When I was little, I decided that I was going to take a new and unusual saint for my confirmation patron. I wanted to stand out from the crowd and show off my knowledge of hagiography at the same time. But when confirmation time did come, I didn’t know how I could choose anyone other than my sister in Heaven, St. Therese of Lisieux. I wouldn’t stand out—about half of the girls I know chose St. Therese as their confirmation patron—but a relationship was more important to me than a name. From an early age I had read about St. Therese- I was attracted by her self-sacrificing humility (which was something I definitely needed) and struck by her genuine love for God and everyone around her. She is especially famous for her “little way”, a path to sainthood. Last week, October 1st, was the feast day of St. Therese, and this post is in remembrance of her.
St. Therese anecdotes
Many people now know the story of the little girl who entered the convent at 15 and, despite her early death, lived a life filled with love. I always enjoy learning more about her, and hearing some of the lesser-known stories from her time on earth.
- St. Therese was baptized Marie Therese Francois, after the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Theresa of Avila, and St. Francis Xavier. Therese was never able to fulfill her wish to be a missionary in foreign lands like her patron St. Francis Xavier. But today, she and he are the patron saints of the missions.
- St. Therese admired St. Joan of Arc and even wrote a play about her life. Therese herself acted in the title role.
- Eclairs were a favorite treat of St. Therese (who had a sweet tooth). They weren’t served in the convent, though, and Therese ate whatever was given to her.
- St. Therese went to Rome to ask the Pope for permission to enter the Carmelite convent at an earlier age than usual. She was told not to speak to the Pope, but her resolve to enter the convent was so great that she did. In fact, Therese had to be dragged from the audience room when she wouldn’t stop pleading with the Pope for her intention.
- “Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” St. Therese once said that even picking up a pin off the floor could save a soul, if it was done with love for God. She would offer up every small thing this way. When Therese was once erroneously blamed for breaking a vase, she offered it up and asked for forgiveness rather than try to correct opinions.
- One story from near the end of St. Therese’s life is (I think) very typical of her. As Therese lay in bed, she often suffered too much pain to sleep, so she prayed silently instead. One of the sisters asked her what she talked to Jesus about during these times. Therese replied, “Nothing. I just love Him.”
- The Story of a Soul, St. Therese’s autobiography, was alternatively titled by her as The Story of the Springtime of a Little White Flower. It was written under obedience, and Therese would not have had it otherwise. In fact, she advised another of the nuns against writing memoirs, saying, “You cannot do it without permission…It is more humble not to write anything about oneself.”
But under obedience, St. Therese’s book was written, and so many more were written after her death that people of nearly every age group can be introduced to St. Therese.
Books about St. Therese
- “Catholic Treasure Box” series, edited by the Maryknoll Sisters- For children ages around 3-8, with crafts, stories, and poems. In the beginning of the first six issues are simple stories about St. Therese.
- The Little Flower by Mary Fabyan Windeatt- For ages 7+, this biography of St. Therese is told in first person, similarly to her autobiography.
- Olivia and the Little Way by Nancy Carabio Belanger- Written for tweens. The story is about Olivia, a girl who builds a friendship with St. Therese amid the challenges of her new school.
- The Story of a Soul– St. Therese’s autobiography. Its sweetness and profoundness in its simplicity have made this book a Catholic classic, and its author is now beloved around the world. (There are also several letters and poems of St. Therese which are easily available to read through an Internet search.)
- I Believe in Love by Fr. Jean d’Elbee- Wonderful spiritual reading for teens and adults, this is an insightful discussion of love, humility, faith, and more, highly influenced by St. Therese’s “little way”.
Prayer to St. Therese
Many are also familiar with Therese’s promise that after her death, she would “let fall from Heaven a shower of roses”. The novena to St. Therese, to be prayed every consecutive day for nine days, is quite powerful. When you pray it for a specific intention, St. Therese will sometimes send roses your way to assure you. Now even when I am not praying the novena, seeing a rose makes me smile and think of her.
I encourage all of you to pray for the intercession of St. Therese in your lives and get to know her better. I know that she will help you and me, as she has helped many others, to approach sanctity and a more perfect love of God.