St. Therese of the Child Jesus'
April 12, 1992
Brother John Raymond
Our prayer this week was written by St. Therese of the Child
Jesus, The Little Flower. Many are familiar with her "Little Way."
Others have benefited by the "heavenly roses" or graces which she
showers on those who invoke her intercession.
Therese Martin was born at Alencon, France on January 2, 1873.
She was the youngest of nine children, four of whom died as infants.
Her father was a watchmaker. The mother ran a small lace-making
business from her home. The parents had both tried to enter
religious life but discovered God's will lay elsewhere. But this
experience became the basis for the very religious atmosphere of the
The family suffered the tragic loss of its mother from cancer in
1876. Therese was deeply affected by this loss. For ten years she
suffered from shyness and being oversensitive. Her father sold his
business, retired and moved near his brother-in-law's home in
Lisieux. Pauline, the oldest of the five girls, became a second
mother for Therese. She was to lose this mother too - but this time
to the Carmelite convent. This second loss at the age of eight
brought about an unexplainable illness in Therese. She suffered from
chills, fevers, convulsions for over a year. The illness was
miraculously cured when a statue of the Virgin Mary smiled at her.
In 1887 Therese felt a strong calling to follow her older sister
into the Carmelite convent. Because of her young age she had to
obtain special permission from the local Bishop to enter. The Bishop
did not grant her this wish. So, with her father she travelled to
Rome to obtain an audience with the Pope. The Pope referred her back
to the local Bishop with the words, "You will enter if God wills
it." Finally, after some delay Therese entered Carmel in 1888.
Suffering was to continue to mark Therese's path. After receiving
the habit she heard the sad news that her father had become very
ill. The next nine years her life in the convent seemed ordinary -
at least externally. But her secret path to holiness was discovered
when she became novice mistress. She told her novices "You know well
enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our
actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we
do them." Therese practiced her little way of love in all things
through constant self-denial.
During the month of April, 1896, Therese started coughing up
blood. She was treated by a doctor and spent the month of June in a
wheelchair. By July she was moved to the infirmary. Tuberculosis
took over and she began having terrible attacks of suffocation and
sweating spells. Besides her bodily suffering she endured complete
darkness in her soul. God wished her to live by faith alone.
Therese had always dreamed of being a great missionary and of
becoming a martyr. Through her suffering she was to fulfill her
desires. During this time she made light of her condition and
cheered up those who came to help her. On her last day on earth she
asked a sister if death was near. The sister replied that it was but
perhaps God willed her to suffer for a few more hours. Therese
responded, "Very well, I do not wish to suffer less." But soon
Therese looked at her crucifix and gasped, "Oh, I love Him. My God I
love You." Her head fell back and with a little sigh she died. She
was twenty-four years old.
Therese gave the following prophetic utterance shortly before her
death, "I feel that my mission is soon to begin, to make others love
God as I do, to teach others my little way. I want to spend my
Heaven in doing good upon earth. . . After my death I will let fall
a shower of roses. God would not inspire me with this desire to do
good on earth after my death if He did not intend to realize it."
After her death her sister Pauline received permission to put
together Therese's writings. Her writings entitled The Story of a
Soul became famous all over the Catholic world. Reports of wonderful
cures and favors obtained through her intercession overwhelmed the
Carmel in Lisieux. Therese was canonized in 1925 and was declared
patron of the missions in 1927 (the other patron is St. Francis
Once, as a Carmelite novice, Therese was talking to the Mother
Superior when another nun walked in, commenting, "Therese, you are
getting so thin and pale." Within the same hour another nun said
"Therese, you're gaining weight and looking so healthy." This
incident may have inspired the following prayer of St. Therese.
My Lord and my God I have realized that whoever undertakes to do
anything for the sake of earthly things or to earn the praise of
others deceives himself. Today one thing pleases the world, tomorrow
another. What is praised on one occasion is denounced on another.
Blessed be You, my Lord and my God, for You are unchangeable for
all eternity. Whoever serves You faithfully to the end will enjoy
life without end in eternity. Amen.