St. Therese was born on January 2,1873 at Alcon, Normandy and Christened Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin. She was the last of nine children born to Louis and Zélie Martin. Four of her siblings died before she was born. At the age of four, her mother died. The family moved to Les Buissonnets in Lisieux to be close to relatives. It was this home where St Thérèse then lived – and described as ‘the gracious nest of my childhood’ – until her entry to the Lisieux Carmel in 1888.
Thérèse was cured in 1883 through the smile of the Blessed Virgin Mary of a mysterious illness which had left her seriously ill. While still in Les Buissonnets she received the Grace of Conversion after the midnight Mass on December 25, 1886. She wrote, ‘I felt charity enter into my soul, and the need to forget myself and to please others’, in her autobiography Story of a Soul.
In May 1887 when she was fourteen she asked for and got her father’s permission to enter Carmel. Later that year she traveled with her father and her sister Céline to Rome where she asked Pope Leo XIII for his permission to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen.
Thérèse became a Carmelite ‘to save souls and to pray for priests’. As a Carmelite nun, Sr Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face devoted her life to God. She lived to a large extent in silence and continual prayer and engaged in the work and recreations of the community.
All the writings of St Thérèse are infused with reference to God and scripture and with prayerfulness. Her works include religious plays, poems, specific prayers, hundreds of letters from before and after her entry to Carmel and providentially her autobiography Story of a Soul in which she articulated her Little Way of Spirituality and her Doctrine of Love.
St Thérèse became ill in 1896 and died with great suffering from tuberculosis after almost two years. During this time she also suffered a trial of faith and hope which she offered so that ‘the bright flame of faith’ can shine for those who do not believe. Towards the end of her life, St Thérèse said she realized that her mission was about to begin, and she vowed to spend her heaven doing good on earth.
She died on September 30, 1897, and was buried in the Lisieux Cemetery on October 4, 1897. Before her canonization in 1925 the body of St Thérèse was brought to the Lisieux Carmel where today there is a constant stream of visitors and pilgrims to the St. Thérèse Shrine.
St. Thérèse was Venerated on August 14, 1921, by Pope Benedict XV, Beatified on April 29, 1923, by Pope Pius XI, and Canonized on May 17, 1925, by Pope Pius XI. Her Feast Day is celebrated on October 1 each year.
St. Thérèse is also known as St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Little Flower.
- Information taken from various sources both on and off the internet.