The Little Flower of Jesus
THÉRÈSE MARTIN was born at Alençon, France on Jan. 2 1873 to Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin. Two days later, she was baptized Marie Frances Thérèse at Notre Dame Church. After the death of her mother on Aug. 28, 1877, Thérèse and her family moved to Lisieux. At age 6, she went to confession for the first time.
On the Feast of Pentecost in 1883, Thérèse received the singular grace of being healed from a serious illness through the intercession of Our Lady of Victories. Taught by the Benedictine Nuns of Lisieux and after an intense immediate preparation culminating in a vivid experience of intimate union with Christ, she received First Holy Communion on May 8, 1884, age 11. Some weeks later, on June 14, she received the Sacrament of Confirmation, fully aware of accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit as a personal participation in the grace of Pentecost.
Thérèse wished to embrace the contemplative life, as her sisters Pauline and Marie had done in the Carmel of Lisieux, but was prevented from doing so by her young age. On a visit to Italy in November 1887, during an audience granted by Pope Leo XIII to the pilgrims from Lisieux, she asked the Holy Father to be able to enter the Carmel at the age of fifteen. On April 9, 1888 she entered the Carmel of Lisieux. She received the habit on January 10,1889 and made her religious profession on September 8, 1890 – the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In Carmel, she embraced the way of perfection outlined by the Foundress, Saint Teresa of Jesus, fulfilling with genuine fervor and fidelity the various community responsibilities entrusted to her. Her faith was tested by the sickness of her beloved father who died on July 29, 1894. Thérèse nevertheless grew in sanctity, enlightened by the Word of God and inspired by the Gospel to place love at the center of everything.
In her autobiography “Story of a Soul” (published in 1898), she left us with her recollections of childhood and adolescence, and also a portrait of her soul – the description of her most intimate experiences. She discovered the “little way of spiritual childhood,” which consists in offering up to God in sacrifice everything one does or suffers, no matter how small or apparently insignificant; and she taught this ‘”little way” to the novices entrusted to her care. On June 9, 1895, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, she offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God. On April 3, 1896, in the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, she suffered a haemoptysis (coughing up blood), the first sign of tuberculosis, which would ultimately lead to her death. She welcomed this event as a mysterious visitation of the Divine Spouse.
From this point forward, she entered a trial of faith, which would last until her death. She gives overwhelming testimony to this in her writings. She accepted her sufferings with patience up to the moment of her death, in the afternoon of September 30, 1897. “I am not dying, I am entering life”, she wrote to her missionary spiritual brother, Fr. M. Bellier. Her final words, “My God…, I love you!”
She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925, and proclaimed Universal Patron of the Missions, alongside Saint Francis Xavier, on December 14, 1927. Her teaching and example of holiness has been received with great enthusiasm by all sectors of the faithful during this century, as well as by people outside the Catholic Church and outside Christianity.
In view of the soundness of her spiritual wisdom inspired by the Gospel, the originality of her theological intuitions filled with sublime teaching, and the universal acceptance of her spiritual message, which has been welcomed throughout the world and spread by the translation of her works into over fifty languages, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, a Doctor of the Universal Church on October 19, 1997.
St. Thérèse is also known as St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, and The Little Flower of Jesus.
On October 18, 2015, both of St. Thérèse’ parents were canonized by Pope Francis – Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin.