St. Therese Lisieux: A Subtle Road to Sainthood

We often hear stories of Saints performing grandiose miracles, partaking on dramatic journeys and accomplishing impossible tasks.While these stories are inspiring and motivate us to better ourselves, sometimes they can make us feel as if becoming saints ourselves is unachievable. However, some saints such as St. Therese Lisieux prove that sometimes sainthood is gained through simple tasks. Keep reading about this amazing saint and her subtle road to sainthood.

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Born on January 2, 1873 to Marie and Louis Martin, St. Therese was immediately immersed in an extremely devout and faithful environment. Both of her parents were strict Catholics. In fact, when Marie and Louis were first married, they lived as a religious brother and sister, practicing a marriage of celibacy. However, their confessor pressed them to discontinue this practice, and so the couple went on to have nine children. Of these nine, four would pass away before reaching adulthood. The five remaining children would all become nuns. Therese was the youngest.

Growing up St. Therese was held to the same religious standard as her older sisters and parents. This meant attending daily Mass at 5:30am, observing religious fasts, and partaking in daily liturgical prayer. As a family, they would often visit the sick and suffering and often opened their home or table to those who needed nourishment. As a young child, Therese was known for being happy yet fragile. She would cry easily and seemed to feel emotions more intensely than her family members. When Therese’s mother died in 1877, Louis moved the family to Lisieux which is where St. Therese would start schooling and continue her religious journey.

The loss of her mother signified the beginning of what St. Therese would later call the saddest days of her life. Starting school when she was eight years old, Therese was often bullied because she was much younger than her classmates yet received very good grades. Therese also did not enjoy the loud and rowdy nature of the children at school. She would find places to hide when the situation overwhelmed her, and savored her time at home. She was very close to her older sisters and father, so when her sisters eventually began to join the local convent, it was very hard on Therese who felt as if she were losing her mother all over again. The ordeal upset Therese so much that she tried to join the convent. However, due to her young age, the prioress did not allow her to enter, but rather called her a “future daughter” and told her to return later in life.

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In addition to emotional stress, St. Therese also experienced physical ailments, mainly in the form of tremors brought on by her nervousness. It was later discovered that St. Therese also suffered from scruples, which other saints have also experienced. (Scruples is the condition of feeling overwhelming guilt and sorrow for the evils of the world, and the feeling of hopelessness of not being able to cure the world of evil). This time of sorrow and illness continued until Christmas Eve of 1886 when Therese had a revelation.

Therese recounted the night saying “God worked a little miracle to make me grow up in an instant… On that blessed night… Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me, saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood.” Therese was given the strength from God to leave behind her sensitivity and made huge steps toward becoming an adult. This sparked a new beginning for Therese, and the following year her father took her on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome. During this trip, Therese was given the opportunity to have an audience with Pope Leo XIII. Pope Leo blessed Therese, and she remained at his feet until the guards carried her out. After, Therese and her family visited several cities in Italy, giving her a plethora of new experiences and knowledge. This experience only heightened Therese’s desire to serve the Lord and upon her return to Lisieux in 1888 Therese became a Carmelite postulant.

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While St. Therese was so happy to be admitted into the convent, soon after entering she experienced another challenging time in her life. After suffering some a series of strokes, her father began to hallucinate and he was soon admitted to an asylum. As a cloistered nun, neither St. Therese nor any of her sisters, who were in the same convent, were permitted to visit their father. This was also followed by a dry period of prayer for St. Therese. This was partially due to her realization that as a cloistered nun she could not be an active missionary or perform the same acts as a priest. She dreamed of being a martyr and found it troubling to realize she would never perform great acts. However, she would soon realize her true vocation.

Until her untimely death on September 30, 1897, St. Therese dedicated her life to acts of love. No act was too small– be it volunteering for extra work, smiling at someone, or simply being cheerful and happy. Following her death, St. Therese’s sister Pauline collected Therese’s writings and compiled them into a book, which she sent to other convents. This made St. Therese quite famous, and by 1925 she was canonized. St. Therese is a wonderful example to all of us, proving how simple, kind acts can make a world of difference.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

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