Saint Theresa of Lisieux

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Saint Theresa

Saint Theresa of Lisieux, known as The Little Flower, is one of only a very few women ever to be recognized a Doctor of the Church. Theresa is the patron saint of the missions, aviators, florists and the sick (in particular people with HIV/AIDS). Miraculous healings of blindness have also been attributed to her. She is usually petitioned with a novena lasting 7 or 9 days; the traditional Catholic novena of The Little Flower is a nine-day novena. She often signals that a petition has been granted through the mysterious appearance or the scent of roses. Her feast day is celebrated on October 1.

Saint Theresa was born in France in 1873. She was a pampered daughter with 4 other sisters from a very devout family; her parents have been beatified, the step before canonization. When Theresa was just four and a half years old, her mother tragically died of breast cancer, leaving her 16 year old sister Pauline to raise the children. Five years later, Theresa encountered the loss of her "second mother" when Pauline left home to join a Carmelite convent. Several months later, Theresa fell gravely ill. While praying for her health, she experienced a miraculous vision of Mary smiling at her and was instantly cured. Later her two sisters Marie and Leonie also joined religious orders leaving her alone with her last sister Celine and her father. Theresa desperately wanted dedicate her life to religious orders, like her sister, but she was considered too young by the convent. On a pilgrimage to Rome with her father, she was granted an audience with the Pope. She was told not to address the Pope but this did not stop Theresa. She begged the Pope to allow her to dedicate her life to religious service and he granted her request. She joined her sisters in Carmelite convent. Convent life was very difficult for Theresa, and she found herself constantly criticized for her lack of great acts by the other nuns. She decided that spiritual greatness could not only be achieved through great spiritual acts, but also through small acts of piety. She described her spiritual vocation as that of small acts of love and sacrifice, and firmly believed that through these acts a person could live a life of priesthood. Her spiritual message resonated powerfully with Catholics who were seeking to create holiness in their ordinary lives. In 1896 she started coughing up blood. Her health quickly deteriorated and on September 30, 1897 she died from tuberculosis at the age of 24.

Saint Theresa's iconography usually shows her dressed in a dark brown or black habit, often with the white or off-white cloak of the Carmelite order, and holding a bouquet of roses and a crucifix; symbols of the small, loving acts she promoted as a way of creating holiness in an ordinary life.

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