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Thérèse de Lisieux (2 January 1873 – 30 September 1897), or Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, born Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin, was a French Carmelite nun who was canonised in 1925 and declared a Doctor of the Church, one of only three women to receive that honour, in 1997. In 1927 she was named co-patron of the missions with St. Francis Xavier, and, in 1944, co-patron of France with St. Joan of Arc. She is also known as"The Little Flower of Jesus".

Early life

Thérèse Martin was born in Alençonmarker, Francemarker, the daughter of Blessed Louis Martin, a watchmaker, and Blessed Marie-Azélie Guérin, a lacemaker. Both her parents were devout Catholics. Louis had tried to become a monk, but was refused because he knew no Latin. Zélie, as she was always called, was rejected as a nun because the superior felt she had no vocation to the religious life; instead, she asked God to give her many children and let them all be consecrated to God. Louis and Zélie met in 1858 and married only three months later. They had nine children, of whom only five daughters--Marie, Pauline, Léonie, Céline and Thérèse—survived to adulthood.

Thérèse at age 15
Zélie was so successful in manufacturing lace that Louis sold his watchmaking shop to his nephew and handled the travelling end of her lacemaking business. In the nineteen years of their marriage, Louis and Zelie lost four children, three as infants and one little girl, Helene, at age five. In 1877, when Therese was only four, Zélie died of breast cancer. Louis sold the business and moved to Lisieuxmarker in the Calvadosmarker Department of Normandy, where Zélie's brother, Isidore Guérin, a pharmacist, lived with his wife and two daughters.

Taught at home till she was eight, Thérèse then studied at the Benedictine Abbey in Lisieux. When she was nine years old, her sister Pauline, who had acted as a "second mother" to her, entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux. Thérèse was devastated. She also wanted to enter Carmel, but was told she was too young. In 1886 her oldest sister, Marie, entered the same Carmel. In 1887, when she was fourteen, Thérèse renewed her attempts to join the order, but the priest-superior of the monastery would not allow it on account of her youth. Later, Louis took Céline and Thérèse on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome for the priestly jubilee of Pope Leo XIII. During a general audience with Leo XIII, she asked him to allow her to enter at 15, but the Pope said: "Well, my child, do what the superiors decide."

The Martin family house where Thérèse grew up

Soon after that, the Bishop of Bayeux authorized the prioress to receive Thérèse, and on 9 April 1888 she became a Carmelite postulant. In 1889 her father suffered a stroke and was taken to a private sanatorium, the Bon Sauveur at Caenmarker, where he remained for three years before returning to Lisieux in 1892. He died on 29 July 1894. Upon his death, Céline, who had been caring for him, entered the same Carmel as her three sisters on 14 September 1894; their cousin, Marie Guérin, entered on 15 August 1895. Léonie, after several attempts, became Sister Françoise-Thérèse, a nun in the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary at Caen.

Therese's apostolate of prayer for priests

At fourteen, St. Thérèse understood her vocation to pray for priests, to be "an apostle to apostles." In September 1890, at her canonical examination before she professed her religious vows, she was asked why she had come to Carmel. She answered "I came to save souls, and especially to pray for priests." Throughout her life she prayed fervently for priests, and she corresponded with and prayed for a young priest, Adolphe Roulland, and a young seminarian, Maurice Bellière. She wrote to her sister "Our mission as Carmelites is to form evangelical workers who will save thousands of souls whose mothers we shall be."[43166]

Thérèse's Little Way

Thérèse is known for her "way of confidence and love", commonly known as "The Little Way". In her quest for sanctity, she realized that it was not necessary to accomplish heroic acts, or "great deeds", in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. She wrote,
"Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love?
Great deeds are forbidden me.
The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."

