Saint Therese of the Child Jesus is also known as Thérèse of Lisieux. At birth, she was named Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin. She was a Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun born on January 2 1873 in Alençon, Normandy, France, and died on September 30 1897 at the age of 24 in Lisieux, Calvados, France. Her feast day is celebrated on October 1 every year in the Catholic Church.
|Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Biography|
|Date of Birth||January 2 1873|
|Place of Birth||Alençon, Orne, France|
|Profession||Virgin and Doctor of the Church|
|Place of Work||Lisieux, Normandy, France|
|Date of Death||September 30 1897 (aged 24)|
|Place of Death||Lisieux, Calvados, France|
|Feast Day||October 1|
|Beatification||By Pope Pius XI on April 29 1923|
|Canonization||By Pope Pius XI on May 17 1925|
|Patron Saint of||
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Life History
Saint Therese’s father was called Louis Martin, a watchmaker, and a jeweler, and her mother was called Marie-Azélie Guérin. They were very devout and pious Catholic Christians who got the rare opportunity to be canonized together as a married couple as Saints Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin in 2015 by Pope Francis.
Both Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin had strong desires of joining religious congregations. Louis Martin wanted to enter the Great St Bernard Hospice but was discouraged because he did not know the Latin language. Marie-Azélie Guérin wanted to take care of the sick but was also discouraged from joining the Hôtel-Dieu in Alençon. She later started a very successful lacemaking business.
Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin met at the beginning of 1858 and on July 13 1858 they got married at the Basilica of Notre-Dame d’Alençon. Due to their previous callings, they decided to abstain from copulation but a priest counseled them and encouraged them to embrace the marriage life.
The couple was blessed with nine children but unfortunately lost four of them. All the remaining five became nuns and were as follows;
- Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, born on February 22 1860. She became a Carmelite nun in Lisieux and died on January 19 1940.
- Pauline, (Mother Agnes of Jesus), born on September 7 1861. She became a Carmelite nun in Lisieux and died on July 28 1951.
- Léonie, (Sister Françoise-Thérèse), born on June 3 1863. She became a Visitandine at Caen and died on June 16 1941.
- Céline, (Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face), born on April 28 1869. She became a Carmelite nun in Lisieux and died on February 25 1959.
- Marie Françoise-Thérèse, (Saint Therese of the Child Jesus)
Saint Therese’s health was very frail after birth such that Rose Taillé, a nurse, was entrusted to take care of her. After she got better, she continued to live with her parents who pampered her with lots of affection and love. She attended a Catholic School where she got acquainted with the rich and rigorous Catholic observances like mass attendance, prayers, fasts and acts of charity and visiting the sick and the elderly.
Therese was a good, happy and intelligent child even though she was sometimes carried away by emotions and would break down into tears at the slightest provocation. She would throw tantrums and roll on the floor if things did not happen or go her way. When she became a nun, she admitted that she was far from being a perfect little girl.
Therese’s mother, Zélie, died of breast cancer on August 28 1877 at the age of 45 and left the care of the 4½ years old Therese in the hands of her elder sisters Pauline and Marie. The death of her mother was a major blow to her, as she later admitted that the first part of her life stopped that day. She said that her happy disposition changed and became oversensitive to a point that she would even cry if somebody looked at her.
After the death of her mother, Her father, Louis Martin, sold the lacemaking business and moved to Lisieux. This is where Marie and Pauline, her sisters, took care of Therese.
Therese joined school, operated by the Benedictine nuns of the Abbey of Notre Dame du Pre in Lisieux when she was eight and a half years. She was very smart in class and scored high grades. Her young age and good grades attracted bullying from other learners, which was very emotionally draining for her. She wept in silence but her sister Céline always came to her rescue whenever she was down and her father’s kiss at home washed away her worries.
Wher she was nine years, her sister Pauline who was acting like her “second mama”, joined the Carmelite convent at Lisieux in October 1882. This was another major blow to Therese because she came to know that her sister would live in a cloistered community and would not be coming back to her. The trauma of her mother’s death was reawakened and not wanting to be left behind, she insisted on joining the Carmelites but her age would not allow it.
