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Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus
  • Century: 19th Century
  • Patronage: Missionaries, France, Russia, AIDS Sufferers, Florists, Gardeners, Loss of Parents, Tuberculosis
  • Feast Day: October 1st

St. Therese of Lisieux, better known as St. Therese of the child Jesus was born Marie Francoise Therese Martin.  She felt an early call to religious life, and overcoming various obstacles, in 1888 at the age of 15, became a Nun and joined two of her elder sisters in the cloistered Carmelite Community of Lisieux, Normandy.   A collection of her autobiographical manuscripts, called “The Story of a Soul”, was printed and distributed a year after her death.  They had a huge impact, and she rapidly became one of the most popular saints of the twentieth century.  Pope Pius XI beatified her in 1923, and she was canonized in 1925.  Pope John Paul II declared her the thirty-third Doctor of the Church, the youngest person, and only the third woman to be so honored.  

Therese lived a hidden life, and wanted to be unknown, yet became popular after her death through her spiritual autobiography.  She wrote letters, poems, religious plays, prayers, and her fellow Sisters recorded her last conversations, when she was too sick to write herself.  The depth of her spirituality according to her own words, “My way is all confidence and Love”.  She was responsible, through her writings of inspiring many believers.  In the face of her littleness and nothingness, she trusted in God to be her Sanctity.  She wanted to go to heaven by an entirely new little way.  “I wanted to find an elevator that would raise me to Jesus”.   The elevator, she wrote, would be the arms of Jesus lifting her in all her littleness.  Therese herself said on her deathbed, “I only love simplicity.  I have a horror of pretence”.  She spoke out against some of the lives of Saints, written in her day, “We should not say improbable things, or things we do not know.  We must see their real, and not imagined lives”.  She is well known throughout the world, with the Basilica of Lisieux being the second largest place of Pilgrimage in France, after Lourdes.  

Therese’s final years were marked by a steady decline in health that she bore resolutely, and without complaint.  Tuberculosis was her final sufferings, but she saw that as part of her spiritual journey.  After she observed a rigorous Lenten fast, she went to bed on the eve of Good Friday, and felt a joyous sensation.  She wrote, “Oh!  How sweet this memory really is, I had scarcely laid my head upon the pillow when I felt something like a bubbling stream mounting to my lips.  I didn’t know what it was”.  

The next morning, she found blood on her handkerchief, and understood her fate.  Coughing up blood meant Tuberculosis, which meant death.  She wrote again, “I thought immediately of the joyful thing that I had to learn, so I went over to the window.  I was able to see that I was not mistaken.  Ah, my soul was filled with great consolation, I was interiorly persuaded that Jesus, on the anniversary of His own death, wanted to have me hear His first call”.  

As a result of Tuberculosis, Therese suffered terribly.  When she was near death, “Her physical suffering kept increasing so that even the doctor himself was driven to exclaim, ‘If you only knew what this young Nun was suffering’.”  During the last hours of Therese’s life, she said, “I would never have believed it was possible to suffer so much, never, never”.  

In July 1897, she made a final move to the Monastery infirmary.  On August 19th, 1897 she received her last communion.  She died on September 30, 1897 at the age of 24.  On her deathbed, 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”.  Her last words were, “My God, I love you”.  After nine years as a Carmelite Nun, she died of Tuberculosis, at the age of 24. 

Therese was buried in the Carmelite plot in the municipal cemetery at Lisieux, on October 4, 1897.  In March 1923, before she was beatified, her body was returned to the Carmel of Lisieux, where it remains today.  

Practical Take Away

St. Therese of Lisieux, better known as St. Therese of the child Jesus felt an early call to religious life, and overcoming various obstacles, in 1888 at the age of 15, became a Nun and joined two of her elder sisters in the cloistered Carmelite Community of Lisieux, Normandy.   She rapidly became one of the most popular saints of the twentieth century.  She was canonized in 1925.  Pope John Paul II declared her the thirty-third Doctor of the Church, the youngest person, and only the third woman to be so honored.  She suffered a painful death with Tuberculosis, but never complained or took her eyes off of Jesus; rather, she fully united herself with Him.  She died at the age of 24.