little Flower and Shrine to St Therese in Niagara Falls, ON.


St. Theresa's Convent Sr. Sec. School, Karnal (HR), India


St. Thérèse of Lisieux R.C. Primary school, Ingleby Barwick, Stockton-on-Tees, England

St Teresa's School - Effingham Hill, Dorking, Surrey


  1. ^ Town of France. Retrieved on October 1, 2006.
  2. ^ Patron Saints Index: Therese of Lisieux. Retrieved on October 1, 2006.
  3. ^ Venerable and to-be-Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin: Their Lives
  4. ^ Clarke, John O.C.D. trans. The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of the child jesus, 3rd Edition (Washington D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1996)
  5. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 104
  6. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 141
  7. ^ "Béatification à Lisieux des parents de sainte Thérèse" (in French). L'essemtiel des saints et des prénoms. Prenommer. 2008-10-19. Retrieved on 2008-10-22. 
  8. ^ "God's Word renews Christian life". l'Osservatore Romano (Holy See). 2008-10-22. Retrieved on 2008-10-22. 
  9. ^ "Sainte-Thérèse-de-la-Gatineau (Municipalité)" (in French). Commission de toponymie du Québec.,3&Longitude=-75,86667&Zoom=1700. Retrieved on 2008-09-16. 

See also

  • Carmelite Rule of St. Albert
  • Book of the First Monks
  • Constitutions of the Carmelite Order
  • Byzantine Discalced Carmelites
  • Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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