From then, Therese started to fall sick. She started having nervous tremors which began one night when her uncle talked about her mother Zélie. The doctors diagnosed that Therese was reacting to an emotional frustration with a neurotic attack.
Therese recovered from that nervous attack after she gazed at the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that was in her sister Marie’s room where she had been placed. Therese said that the Blessed Virgin Mary smiled at her and she felt happy.
On May 13 1883, when she was requested by the Carmelite nuns to narrate this vision, she lost confidence and her self-doubt made her to start questioning herself what happened. She thought she had lied about the vision.
Her sister Marie also joined Pauline in the Carmelite monastery in October 1886. Therese was left with her sister Céline and their father. She continued to weep another ‘loss’ of her sister. She also suffered from scruples which is the pathological guilt/religious anxiety about moral or religious issues. Therese says that this experience was very excruciating for her.
It was on the Christmas Eve of 1886 that the fourteen-year-old Therese says she made her turning point in life. She turned a new leaf from an emotional girl who would cry from the slightest provocation to a strong girl who would withstand emotions.
They went home from the Christmas Eve Mass. At Christmas time in France, young children would leave their shoes by the hearth, and parents would put gifts inside. By the time the children were fourteen years, most children would grow up and leave that habit to the younger ones. But Therese, at fourteen, still left the shoes by the hearth. Her sister Celine however filled the shoes with gifts.
When Therese and Celine went upstairs, their father said in a loud voice, “Therese is of age now. Fortunately, this will be the last year we shall have this kind of thing!”
Therese stood still and Celine immediately knew that her sister would start crying from that comment from their father. To Celine’s shock, the tantrums never came and Therese walked downstairs and happily reacted to the gifts. Therese says that Jesus entered her heart and converted her, a thing she, herself was unable to do for ten years. Jesus made her become more sensitive to her father’s feelings than her own. Therese says, “I felt the need to forget myself to make others happy.”
In May 1887, Therese told her father that she wanted to join the Carmelites. He picked a little white flower and gave it to her and explained how God had taken care of it from its germination.
Therese then approached the priest-superior of the Carmelite monastery and requested to join but again her young age worked to her disadvantage. With much courage now, the previously shy little girl went to the bishop with the same request but he too said no. Therese did not give up, she decided to go to the Pope.
Louis took her daughters Therese and Céline to Rome on pilgrimage in November 1887. As they went by their pilgrimage, they got a chance, during a general audience, to meet with Pope Leo XIII. When Therese’s chance came, on November 20 1887, she went and knelt before the pope and sought his permission to join the Carmelites. The pope told her to follow God’s will and the advice of her superiors. Therese would not leave the presence of the Pope. She insisted on being granted permission but unfortunately, the Noble Guard whisked her out of the room.
After coming back from Rome, the Bishop of Bayeux who had seen her courage and zeal to join the Carmelites, authorized the permitted Therese to join, and on April 9 1888, she became a Carmelite postulant.
Therese joined the Carmelite convent where there were 26 religious nuns and the prioress was Mother Marie de Gonzague. They followed a very strict routine of personal and collective prayer, one meal a day, silence and solitude, and a little free time for work and relaxation.
When Therese entered the Order, she was given, by Mother Marie de Gonzague, the religious name ‘Therese of the Child Jesus’ but later on she requested to have a second name ‘Therese of the Holy Face’.
While in the Carmelite convent, her father suffered from a stroke that left him physically and mentally affected. He was confined into a nuthouse and her father endured so much humiliation, gossip, and pity from their friends and neighbours. This affected Therese so much because, as a cloistered nun, she could not visit her father. On June 23 1888, her father disappeared from his home. His health began to decline and on July 29 1894 after he was found he died.
She would pray but she felt her prayers were not working and that Jesus was not ‘doing much to keep the conversation going’. She would pray until she fell asleep in prayer but she would console herself by saying, “just as mothers love children when they lie asleep in their arms, so will God love me when I sleep during prayer.”