This little way, as Thérèse called it, is the foundation of her spirituality: Long ago the Church described Thérèse's way as "the little way of spiritual childhood," but Therese wrote "little way" only once, and she never wrote the phrase "spiritual childhood." It was her sister Pauline who, after Thérèse's death, adopted the phrase "the little way of spiritual childhood" to interpret Therese's path. Years after Thérèse's death, a Carmelite of Lisieux asked Pauline about this phrase and Pauline answered spontaneously "But you know well that Thérèse never used it! It is mine." In May 1897 Thérèse wrote to Father Adolphe Roulland, "My way is all confidence and love." To Maurice Bellière she wrote "and I, with my way, will do more than you, so I hope that one day Jesus will make you walk by the same way as me."

"Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles, surrounded by a crowd of illusions, my poor little mind quickly tires.
I close the learned book which is breaking my head and drying up my heart, and I take up Holy Scripture.
Then all seems luminous to me; a single word uncovers for my soul infinite horizons; perfection seems simple; I see that it is enough to recognize one's nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God's arms.
Leaving to great souls, to great minds, the beautiful books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because 'only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet'."

Passages like this have left Thérèse open to the charge that hers is an overly sentimental and even a childish spirituality. Her proponents counter that she developed an approach to the spiritual life that everyone can understand and adopt, no matter what their background.

This is evident in her approach to prayer:
"For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.
I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers....
I do like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me."

The Child Jesus and the Holy Face

Saint Thérèse entered the Carmelite order on 9 April 1888. On January 10, 1889, after a probationary period somewhat longer than the usual, she was given the habit and received the name: Thérèse of the Child Jesus. On 8 September 1890 Thérèse took her vows; the ceremony of taking the veil followed on the 24th when she added to her name in religion, and of the Holy Face, a title which was to become increasingly important in the development and character of her inner life. In her poem "My Heaven down here" composed in 1895 she expressed the notion that by the divine union of love, the soul takes on the semblance of Christ. By contemplating the sufferings associated with the Holy Face of Jesus, she felt she could become closer to Christ.

The devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus had been started by another Carmelite nun, Sister Marie of St Peter in Toursmarker, France in 1844 and was promoted by Leo Dupont, also known as the Apostle of the Holy Face who formed the "Archconfraternity of the Holy Face" in Tours in 1851. The devotion was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1855. Saint Thérèse was introduced to the Holy Face devotion through her blood sister Pauline, Sister Agnes of Jesus.

Her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, had also prayed at the Oratory of the Holy Face, originally established by Leo Dupont in Tours. Saint Thérèse wrote many prayers to express the devotion to the Holy Face. She wrote the words “Make me resemble you, Jesus!” on a small card and attached a stamp of the Holy Face. She pinned the prayer in a small container over her heart. In August 1895, in her “Canticle to the Holy Face” she wrote:

"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".

Saint Thérèse emphasised God's mercy in both the birth and the passion narratives in the Gospel. She wrote:

"He sees it disfigured, covered with blood!... unrecognizable!... And yet the divine Child does not tremble;this is what He chooses to show His love."

She also composed the Holy Face prayer for sinners:

"Eternal Father, since Thou hast given me for my inheritance the adorable Face of Thy Divine Son, I offer that face to Thee and I beg Thee, in exchange for this coin of infinite value, to forget the ingratitude of souls dedicated to Thee and to pardon all poor sinners."

Since St. Thérèse died in 1897, she never saw Secondo Pia's 1898 photograph of the Holy Face of Jesus, taken from the Shroud of Turinmarker. Her devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus was based on painted images of the Veil of Veronica, as promoted by Leon Dupont fifty years earlier. However, over the decades, her poems and prayers helped to spread the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.

Declining health and death

Thérèse's final years were marked by a steady decline that she bore resolutely and without complaint. During the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, 1896, she began coughing up blood due to a pulmonary hemoptysis; her tuberculosis had taken a turn for the worse. Thérèse corresponded with a Carmelite mission in what was then French Indochina, and was invited to join them, but, because of her sickness, she could not travel. In July 1897 she was moved to the monastery infirmary, where she died on 30 September 1897, at age 24. On her death-bed, 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."
Thérèse was buried in the Carmelite plot in the municipal cemetery at Lisieux, where Louis and Zelie were buried. In March 1923, before she was beatified, her body was returned to the Carmel of Lisieux, where it remains.

