St. Therese of Lisieux – The Little Flower
St. Therese of the Child Jesus has been called the Little Flower and the Saint of the Little Way. She lived for only 24 years, from 1873 to 1897. When she was fifteen years old, then called Therese Martin, she entered the Carmelite convent at Lisieux where two of her sisters were already professed. She lived as a cloistered nun for less than ten years.
Therese’s mother died of breast cancer when she was only four and a half years old. Her sixteen year old sister Pauline became her second mother until Pauline entered the Carmelite convent five years later. Marie also became a Carmelite, Leoni entered the convent of the Visitation, and Celine joined her three sisters in Carmel after their father died. They all suffered humiliation when Louis, their father, entered an asylum for the insane. A series of strokes had affected him physically and mentally.
Therese developed her Little Way by making small sacrifices instead of doing great deeds. She was kind to the sisters who were mean to her, she ate her food even when it was distasteful to her, she was accused of breaking a vase and apologized even though she did not do it. She avoided the consolation of sitting next to her own dear blood sisters. She corresponded with Carmelite missionaries in China for which she has been named the patron of the missions.
Her sister Pauline who became the Prioress asked Therese to write the story of her life which has come down to us as “The Story of a Soul” and is read throughout the world. The last eighteen months of Therese’s life was filled with excruciating pain as she had developed tuberculosis and did not tell anyone right away. In her autobiography, she wrote: “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.” A pious devotion has developed whereby Christians ask Therese to send a rose to them as an answer to prayer.
Therese died on September 30, 1897. She was beatified in 1923 and canonized in 1925, a comparatively short time because she was so loved and imitated throughout the world.
On October 19, 1997, Pope John Paul II proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church, only the third woman to be recognized as such because of her holiness and the influence of her teaching on spirituality in the Church. Other than St. Therese, only St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila have this distinction.
In 2008, her dear parents Louis and Zelie Martin were beatified as a couple by Pope Benedict XVI.