Therese Martin, future Saint Therese of Lisieux, was born on January 2, 1873 in Alecon, France. By the age of 15 she had decided upon becoming a cloistered Carmelite after wanting to follow in the footsteps of her sisters but was refused by the Carmelite superior because of her young age. After also being denied entrance by the bishop, Therese even approached Pope Leo XIII while on a pilgrimage with her father and sister. After being forbidden to speak to the Pope, Therese broke the mandatory silence and begged for his approval to be accepted into the Carmelite cloister. Pope Leo XIII was impressed with Therese and she was soon accepted into the cloister and was finally able to join up with her two older sisters. Not even a year into Therese’s acceptance, she had grown so ill with a fever that people thought she was on her death bed. Then one day while Therese saw her sisters praying to the Virgin Mary statue in her room, she saw Mary smile at her and was instantly cured. From that point on, “Little Flower” as she was commonly called, lived a re-enlightened and spiritual life that led to her becoming a doctor of the church, an author, and a patron saint.
According to the Church, a doctor is one who transmits the gospel, teaching by word and example and as of today there are only thirty-three Doctors of the Church. Of the two Carmelite Doctors, Saint Therese of Lisieux is one of them. Chosen as a Doctor of the Church because of her radiant holiness, humility, goodness, integrity, and radical dedication to God’s will, these all were unmistakable seal’s of her sanctity. Not only because of her sanctity, Therese also had a theological teaching that was original, faithful, and profound leaving a strong, lasting impression. Pope John Paul II saw this and on October 19, 1997 he declared Saint Therese of Lisieux a “Doctor of the Universal Church.” That day marked a culmination of a series of honors that were bestowed upon her as a doctor ecclesiae. But the process of enumerating a Doctor of the Church is not a simple process. There are three requisites: eminent learning or doctrine, an outstanding or high degree of sanctity, and a declaration by a supreme pontiff or general council. Saint Therese met these three conditions along with a careful examination of her writing. Becoming a Doctor of the Church is truly one of the highest, most honorable titles that a saint could possibly receive, and through Therese’s small daily sacrifices and great little deeds she was a worthy and deserving candidate of this high honor.
Throughout Therese’s life at the Carmelite cloister, she kept a journal that contained letters and enteries that would later consist of her autobiography. These brief, edited versions of her enteries made up her autobiography and was entitled L’histoire d’une ame, meaning Story of a Soul, which was only published after her death. Although Saint Therese was credited as being a Doctor of the Church for her writings, she had an imperfect literary style and a constant overusage of metaphors in her writing due to limited schooling. Her older sister Pauline actually put together and edited Therese’s writings and sent two-thousand copies to nearby convents. A copy later got sent to a publisher and her writings and prayers can easily be shared today with the world.
Saint Therese of Lisieux is also known as the Patron of the Missions and her feast day is celebrated on October 1st every year. Although Therese herself never was apart of a mission or attended one, her special love, prayers, and letters supported the missions and attest to why she is now called the Patron Saint of the Missions. Although none of her actions were that significant, great, or memorable, her effort and dedication towards the missions were little things that remind all of us that feel useless and unable to help out that little things keep us growing and do make a difference to someone. And that is what Therese did, she performed small acts that affected the hearts of those that needed it and proved that anyone can do them.
“Little Flower” Therese