Autobiography - "Story of a Soul"

St. Thérèse is known today because of her spiritual memoir, L'histoire d'une âme ("Story of a Soul"), which she wrote upon the orders of two prioresses of her monastery. She began the work in 1895 as a memoir of her childhood, under instructions from her sister Pauline, known in religion as Mother Agnes of Jesus. Mother Agnes gave the order after being prompted by their eldest sister, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart. While Thérèse was on retreat in September 1896, she wrote the second part, a letter to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart. In June 1897 Mother Agnes became aware of the extent of Thérèse's illness; she immediately asked Mother Marie de Gonzague, who had succeeded her as prioress, to allow Thérèse to write another memoir with more details of her religious life. It was published posthumously, and was heavily edited by Pauline (Mother Agnes). (Aside from considerations of style, Mother Marie de Gonzague had ordered Pauline to alter the first two sections of the manuscript to make them appear as if they were addressed to Mother Marie as well.)

Since 1973, two centenary editions of Thérèse's original, unedited manuscripts, including "Story of a Soul," her letters, poems, prayers and the plays she wrote for the monastery recreations have been published in French. The authoritative English language translation of the centenary edition of Thérèse's writings is available from ICS Publications in Washington, D.C. "Story of a Soul," "Last Conversations," and the two volumes of her letters were translated by John Clarke, O.C.D.; "The Poetry of Saint Thérèse" by Donald Kinney, O.C.D., and "The Prayers of St. Thérèse" by Alethea Kane, O.C.D. "The Religious Plays of St. Therese of Lisieux," a translation of the plays Thérèse wrote for community recreations, has also appeared.


In 1902, the Polish Carmelite Father Raphael Kalinowski (later Saint Raphael Kalinowski) translated her autobiography "Story of a Soul" into Polish.

Her autobiography has inspired many people, including the Italian writer Maria Valtorta.

Pope Pius X signed the decree for the opening of her process of canonization on 10 June 1914. Pope Benedict XV, in order to hasten the process, dispensed with the usual fifty-year delay required between death and beatification. On 14 August 1921, he promulgated the decree on the heroic virtues of Thérèse and gave an address on Thérèse's way of confidence and love, recommending it to the whole Church. There may have been a political dimension to the speed of proceedings; partly to act as tonic for a nation exhausted by war, or even a retort from the Vatican for the dominant secularism and anti-clericalism of the French government.

According to some biographies of Edith Piaf, in 1922 the future famous singer — at the time, an unknown seven-year-old girl — was cured from blindness after pilgrimage to the grave of Thérèse, at the time not yet formally canonised.

Saint Thérèse was beatified on 29 April 1923 and canonized on 17 May 1925, by Pope Pius XI, only 28 years after her death. Her feast day was added to the Roman Catholic calendar of saints in 1927 for celebration on 3 October. In 1969, 42 years later, Pope Paul VI moved it to 1 October, the day after her dies natalis (birthday to heaven).

Thérèse of Lisieux is the patron saint of people with AIDS, aviators, florists, illness(es) and missions. She is also considered by Catholics to be the patron saint of Russia, although the Russian Orthodox Church does not officially recognize either her canonization or her patronage. In 1927 Pope Pius XI named Thérèse a patroness of the missions and in 1944 Pope Pius XII named her co-patroness of France alongside St. Joan of Arc.

St Thérèse working with other Carmelite nuns, 1894
By the Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia ("The Science of Divine Love") of 19 October 1997, Pope John Paul II declared her one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Universal Church, one of only three women so named [the others being Teresa of Avila (Saint Teresa of Jesus) and Catherine of Siena. Thérèse was the only saint to be named a Doctor of the Church during Pope John Paul II's pontificate.

