This week on Thursday 1st October, the Church celebrates the feast of one of her most beloved saints, Therese of Lisieux. She is also one of the three patron saints of ‘The Hook of Faith’ – being patron saint of the missions.
Therese Martin was born on January 2, 1873. She was the youngest child of Louis and Zelin Martin. Thérèse felt an early call to religious life, and overcoming various obstacles, in 1888 at the early age of 15, she became a nun and joined two of her elder sisters in the cloistered Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy. After only nine years as a Carmelite religious, she died at aged 24, on 30th September 1897 following a slow and painful fight against tuberculosis.
Therese was canonised a saint on May 17, 1925 and declared a Doctor of the Church on October 19, 1997 by Saint John Paul II. She was described by Pope Pius X as ‘the greatest saint of modern times’.
If we were to judge Therese solely on these sparse details, we might be inclined to conclude that there was nothing extraordinary about her. But the life of Saint Therese as reflected in her writings has left a deep and lasting impression on the faithful. With Saint Francis of Assisi, she is the most popular saint of the Church.
The extraordinary thing about Therese is that practically nothing was known of her until after her death. This was because most of her short life was spent as a member of an enclosed religious community. It was only after the publication of her writings, especially the Story of a Soul, that the beauty of her faith and spirituality found its way into the consciousness of the faithful the world over.
Therese suffered from ill health all her life. In fact her parents had given up hope for her survival in her earliest years. She knew from early on in her life as a religious sister that she didn’t have the strength to do great things for the Lord. She agonised over this inability but it was revealed to her, after much soul searching, that she could contribute to the building up of the Kingdom of God by becoming LOVE in the heart of the Church. In her own words taken from the Story of a Soul:
‘Love!...that is what I ask… I know but one thing now – to love Thee, O Jesus! Glorious deeds are not for me, I cannot preach the Gospel, shed my blood…what does it matter? My brothers toil instead of me, and I, the little child, I keep quite close to the royal throne, I love for those who fight. (Story of A Soul, Chapter XI).
Here are more inspiring quotes from St Therese:
1. If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient; but I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future.
2. True charity consists in bearing all our neighbour’s defects – not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.
3. Do you realise that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart… Don’t listen to the demon; laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love.
4. The guest of our soul knows our misery; He comes to find an empty tent within us – that is all He asks.
5. If every flower wanted to be a rose, nature would lose her springtime beauty.
6. The splendour of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.
7. True happiness on earth consists in being forgotten and in remaining completely ignorant of created things. I understood that all we accomplish, however brilliant, is worth nothing without love.
8. I learned from experience that joy does not reside in the things about us, but in the very depths of the soul, that one can have it in the gloom of a dungeon as well as in the palace of a king.
9. The world’s thy ship and not thy home.
10. When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.
11. Holiness consists simply in doing God’s will, and being just what God wants us to be.
12. The good God does not need years to accomplish His work of love in a soul; one ray from His Heart can, in an instant, make His flower bloom for eternity.
13. It pleases Him to create great Saints, who may be compared with the lilies or the rose; but He has also created little ones, who must be content to be daisies or violets, nestling at His feet to delight His eyes when He should choose to look at them. The happier they are to be as He wills, the more perfect they are.
14. Our Lord’s love shines out just as much through a little soul who yields completely to His Grace as it does through the greatest.
15. Jesus has chosen to show me the only way which leads to the Divine Furnace of love; it is the way of childlike self-surrender, the way of a child who sleeps, afraid of nothing, in its father’s arms.
16. I implore You, cast Your eyes upon a multitude of little souls; choose from this world, I beg of You, a legion of little victims worthy of Your love.
17. A soul in a state of grace has nothing to fear of demons who are cowards.
18. Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be and becoming that person.
19. I have often heard it said in retreats and elsewhere that an innocent soul never loves God as much as a repentant one, and how I long to prove that is not true.
20. Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.
21. I understood that all we accomplish, however brilliant, is worth nothing without love.
22. The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother.
23. In trial or difficulty I have recourse to Mother Mary, whose glance alone is enough to dissipate every fear.
24. For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.
25. At first sight, it appears easy to do good to souls, to make them love God more, and mould them according to one’s own ideas; but in practice one finds that one can no more do good to souls without God’s help than make the sun shine in the night.
26. Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.
27. A word or a smile is often enough to put fresh life in a despondent soul.
28. Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.
29. My whole strength lies in prayer and sacrifice; these are my invincible arms; they can move hearts far better than words.
30. Sufferings gladly borne for others convert more people than sermons.
31. As Jesus had made me realize that the Cross was the means by which He would give me souls, the more often it came my way, the more suffering attracted me.
32. For a long time now I have not belonged to myself; I have given myself entirely to Jesus. He is free to do with me whatever He likes.
33. True love feeds on sacrifice and becomes more pure and strong the more our natural satisfaction is denied.
34. I can nourish myself on nothing but truth.
35. Only God can see what is in the bottom of our hearts; we are half-blind.
36. Our Lord poured in the light of truth, which shines far brighter than the shadowy light of earthly pleasures. I would not exchange the ten minutes spent upon my act of charity for a thousand years of such worldly delights.
ST THERESE OF LISIEUX, PRAY FOR US!!