Today, October 1, is the Memorial of St. Therese of Lisieux, Discalced Carmelite Religious and Doctor of the Church.
St. Therese is one of the most popular saints of the last century. When her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, was published after her death, it became a sensation and quickly shot the obscure, cloistered nun into the limelight. She was canonized in 1923, a mere twenty-six years after her death. Her spirituality of “the little way” has inspired millions over the decades and is one of the reasons Pope St. John Paul the Great declared her a Doctor of the Church in 1997. St. Therese’s little way can be summarized: you don’t have to do great things to be a saint; you only have to do the little things with great love. St. Therese’s parents, Zelie and Louis Martin, were canonized in 2015, and her older sister, Leonie, is also a candidate for sainthood. St. Therese is affectionately called “the Little Flower.” She died in 1897 of tuberculosis at the age of 24. She said she wanted to spend her time in heaven doing good on earth.
From her autobiography:
“Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of Saint Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the first epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.
“I persevered in the reading and did not let my mind wander until l found this encouraging theme: Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will now show you the way which surpasses all others. For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.
“When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognized myself in none of the members which Saint Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favorably within the while body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostle would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everylasting.
“Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my proper place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.”
God our Father, you have promised your kingdom to those who are willing to become like little children. Help us to follow the way of Saint Theresa with confidence so that by her prayers we may come to know your eternal glory. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(The Liturgy of the Hours, Memorial of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Virgin)
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.