9 Interesting Facts About St. Thérèse of Lisieux
The Little Flower is the patroness of missions, even though she never went on one herself
St. Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the most renowned saints of modern times and yet, surprisingly, there are some little-known details about the Little Flower. In honor of her feast day, here are 9 things that you probably didn’t know about her.
1. She had blonde hair and blue eyes.
Most photographs and statues depict Thérèse with dark brown hair, when, in fact, she had luscious blonde curls and blue eyes. Her hair is encased above her bed at her house — Les Buissonnets — in Lisieux, France.
2. Thérèse was canonized only five years after her favorite saint.
Growing up, Thérèse had a special devotion to St. Joan of Arc — depicting her in plays and reading excessively about her. It’s ironic that these two saints were canonized almost exactly within five years of each other, especially given that Joan died several hundred years before Thérèse. St. Joan of Arc was canonized on May 16, 1920, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux was canonized on May 17, 1925.
3. She had a pet dog named “Tom.”
Thérèse recounts in her autobiography that she had a pet spaniel named Tom. You can see pictures of him in Thérèse of Lisieux by Pierre Descouvemont and Helmuth Nils Loose.
4. “Thérèse” is not her first name.
The Martin family named all their girls by the first name “Marie.” My speculation is that Louis and Zélie intentionally did this because of their great devotion to our Blessed Mother. In fact, “Thérèse” is not even her middle name, but her third name — Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin (Story of a Soul).
5. Thérèse is an ocean girl.
Not only is Thérèse constantly quoting the ocean in Story of a Soul, but she also recounts how, during times of distress, she would visit the sea whenever possible. Trouville, France, was her oasis. Her aunt had a house in this coastal town, where she vacationed for weeks on end. One of my favorite quotes by Thérèse is: “To live in love is to sail forever, spreading seeds of joy and peace in hearts” (Story of a Soul).
6. God permitted Thérèse to fear heaven.
During her final months, the Lord tested Thérèse’s faith. What was her greatest asset, her desire for heaven, became a crippling fear. God tested her faith by obliterating this desire and allowing her to fall into a deep abyss of darkness, wiping away all positive consolations for eternal life. “Jesus made me feel that there were really souls who had no faith, and who, through an abuse of grace, lost this precious treasure, the source of the only real and pure joys. He permitted my soul to be invaded by the thickest darkness, and that the thought of heaven, up until then so sweet to me, be no longer anything but the cause of struggle and torment” (Story of a Soul).
7. A Story of a Soul was initially modified.
Unbeknownst to many, Thérèse’s autobiography went through many intentional revisions in the early days of its publication. Because of the personal nature of the intense trials of faith that Thérèse endured, the sisters thought it best to filter several of the personal entries — greatly diminishing the human and relatable element of her powerful autobiography.
8. Thérèse was confident that she would be a saint.
Despite her cross of scrupulosity, Thérèse was confident that she’d be a saint — so much so that she preserved her own fingernails for future relics.
9. The Little Flower is the patroness of missions.
Ironically, Thérèse is the patroness of missions, even though she never went on one. She spent most of her life in a cloistered convent, yet God fulfilled this desire of hers for intense travel spiritually.
- st. therese of lisieux