ST. THERESE OF LISIEUX
Marie Francoise-Therese Martin - lovingly called "The Little Flower" - was born in 1873 in Alencon, France to pious parents Louis and Zelie. Both her parents were devout Catholics who would eventually become the first (and to date only) married couple canonized together in 2016. Her mother died when she was four, leaving her father and elder sisters to raise her.
On Christmas Day 1886, Therese had a profound experience of an intimate union with God, which she described as a “complete conversion.” Almost a year later, in a papal audience during a pilgrimage to Rome, she asked for and obtained permission from Pope Leo XIII to enter the Carmelite Monastery at the young age of 15.
On entering, she devoted herself to living a life of holiness, doing all things with love and childlike trust in God. She struggled with life in the convent, but decided to make an effort to be charitable to all, especially those she didn’t like. She performed little acts of charity always, and little sacrifices not caring how unimportant they seemed. These acts helped her come to a deeper understanding of her vocation.
She wrote in her memoir, L'histoire d'une âme (The Story of a Soul), that she had always dreamed of being a missionary, an Apostle, a martyr – yet she was a nun in a quiet cloister in France. How could she fulfill these longings?
Therese offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God but on the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, she noticed the first symptoms of Tuberculosis, the illness which would lead to her death.
Therese recognized in her illness the mysterious visitation of the Divine Spouse and welcomed the suffering as an answer to her offering. She also began to undergo a terrible trial of faith which lasted until her death a year and a half later.
Since her death, millions have been inspired by her "little way" of loving God and neighbor. Many miracles have been attributed to her intercession.
Saint Therese was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997 - 100 years after her death at the age of 24.
Therese wrote once, "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."