Therese of Lisieux was born January 2, 1873 and died September 30, 1897. Although she was only 24 years old when she died, and although she lived a very quiet life in a small convent in a small town, she is one of the most popular and influential saints of the modern era. Her spiritual autobiography The Story of a Soul was widely read and contributed to the speed of her canonization in 1925. In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared Therese a Doctor of the Church (the only other two women to be given that distinction being Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena). Therese came from a faithful family. Her four sisters also become nuns, and her parents have been beatified. Therese’s childhood was marked by the early death of her mother and the experience of her sisters leaving home to enter religious life. She suffered from a nervous temperament and scruples (today we might say that she battled with anxiety and poor self esteem). When she was 13 years old, Therese experienced a moment of deep conversion and healing on Christmas Eve, after which she felt a new sense of peace and purpose for her life. She entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux when she was just 15 years old. Therese’ distinct spirituality has been called the “Little Way” because she strived to show love to everyone she met in small and concrete ways and to endure suffering quietly. In her final years, she suffered both from the physical pain of tuberculosis and the spiritual pain of a dark night of the soul. Through it all, Therese was able to endure because she turned her suffering into an expression of love. She is associated with roses and is referred to as “The Little Flower of Jesus.” Her feast day is October 1.
Quotes: “The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”
“Always littler, lighter, in order to be lifted more easily by the breeze of love.”
Questions for Reflection:
- The ability to move beyond one’s own pain and respond in love to situations in our lives is a mark of holiness exemplified by St. Therese. How have you experienced physical or emotional suffering in your life? Has your suffering resulted in greater self-absorption or in greater compassion?
- Recall a time when someone “scattered a flower” in your life, when someone gave you a small sign of love that mattered to you. When have you scattered a flower for someone else?