Saint Therese of Lisieux
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus
Doctor of the Little Way of Spiritual Childhood
Doctor of Merciful Love
(1873 - 1897)
The last child of the Martin family was born January 2, 1873 and was baptized Marie Francoise Therese. At the age of four her mother died leaving her sister Pauline to care for Therese as a mother. In 1882 when Therese was nine Pauline entered the Carmelite convent leaving Therese with a deep sense of loss, as if losing a second mother before the age of ten. At the age of fourteen Therese entered what she considered to be the third part of her life, she wanted to be a Carmelite. When asked why she answered, “I came to save souls and especially to pray for priests.” (Story of a Soul, p. 149).
“When giving Therese his permission to enter Carmel, Therese’s father had plucked a tiny flower, roots and all, from where it grew in a crevice in the garden wall and had presented it to her. The little white flower represented his own sadness at losing his “little queen” and became for her a symbol of herself, soon to be “transplanted” to Carmel. Therese kept the flower throughout her life. Divine Providence has allowed her to be known and loved as the Little Flower.” (The 33 Doctors of the Church, p. 648)
On a pilgrimage to Rome, Therese asked the Holy Father Pope Leo XIII to allow her to enter the Carmelites at age fifteen. Therese asked, “Holy Father, in honor of your Jubilee, permit me to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen.” After he told her to do as the superiors decided, she reminded the Pope that if he would give permission, all would agree. Pope Leo XIII blessed her, saying, “You will enter if God wills it.” (Story of a Soul, p. 134-135)
At the age of fifteen on the feast of the Annunciation Therese entered Carmel, as God willed it. In the course of her two years as a postulant and novice and her seven years under vows, Therese performed a variety of jobs. The daily schedule of the Lisieux Carmelite convent began with rising at 5 a.m. to a wooden clapper, an hour of mental prayer, Mass, and the Little Hours of the Divine Office. Breakfast followed with bread and coffee then off to work, a main meal at 11 a.m. an hour of recreation, Vespers, spiritual reading, a hour of mental prayer, followed by a light super and a second recreation period. At 7:30 p.m. Matins and Lauds were chanted with the end of the day coming at 11 p.m.
At fifteen could Therese have understood what she was entering with the Carmelite convent? Did she have any reservations? In her own words Therese says, “God gave me the grace not to have a single one when entering Carmel." (Story of a Soul, p. 149)
The prayer Therese carried on the day of her religious profession September 8, 1890 sums up the way in which she gave herself completely to God’s will. She wrote this prayer the day before her profession.
“O Jesus, my divine spouse! May I never lose the second robe of my Baptism; take me before I can commit the slightest voluntary fault. May I never seek nor find anything but Yourself alone. May creatures be nothing for me and may I be nothing for them, but may You, Jesus, be everything… Never let me be a burden to the community, let nobody be occupied with me, let me be looked upon as one to be trampled underfoot, forgotten like Your little grain of sand, Jesus. May Your will be done in me perfectly, and may I arrive at the place You have prepared for me. Jesus, allow me to save very many souls; let no soul be lost today; let all the souls in Purgatory be saved. Jesus, pardon me if I say anything I should not say. I want only to give You joy and to console You.” (Story of a Soul, p. 275)
On the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday 1896 Therese coughed up what appeared to be blood. Verified the following morning as blood, Therese was not frightened. She felt closer to being with the one she loved in Heaven. Her last year and a half brought increased bodily pain as her tuberculosis ravaged her system. She went home September 30, 1897 at age 24.
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