Happy Birthday, St. Thérèse of Lisieux! Celebrating 150 Years of the ‘Little Flower’
Having blessed her with the gift of great self-awareness at an early age, St. Thérèse harnessed heaven and made it her sole desire while she walked this earth. Befriend her today.
As headlines across the globe speak of the life and legacy of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died Dec. 31, 2022, today we remember St. Thérèse of Lisieux on what would have been her 150th birthday.
The two now share the same last words: Lord, I love you.
Born on Jan. 2, 1873, in the quaint French town of Alencon to Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin became the ninth and last member of the family. Little did Zélie know that her dream of bestowing a great saint into the world was fulfilled on this day 150 years ago.
The pains of life befriended Thérèse at birth. During infancy, she suffered detachment from her mother, as she was unable to be nursed by her and was sent miles away to a wet nurse. The psychological effects of this early separation accompanied her lifelong.
At the young age of 4, Thérèse witnessed Zélie’s death from cancer and was then counseled by her older sisters, who would each leave her for the Carmel convent, thus continuing the trend of separation. Because of her sensitive nature, she was friendless throughout her school years and was orphaned at 21 when her beloved father was taken by cerebral arteriosclerosis after spiritually suffering with him through two paralyzing strokes (The Truth About Thérèse).
Beneath this pain, God was molding the roots of this young saint. Having blessed her with the gift of great self-awareness at an early age, she harnessed heaven and made it her sole desire while she walked this earth, thus trailblazing the path of her Little Way — doing small things with extraordinary love. Confident that she could reach heaven with God’s mercy, she was adamant about bringing others with her, claiming that she would spend her heaven helping souls on earth (The Story of a Soul).
Though sensitive by nature, Thérèse was intelligent, headstrong and almost unbelievably stubborn (The Truth About Thérèse); excelling in academics, persevering when doubting God’s presence in her life, consistently fighting against discouragement, pleading to the Pope to grant her permission to enter the convent, and silently biting her tongue while dealing with difficult sisters. She also had a sense of humor and a sassy personality. When she was dying and the pallet upon which her dead body was to be laid out was brought to the infirmary, “Thérèse burst out laughing. She had never been comfortable in her body and always found it a nuisance: it was high time she was out of it” (The Truth About Thérèse).
During her lifetime, Jansenism was a predominant heresy in the Church, drilling into the Catholic mentality that harder equals holier. Thérèse knew she could not meet its demands; and rather than succumbing to discouragement, she accepted her weakness and was vulnerable with Our Lord, asking him for help and completely abandoning herself to his grace and mercy. Her “abandonment [was] nothing but obedience pushed to its extreme, since it consisted of submission to everything within the limits of the possible and reasonable, in order to obey God” (I Believe in Love). Little did she know then that this complete abandonment would be officially recognized by the same Church 100 years later, when Pope John Paul II proclaimed her a doctor of the Church in 1997, further demonstrating that when we surrender completely to God, he will use us as instruments to accomplish great things in accordance with his plan.
Thérèse writes in her diary: “You know well enough that the Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty but at the love in which we do them” (The Story of a Soul). Thérèse is relatable. Her path to heaven is accessible to everyone because we are all capable of love. It’s a given that we are going to fail consistently in this attempt; however, befriend Thérèse. Express your desire to be a saint, and ask for her intercession in this process.
Happy birthday St. Thérèse!
We invite you to share your favorite quote or story about this great saint on our social media pages, tagging @NCRegister on Twitter and Facebook, or leaving in a comment below. Sophia Institute Press will gift, per the best response of a reader, one of the amazing books on this saint's extraordinary life. The deadline ends 8pm ET on Jan. 2.