WHO IS SHE?
Born on the 2nd of January 1873 at Alencon in France, she was baptized two days after, on the 4th of January same year. When she was growing up, she thought she would be a nun. She received her First Holy Communion on the 8th of May 1884 and was confirmed on the 14th of June the same year. On the 9th of April 1888, she entered the Carmelite Monastery at Lisieux as a Postulant, at the permission of her Father. She practiced the virtues of humility, evangelical simplicity, and firm confidence in God. She is my Patron Saint, Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as Saint Therese of Lisieux and The Holy Face.
HER INTERIOR SCHOOL
Therese of the Child Jesus is well known throughout the Church’s history as a doctor of souls. I once visited her school of holiness when I read her autobiography and decided to be a student in her school. This gentle soul in her interior school of holiness is awesome and can be very instrumental in the life of any Christian who turns to her intercession. I love reading her story again and again. Her prayer life as a whole, her schedule, and simple constant communion with God must have been the classroom where all teaching, learning, and research work took place for her to come out with her mission. Of course, her teacher being the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother her model.
I’m always touched when I think of the kind of deep love Saint Therese had for God so much that in her last moment here on earth she declared her mission saying,
“I feel that I am about to enter my rest … but I also feel that my mission is going to begin. My mission to make God loved as I love him, to give my little ways to souls. If God grants my desire, my heaven will be lived on earth, until the end of time. This is not impossible since from the very heart of the beatific vision, the angels watch over us”.My mission is love P.9.
She developed a lot of confidence in God as I see in most of her writings, like this very heartfelt one,
“O my God, Blessed Trinity I declare to love you and make you loved.”Therese of the Child Jesus
I can see that she had a passionate desire to make God loved as she loves him or as they loved each other, a precious skill she must have acquired only in her interior school. Her self discipline and openness in little things fostered a more significant encounter between God and herself that she intended to serve God even hereafter. I also learned that Therese’s mission actually started after her death, her mission to spend heaven on earth, if God grants her desires, to make God loved. She is one of the most loved saints nowadays because she keeps on fulfilling her mission: Making God’s children love him through her intercession – making Love loved. This Aspect of hers truly amazes me.
HER PRAYER LIFE
“A glance directed towards heaven, a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trials and joys.”Therese of the Child Jesus
In her last conversation with her spiritual mother, Therese recounted a moment she encountered God’s glory. She said,
“…well I was beginning the way of the cross and all of a sudden, I was seized with such a violent love for God that I cannot explain it except by saying that it was as if I had been totally plunged into fire. Oh! What fire and what sweetness at one and the same time! I was burning with love and I felt that one moment, one second longer, and I could not have supported its ardor without dying. I understood what the saint said about this state that they had experienced so often. I experienced it only for an instant, and then I fell back into my usual state of dryness.”Therese of the Child Jesus
Therese’s attitude in prayer was that of abandonment. Even when it was difficult for her to meditate or reflect due to her health, her simplicity, peace of mind, and honesty in little things saw her being carried along by God’s love as a child carried in her Father’s arms. She longed to do great things, but her health could not permit her. In prayers, She was in-between being predominantly active and passive; thus, with no strength of her own, she left her heart predominantly open for the love of God to manifest itself to the fullest. How did she do this? By doing little things in extraordinary ways. We can learn from Therese that we can’t depend on our power to do things or to pray but on the grace of God’s love.
Another amazing thing in her was her way of praying. Therese never cherished vocal prayers or could not stand a wearisome reiteration of words, but she prefers to silence all her personal circuits to give deep attention in listening to God. She realized that it is when she was in silence that God speaks to her, a very important aspect of her interior school. She wanted to be real as much as possible not to be drawn into ready-made prayers, but however, she said she loved the Divine office.
I also learned that Therese usually recites the ‘Our Father‘ prayer very slowly during her moments of spiritual dryness as she said,
“Sometimes when my mind is in such dryness, that it is impossible for me to draw one thought to unite myself with God I recite very slowly an ‘our Father’ then the angelic situation, this prayer carry me away, they nourish my soul so much more than if I had recited them quickly one hundred times.”Therese of the Child Jesus
This simply means she took her time to get all the meaning and sweetness of every word, phrase, and sentence of the prayer. And this exercise usually carries her out of dryness into a soul-nourishing experience. Amazing!
HER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE VIRGIN MOTHER
Her relationship with the virgin Mother was so real that she said,
“The Blessed Virgin shows me that she is not displeased with me and never fails to protect me as soon as I invoke her. I turn towards her and she always takes care of my needs as a tenderness of a mother.”Therese of the Child Jesus
This shows that in her interior school, Therese never despised the Virgin Mother she learned from her and obtained her benefits. She confirms she took care of her needs, which means her prayers through the Virgin Mother were always answered.
