Today we celebrate the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, whom Pope Pius X called “the greatest saint of modern times.” How did this young woman who died before she was thirty years old, lived in a secluded Carmelite convent, and wanted only to be invisible to the world, become one of the most well-known saints of today and even a Doctor of the Church?
Therese was born the youngest of a large French Catholic family in the year 1873. Her parents, Zelie and Louis Martin, (who are both canonized saints) were very devout, and their careful guidance had much influence on little Therese’s spiritual life. Therese grew up in a household which was filled with the desire to give all to God. So, it is not surprising that Therese decided she would give herself to God as a nun. She wished to enter the Carmelite order at the unusually young age of fifteen. She was not granted this desire, but she did enter the convent a little later when she was sixteen. From the convent she was able to practice and perfect her “little way” to heaven – that is, to do everything, even the smallest tasks, with as much love for God as one can. Her “little way” was so humble that even her fellow sisters hardly noticed the great soul in their midst, which was attaining great holiness. She did not entirely escape notice, however. Therese was told by her Superior to write an autobiography about her life, which we know today as “The Story of a Soul.” Therese, bound by obedience, did as she was asked and wrote it. It was good that she did, because not too much later, indeed even as she was finishing the autobiography, Therese came down with tuberculosis, a deadly disease which affected her lungs. She found ample room to continue to practice her “little way” offering all of her suffering through the illness as a sacrifice to God until she died on September 30, 1897.
Therese had such confidence in God that she said she would, “spend her heaven doing good on earth,” which she does even to this day! Therese’s “little way” has inspired many to do everything with great love for God, including saints of our time such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who took her name from St. Therese of Lisieux. Therese is also a powerful intercessor with God, and God has granted many miracles through her intercession, continuing to let down from heaven “a shower of roses” just as she had promised she while she was here on earth.
St. Therese, who was such an example of humility and love for God, pray to God that we will receive the grace to be like you. Help us to follow your “little way” to God and find His work in the everyday and mundane things of our life, offer it all to Him, and someday follow you to heaven on the path of childlike confidence in God that He will give us the grace to grow in virtue, like you did, just by accepting the small trials in life with great love.
St. Therese, pray for us!
So that the Catholic reader may not be confused, the Saint’s feasts are taken from the traditional calendar, so if you follow the new calendar, this feast may not line up with the feast you may be celebrating today.