In the convent, Therese was reunited with Marie and Pauline. The prioress assigned her the roles like an assistant to Pauline in the refectory and thereafter, in the sacristy.
Therese only met with her sisters during the hours of common recreation after meals. She would choose to sit with them or any other nun who she felt drawn to. She had come to realize that for four of them being there as blood sisters, they attracted some scorn from other nuns. She, therefore, tried as much as possible to balance between family and her mission in the convent.
Saint Therese knew that she would not be able to do great deeds to prove love. But to show love to others, she scattered flowers in the compound. She came to be known as the Little Flower of Jesus. She dedicated herself to pray and offer her suffering for priests and to forget herself in order to increase discreet acts of charity.
Other simple but very important little virtues she did was smiling at the sisters she didn’t like and eating everything she was given, even the worst leftovers, without complaining. On one occasion, when she was accused of breaking a vase even though she was innocent, she never argued, she fell on her knees and begged for forgiveness.
When Pauline was elected prioress on February 20 1893, and became “Mother Agnes” she asked Therese to make one sacrifice. Many of the sisters in the convent were worried that the sisters would control the convent. In order to pacify the fears of the other nuns, Pauline asked Therese to remain a novice, meaning she would wait a little longer to become a fully professed nun. this however was made bearable after her sister Celine entered the convent after her father’s death.
Therese felt very little in her own way but still wanted to become a saint. When she compared herself with other saints she felt like a grain of sand while the saints looked like towering mountains beyond the clouds. Instead of being discouraged, she aimed to go to heaven by doing great things in a little way.
She said that in order to reach the top storey of a building one would need to use a lift instead of manually climbing the stairs. She, therefore, chose the arms of Jesus Christ as the lift to carry her to heaven instead of struggling to climb the steep stairs of perfection. Therese said, “There is no need for me to grow up; I must stay little and become less and less.”
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus worried a lot about her vocation. Although she felt that her vocation was becoming a priest, through charity, she came to realize that her vocation was Love!
In 1896, she began to show the signs of Tuberculosis when she coughed blood. She hid this condition until one year later when it was inevitably hard to conceal the ailment. In her convalescence, her sister Pauline instructed her to continue writing down her memories to circulate in the journal about her life after her death.
The pain from the TB was so much such that if it were not for her faith, she says she would have taken her own life. But she endured her pain with a smile until her fellow nuns joked that she was only pretending to be ill.
After Pauline collated Therese’s memories together and sent them to other convents, Therese’s message resonated well with the thousands of Catholics who read her writings. Her “little way” of trusting on small sacrifices to become Holy instead of mighty deeds captured the hearts of many. Also, her reliance on Jesus Christ’s arms to take her to heaven also found favour with the Christians who were trying to find holiness in ordinary lives.
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Death
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus died of tuberculosis on September 30 1897 at the age of 24 years old. She was buried on October 4 1897, in the municipal cemetery at Lisieux near where her parents had been buried. In September 1910, her body was exhumed, placed in a lead coffin and transferred to another tomb. Before she was beatified in March 1923, her remains were returned to the Carmelite convent in Lisieux, where it remains until today.
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus was beatified on April 29 1923 by Pope Pius XI. On August 14 1921, Pope Benedict XV had started the process for her beatification by declaring her “Venerable”.
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus was canonized on May 17 1925 by Pope Pius XI.
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Feast Day
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus is the Patron Saint of
- Alaska, United States
- Antipolo, Philippines
- Cheyenne, Wyoming, United States
- Florists and gardeners
- Fresno, California, United States
- Gardens of Vatican City
- HIV/AIDS sufferers
- Homeless people
- Kisumu, Kenya
- Pasay, Philippines
- Pueblo, Colorado, United States
- Santa Teresita, Batangas, Philippines
- Stateless people
- The Russicum
- Witbank, South Africa
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Quote
“Jesus, Your ineffable image is the star which guides my steps. Ah, You know, Your sweet Face is for me Heaven on earth. My love discovers the charms of Your Face adorned with tears. I smile through my own tears when I contemplate Your sorrows.”
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