HER EARLY CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCE
Her radical faith and trust in God must have emanated from her early childhood experience of separation from her family. At the age of 3 years, due to ill health Therese was separated from her family and was only reunited after eleven months. This experience made her clung to her mother with a lot of passion. She could not endure being outside her mother’s presence. After her mother’s death, she clung to her family with the same zeal as she said,
“I could not bear the company of strangers and found my joy only within the intimacy of the Family.”Therese of the Child Jesus
It is fantastic too that as Therese entered the convent, she clung to God in the same way she clung to her family. This childhood experience was just a glimpse of the interior school she came to establish as a nun, a preparation of what will come to pass in her life as a nun. Her unshakable or radical faith and dependence on God has gotten a significant contribution from her childhood experience.
HER ILL HEALTH
In sickness, Therese knew she had no strength to support herself but believed God would support her soul without her support. She believed she leans on a rock that holds her life and that she holds not the rock, but the rock holds her. This attitude of hers actually astonishes me.
In her interior institution, while learning a lot from God, the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Mother Mary, Saint Therese in some of her poems taught us many lessons such as abandonment, love, and self-sacrifice, fortitude, tenderness, purity, etc. To understand and imitate her life is to make us men, women, brothers, and sisters of faith. Just as she taught her novices with her words and examples, so she is teaching us today. Here are two of her amazing poems:
A GLOSS ON THE DIVINE
“Without support, yet with support.
Living without light, in darkness,
I am wholly being consumed by love.
I have no other support than my God.
And now I proclaim what I value near him.
Is to see and feel my soul
Supported without any support.”Therese of the Child Jesus
When I read this poem the first time, I was like startled, and then I asked myself, “what is the meaning of ‘gloss’?” From my dictionary and got it,
- 1.shine or luster on a smooth surface.
I was so moved as this definition made me understand the poem better. Amazingly, I see how this gentle soul describes her smooth leaning on God, her self abandonment in God’s hands, especially in moments when her heart was willing, but her body could not take her to where she wishes to reach in her calling due to her ill health.
LIVING ON LOVE
Living on love is giving without limit.
Without claiming any value here below.
Ah! I give without counting, truly sure.
That when one loves one does not keep counts!
Overflowing with tenderness, I have given everything.
To his divine heart… lightly I run.
I have nothing left but my only wealth
Living on love.
Living on love is banishing every fear.
Every memory of past faults.
I see no imprint of my sins.
In a moment love has burnt out everything.Therese of the Child Jesus
Wow! what a love song. If there is a word in the whole wide world so difficult to define, it is “LOVE,” but here is a very simple, very true definition of love from a pure heart. Amazing! “Giving without limit, without counting, overflowing with tenderness, banishing fear, etc.”
CANONIZATION OF SAINT THERESE
After her death on the 30th of September 1897, at the age of 24, Saint Therese was declared venerable by Pope Benedict XV in 1921. In 1923 Pope Pius XI promulgated a decree which beatified Therese, describing her as the “Star of his Pontifical reign.” Finally, on the 17th of May 1925, Therese Martin, also known as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, was canonized at St. Peter’s Basilica in the presence of thirty-four cardinals, more than two hundred Arch Bishops and Bishops, innumerable priests religious and others. The Basilica was decorated with garlands of roses. She was also proclaimed a doctor of the Church.
In fact, I’m impressed at the number of people present at her canonization, which indicates how Therese had touched the lives of many with her simple ways. This inevitably came to pass as a result of her dedication to her interior school, where she listened, communicated, and acted according to God’s will for her. She is said to be one of the most loved saints of this century because she keeps on fulfilling her mission. She is the woman most loved by the world after the mother of God. A doctor has done a lot of research, passed several exams, and is an expert in his work field. So was Saint Therese in her vocation. She did little things in extraordinary ways showing us that it is not only in doing great and mighty things that one deserves this title. Yes, she died but still lives and has visited so many countries of the world, something she wished she could do while on earth but limited by health.
Her Intercessory Power
I was so astonished when I read about her intercessory power and decided to seek her intercession one time I had a difficulty. I prayed the “Glory Be Novena to Saint Therese.”
I was standing in front of the whole school that morning, conducting morning devotion. The latecomers had been stopped from running in except the kindergartens who were allowed to join their mates on their line. Suddenly, up came one of the latecomers, my class kids, Tumi, running directly towards me with a flower in hand. He must have harvested it on his way to school, for he lives on a hillside two kilometres from the school compost. The other pupils watched with amazement, eager to see what Tumi will be up to. Innocently, he offered me the flower saying, “Madam, take your ‘fiawer’. ” The whole school burst into laughter. 😁😁😁 Tumi was so happy😀as I received the flower, carried him up, and embraced him. No one could understand what this was all about, but I who have read that Saint Therese usually indicates answered prayers with flower signs. This happens the first time I took the novena. I thought it was a coincidence, but my second experience made me actually believe.
I was kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the 9th day of my Novena to Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, and as I was meditating, my eyes caught the bouquet of flowers that was standing at the altar. Just of a sudden, a rose left the bouquet and fell on the floor. This again to me was a confirmation of answered prayers through Saint Therese, and this made me believe that what is said of her is true that when you seek her intercession, she mostly shows signs of answered prayers with flowers. No doubt, she is also popularly known as “The Little Flower of Jesus,” or only “The Little Flower.“
Truly my patroness amazes me, and I’m proud to be a student in her school. She is one of the greatest saints of modern times.