Saint of the Issue: St. Thérèse of Lisieux

by Laura McLaughlin


St. Thérèse of Lisieux was born on January 2, 1873 in France to a formerly aspiring priest and nun. She was the youngest of five surviving children, all girls who also became nuns. Thérèse’s mother died when she was four, marking the first tragedy of her life. Later, she was distraught again when her oldest sister Pauline, who had become like a second mother to her, entered a convent. Soon after, she became very ill, to the point of almost dying, and never fully regained her health. When she was sick she saw Mary smile at her and soon after became well again, but did not want to satisfy peoples’ curiosity by talking about it.

Even from a young age she spent much time in prayer and mediation, and sought to do good works. Ironically, this unusual spiritual child was spoiled and extremely sensitive to criticism. As the pampered youngest child, Thérèse would often throw temper tantrums, then ask Jesus to help her control her emotions, seeming in vain.


However, when she was 14, she had what she considered to be her conversion on Christmas Day. After she overheard her father making a remark suggesting that she was treated as the baby of the family, she thought not of her own feelings, but of those of her father’s and continued to be pleasant. She longed to enter the convent at 14, and the bishop told her to appeal to the pope. Because of this appeal, she was allowed to enter the Carmelite Convent where her sisters were. At first it was challenging, as she could not visit her father who had become physically and mentally incapacitated. When she was young, she dreamed of being like her country’s patron saint, Joan of Arc, and preforming great deeds. However, this was impossible as a sickly nun, and so she instead formed her own identity as a woman who would perform small works for God; she made every small sacrifice she could. She was kind to those she did not like, she took on chores no one else wanted to do and worked hard at them, and took the blame for mistakes she had not made.


Instead of being a martyr as she had originally envisioned, she found her calling on love and in “littleness.” She was not experienced, traveled, or learned, but she was wise. Her sister wrote down her thoughts before she died of tuberculosis at age 24 and circulated copies which became extremely popular. She was canonized in 1925 and is known as Saint Thérèse of the little flower.


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