A movement is now under way to canonise her parents, who were declared "Venerable" in 1994 by Pope John Paul II. In 2004 the Archbishop of Milanmarker accepted the unexpected cure of a child with a lung disorder as attributable to their intercession. Announced by Cardinal Saraiva Martins on 12 July 2008, at the ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of the marriage of the Venerable Zelie and Louis Martin, their beatification as a couple [43167] (the last step before canonization) took place on Mission Sunday, 19 October 2008, at Lisieux. Some interest has also been shown in promoting for sainthood Thérèse's sister, Léonie, the only one of the five sisters who did not become a Carmelite nun. Léonie Martin, in religion Sister Françoise-Thérèse, died in 1941 in Caenmarker, where her tomb in the crypt of the Visitation Monastery can be visited by the public.

Together with St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the most popular Catholic saints since Apostolic times. As a Doctor of the Church, she is the subject of much theological comment and study, and, as an appealing young woman whose message has touched the lives of millions, she remains the focus of much popular devotion.

For many years Thérèse's relics have toured the world, and thousands of pilgrims have thronged to pray in their presence. Although Cardinal Basil Hume is thought, by some, to have declined to endorse proposals for a tour in 1997, her relics did visit Englandmarker and Walesmarker in late September and early October 2009, including an overnight stop in the Anglican York Minstermarker on her feastday, 1 October. A quarter of a million people venerated them.

The Congregation of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was founded on 19 March 1931 by Mar Augustine Kandathil, the Metropolitan of the Catholic St. Thomas Christians, as the first Indian religious order for brothers.

Places named after St. Thérèse

A number of locations, churches, and schools throughout the world are named after Saint Thérèse.

The Basilica of St. Thérèsemarker in her home town of Lisieux was consecrated on 11 July 1954; it has become a centre for pilgrims from all over the world. It was originally dedicated in 1937 by Cardinal Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII. The basilica can seat 4,000 people..

See also


  1. Patron Saints Index: Thérèse of Lisieux Retrieved on 1 October 2006
  2. Venerable and to-be-Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin: Their Lives
  3. The medallion Louis gave to Zelie during their wedding ceremony Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway
  4. Phyllis G. Jestice, Holy people of the world Published by ABC-CLIO, 2004 ISBN 1576073556
  5. Clarke, John O.C.D. trans. The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, 3rd Edition (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1996)
  6. Thérèse of Lisieux - A Gateway: Thérèse discovers her "way of confidence and love"
  7. Thérèse of Lisieux - Spirituality
  8. Clarke, John O.C.D. trans. The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, 3rd Edition (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1996, p. 207).
  9. Therese's prayer
  10. Ida Friederike Gorres p.164 The Hidden Face ISBN 0-89870-927-X
  11. Thomas R. Nevin, Thérèse of Lisieux: God's gentle warrior Oxford University Press US, 2006 ISBN 0195307216 pages 184 and 228
  12. Catholic Encyclopedia: Reparation
  13. Dorothy Scallan, The Holy Man of Tours (1990) ISBN 0895553902
  14. Paulinus Redmond, 1995 Louis and Zelie Martin: The Seed and the Root of the Little Flower Cimino Press ISBN 1899163085 page 257
  15. Ann Laforest, Thérèse of Lisieux: the way to love Published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2000 ISBN 1580510825 page 61
  17. Pierre Descouvemont, Thérèse and Lisieux Eerdmans Publishing, 1996 ISBN 0802838367 page 137
  18. Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 104
  19. Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 141
  20. Tens of Thousands Flock to St. Thérèse Relics, By Anna Arco, 25 September 2009, The Catholic Herald (UK) [1]
  21. Fr. George Thalian: The Great Archbishop Mar Augustine Kandathil, D. D.: the Outline of a Vocation, Mar Louis Memorial Press, 1961. (Postscript) (PDF)
  22. [2]

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