St Therese of the Child Jesus
Born on 2 January 1873, Marie Francoise Therese was the last of nine children of a devout family at Alencon, France. Both her parents Louis and Zelie Martin had at one time felt drawn to the religious life but in their stead God accepted five of their offspring as religious. Little Therese tried, from her 9th year onward, to follow her sisters into the Discalced Carmelites at Lisieux. Even at 14 the Bishop considered her too young and so, on a Jubilee visit to Rome, she personally implored Pope Leo XIII to intercede on her behalf. She was barely 15 when the Mother Prioress finally admitted her on 9 April 1888. Sr Therese of the Child Jesus as she came to be called was favoured by signal graces, and advanced constantly and rapidly in holiness, so that at the age of 22 she was appointed novice mistress. A childlike simplicity, utter humility, constant self-sacrifice, and a boundless love of God and trust in him were some of her most outstanding virtues. “From God, who is so mighty and so compassionate, one can never ask too much. One will obtain from him exactly in proportion to one’s reliance upon him!” But it was through her “Little Way” of performing perfectly the small duties of everyday life for the love of God that she has become the model and inspiration of countless ordinary folk. She revealed it in her now world renowned autobiography “The Story of a Soul”, which she had to write under obedience. Not to be conspicuous in anything, not to complain, not to reveal that she was ailing, to show a special friendliness towards those who were unsympathetic to her, and to answer pointed remarks with a winning smile these were some of her axioms.
During her 9½ years of convent life she remained so self- effacing and natural that she passed unnoticed, and was misunderstood by most of her confreres. Her special task, she felt, was to assist the Church’s priests and missionaries with prayers and sacrifices. After a martyrdom of both mind and body, and having offered herself in sweet resignation and heroic patience as a victim of God’s merciful love, Therese died of consumption on 30 September 1897 at the age of 24. “There is just one thing to be done here below: to love Jesus and to save souls for him, so that he may be more loved!”
Beatified in 1923, the Little Flower, as she has also come to be popularly known, was canonized on 17 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI. She is the Patron Saint of aviators and of Russia, and with St Francis Xavier, of all Catholic missions. She was also declared Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997.