Saint Therese of Lisieux

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Saint Therese of Lisieux

Saint Therese of Lisieux, known as The Little Flower, is a Catholic Church saint and one of only a very few women ever to be recognized as a Doctor of the Church. She is the patron saint of Catholic missions, aviators, florists, and the sick, in particular young patients with grave illnesses, those with lung afflictions, and those with HIV/AIDS. Miraculous healings of blindness have also been attributed to her. She is usually petitioned with a novena candle service 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 Therese was born in Normandy, France in 1873. She was a pampered daughter. raised with four other sisters in a very devout family; her parents, Saint Louis and Saint Zelie Martin, have been recognized for the holiness of their family. When Therese was just four and a half years old, her mother tragically died of breast cancer, leaving Therese's 16 year old sister Pauline to raise the children. Five years later, Therese encountered the loss of her "second mother" when Pauline left home to join a Carmelite convent at the age of 21. Several months later, Therese fell gravely ill. While praying for her health, she experienced a miraculous vision of the Virgin Mary smiling at her and was instantly cured. When two other sisters, Marie and Leonie, also joined religious orders, she was left alone with her older sister Celine and her father. Therese desperately wanted to dedicate her life to religious orders, like her sisters, but at the age of 14, she was considered too young by the convent and told to wait until she was 21. When she was 15, she petitioned Bishop Hugonin, the bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, to join the convent, but he too refused her due to her youth. On a pilgrimage to Rome with her father that year, she was granted an audience with Pope Leo XIII. She was told not to address the Pope directly but this did not stop Therese. She begged the Pope to allow her to dedicate her life to religious service and he granted her request. She joined her sisters in the Carmelite convent on April 9th, 1888, at the age of 16. In 1894 her sister Celine also took holy orders and joined the Carmelite convent. Convent life was difficult for Therese, and she found herself criticized by the other nuns for her lack of great acts. She decided that spiritual eminence need not only be achieved through intense spiritual activity, but also through simple 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. In 1896 Therese started coughing up blood. Her health quickly deteriorated and on September 30, 1897 she died from tuberculosis at the age of 24.

Saint Therese'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. Her autobiography, "Story of a Soul," has been translated into 35 languages and her spiritual message resonates powerfully with Catholics who are seeking to create holiness in their ordinary lives. The 20th century Basilica of Sainte-Thérèse in Lisieux, dedicated to her memory, is the second most important pilgrimage site in France after the grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. In 2015 her parents were canonized, and became the first married couple in the church's history to be sainted as a couple.


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