Saint Thérèse de Lisieux, or “the Little Flower of Jesus”

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A briefest of biographies. Therese felt an early call to religious life. Although she had faced many challenges in her personal life, including frail health and emotional distress, at age of 15 she became a nun. Thérèse joined two of her older sisters in the cloistered Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy. After nine years as a Carmelite religious, she died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. Thérèse was a magnificent writer, and through that writing, she became one of the most popular saints of the twentieth century. Through Pope Pius XI she was beatified in 1923, She was canonized Saint by the Roman Catholic Church May 17, 1925.On 19 October 1997 Pope John Paul II declared her the thirty-third Doctor of the Church. Thérèse is the youngest of all Doctors of the Church, and one of three woman Doctors.

Thérèse lived a hidden life that is the lifestyle of Carmelite nuns. Even though she in her words ‘wanted to be unknown’ yet her writings made her one of the most well known and loved Saint. The saint had a way with words, prolific and poetic and wise well beyond her youthful years. Along with her autobiography she recorded letters, poems, religious plays, prayers and various notes. Through technology (she is a saint in the early technological age) her last conversations were recorded by her sister. By the photographs (a new art form) taken by her sister Céline, she was beloved worldwide.

Popular devotion to Thérèsè suffered from the sentimentality of her age, flowery and embellished kitsch, something that was in direct contrast to the true nature of this popular Saint. In her own words: “I only love simplicity. I have a horror of pretense”, and:” we should not say improbable things, or things we do not know (about Saints). We must see their (the saints) real, and not their imagined lives.” One should definitely become familiar with Thérèsè through her writings, and not through what has been written about her. Her writings are her story, and her devotion in her own words. Briefly her devotion to Jesus can be summed up in one word, Love. It is through love that she sought to serve her Lord. That was her mission in a single word. Love. In her own words:

“Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church being a body composed of different members, the most essential, the most noble of all the organs would not be wanting to her; I understood that the Church has a heart and that this heart is burning with love; that it is love alone which makes the members work, that if love were to die away apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. I understood that love comprises all vocations, that love is everything, that it embraces all times and all places because it is eternal!”

The thing is, with a saint just as this, what is one to do one her festive day? She was a Carmelite, should someone seek their advice? She was a Carmelite, what was their charism? Carmelites are contemplative, so let’s contemplate something. The saint contemplated Love, Christian love, and that is a good beginning. Thérèse enjoyed leaving little signs of kindness. Carmelites are based in prayer, so say a prayer or seek out a prayer of Thérèse, she was a writer. Carmelites are based in community, make a community better. Discover a new community, one lived in faith. Participate in a community. Thérèse did. Carmelites serve, the third part of their charism. Contemplation, community, prayer, service. Therese was infirm, a hint. Celebrate those, in the spirit of the saint. But how does one learn that spirit? That’s easy, simple! Thérèse was a writer, her spirit lives in those writings. Celebrate her with a good read, read what she wrote. She is a doctor of the Church after all and in this age of technology her bibliography is widely available. Read her books, her story, and her prayers. The memory of this saint has been recorded, in her own words. If there is one saint that can be memorialized in a technological age, it is her.

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