St. Thérèse was born in Normandy, France in 1873. The youngest daughter of Louis and Zelie Martin, she entered a cloistered religious community of Carmelites in Lisieux in her late teens and took the name “Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus”. God’s Spirit worked powerfully in Thérèse. She was open to “Divine Love” which was the source of her vocation.
Throughout her life, her main concern was to be a saint. ‘I have always wanted to become a saint’ she once wrote. St Thérèse of Lisieux, the ‘Little Flower’ is now our patron saint whose example of simplicity and love of God we ought to emulate. CHIJ St. Theresa’s Convent has adopted the red rose as our symbol, in her honour.
She developed a simple spirituality, based on childlike trust and confidence in God. The spirituality of her “little way” was about extraordinary love. The Lord, however, did not demand great things from her. She surrendered her life to Christ with the hope that He would act through her. She mirrored perfectly the words of St. Paul. “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me”. “All things” consisted of almost everything she was called upon to do in the daily grind of life.
Life, in the Carmelite Convent had its problems too, the clashes of community life, the cold, the new diet and the difficulties of prayer. Thérèse, the great mystic fell asleep frequently at prayer. She was embarrassed by her inability to remain awake during the hours in chapel with her religious community. Finally, she noted that, just as parents love their children as much while asleep as awake, so God loved her even though she often slept during the time of prayer.
As a Carmelite sister, Thérèse knew she would never be able to perform great deeds. “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 doing every little sacrifice, every glance and word and the doing of the least actions of love.” She smiled at the sisters she didn’t like. She ate everything she was given without complaining.
An Enduring Inspiration
Thérèse is one of the patron saints of the mission, not because she ever went anywhere but because of her special love of the missions and the prayers and the letters she gave in support of missionaries.
Generations of Catholics have admired this young saint who lived as a cloistered Carmelite for less than 10 years. She never went on missions, never founded a religious order and never performed great works. Within 28 years of her death, the public demand was so great that she was canonized.