St Teresa of Lisieux (1873 – 1897)

Patroness of the Missions

Theresa was born January 2, 1873, in Alencon, France. Her parents had nine children. Of these, four died in their infancy and five entered the cloister. The father and mother were worthy examples of true Christian parents. Every morning they assisted at Holy Mass; together they received Holy Communion.

To be a spouse of Christ had been Theresa’s ardent desire since the early age of three. When she was nine and again when ten years old, she begged to be received into the Carmel of Lisieux. When she completed her fifteenth year, the door of the convent finally opened. There the superiors put her virtues to the sharpest test. On January 10, 1889, she was invested with the holy habit and received the name Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. She pronounced her holy vows on September 8, 1890, and gave herself to the practice of the interior life. On the path of spiritual childhood, of love and confidence, she became a great Saint.

Theresa suffered much during her short life, but it was hidden suffering, which she offered out of love for the conversion of sinners and the sanctification of priests. She writes: “I know of one means only by which to attain perfection: Love! Let us love, since our heart is made for nothing else. I wish to give all to Jesus, since He makes me understand that He alone is perfect happiness. The good God does not need years to accomplish His work of love in a soul. Love can supply for length of years. Jesus, because He is eternal, regards not the time, but only the love.”

Shortly before her death Theresa said, “I feel that my mission is about to begin, my mission of bringing others to love our good God as I love Him, and teaching souls my little way of trust and self-surrender. I will spend my heaven in doing good upon earth.” Her mission was to teach souls her way of spiritual childhood. She practiced all the virtues of childhood, but. those that attracted her above all were the confidence and tender love that little ones show toward their parents. Love, confidence, and self-surrender are the keys to her spiritual life.

On September 30, 1897, Theresa, a true victim of Divine Love, died of tuberculosis, a disease that in her case had assumed a very painful character. A moment before she died the patient sufferer once more made an act of perfect resignation, and with a loving glance at her crucifix, said, “Oh, I love Him! My God, I love You!” She was twenty-four years old when she died.

Saint Theresa was canonized only twenty-eight years after her death. She was declared patroness of the Foreign Missions. She was canonized by her devoted client, Pope Pius XI. The Pontiff said: “That light enkindled a love by which she lived and of which she died, having given nothing to God but love alone and having resolved to save a multitude of souls that they might love God for eternity. Her shower of mystical roses is proof that she has begun her work, and it is our most keen desire that all the faithful should study Saint Theresa so as to copy her example.

Her feast is celebrated on the 1st October.