(1873 – 1897)
Feastday: October 1st
Today is the memorial of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, more popularly known as "the Little Flower." Although just an obscure cloistered Carmelite nun, she has had universal appeal since her death in 1897. St. Thérèse is the patroness of all foreign missions and patroness of France.
Marie Thérèse Martin was born at Alençon, France on January 2, 1873, the youngest of five daughters. Her father, Louis, was a watchmaker, and her mother, Zelie, who died of breast cancer when Thérèse was four, was a lace maker. She was brought up in a model Christian home. While still a child, she felt the attraction of the cloister, and at fifteen obtained permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux. For the next nine years she lived a very ordinary religious life. There are no miracles, exploits or austerities recorded of her. She attained a very high degree of holiness by carrying out her ordinary daily duties with perfect fidelity, having a childlike confidence in God's providence and merciful love and being ready to be at the service of others at all times. She also had a great love of the Church and a zeal for the conversion of souls. She prayed especially for priests. She died of consumption on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24, and was canonized in 1925. She has never ceased to fulfill her promise: "I will pass my heaven in doing good on earth." Her interior life is known through her autobiography called Story of a Soul. Pope John Paul II declared her a Doctor of the Church in 1997.
In Apostolic Exhortation of Paul VI from 1975 On Christian Joy (Gaudete in Domino ), the pope speaks of St. Therese:
- In more recent times, St. Therese of Lisieux shows us the courageous
way of abandonment into the hands of God to whom she entrusts her
littleness. And yet it is not that she has no experience of the feeling
of God's absence, a feeling which our century is harshly experiencing:
"Sometimes it seems that the little bird (to which she compared
herself) cannot believe that anything else exists except the clouds that
envelop it.... This is the moment of perfect joy for the poor, weak
little thing.... What happiness for it to remain there nevertheless, and
to gaze at the invisible light that hides from its faith."