Life of St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Called “the greatest saint of our time,” Thérèse of Lisieux has touched countless numbers of souls. Her great discovery is that a personal relationship with God is the essence of holiness, and her “Little Way” continues to teach us this lesson.

Her Early Years

Born Marie Francoise Thérèse Martin on January 2, 1873, she was the youngest of five daughters- all of whom became nuns – in a devout Catholic family. Thérèse was somewhat spoiled child, though her life was not easy. When she was three, her mother died of cancer. When ten, Thérèse exhibited “strange tremblings”; but she was cured miraculously upon noticing that the statue of Mary Immaculate was smiling. Later, Thérèse had an attack of scruples, and she was afflicted with repeated tearful episodes. Her prayers for miraculous cures for both of these afflictions were granted.

The Killer and the Saint

When fourteen, Thérèse learned about Henri Pranzini, an unrepentant murdered condemned to death, and prayed for his conversion. A month later, Pranzini kissed the crucifix offered to him on the way to the guillotine. Reading about this in the newspaper, Thérèse called him her “first child.”

Audience with the Pope

Soon thereafter, Thérèse, though below the minimum age, asked her bishop for permission to enter the Carmel at Lisieux. While her request was being considered, she, her father, and her sister Celine traveled to Rome, where, during an audience with Pope Leo XIII, Thérèse beseeched his special authorization to become a Carmelite nun immediately. When told to follow her superiors, Thérèse insisted he could solve her problem. She would enter the Carmel, Leo responded, if it were God’s will. Upon returning to Lisieux, Thérèse received the approval she sought.

Carmelite Nun

When barely sixteen, Thérèse was formally clothed as a nun and took the name Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. A few years later Thérèse was appointed assistant mistress of novices.

Story of a Soul

At her sister Pauline’s request, Thérèse wrote her autobiography, Story of a Soul, when she was twenty-two. It was a prescient request, for the following year Thérèse began coughing up blood, the first indication of tuberculosis. She continued her duties which included writing to her “spiritual brothers,” but during this period Thérèse experienced her “dark night of the soul.”

Death of St. Therese

A year later she became seriously ill. She dies on September 30, 1897. Her last words were “My God, I love you.”