Share this story

Teen saint’s life was no bed of roses

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Birthplace: Alencon, France

Feast Day: Oct. 1

Patroness of Missionaries

Claim to Fame: The much-loved youngest daughter of a religious French family, Marie Francoise Thérèse Martin was born in 1873. Even as a child, precocious Thérèse was aware of her spiritual vocation. At age 14, she asked her widowed father to let her enter the cloistered order of Carmelites. Although her father agreed, the Carmelite superiors and the bishop insisted she wait. So, on a pilgrimage to the Vatican in 1887, Thérèse pleaded directly to Pope Leo XIII, begging him to allow her to enter the convent at age 15. Although impressed with her fervor, the pope advised patience, saying, “You shall enter if it be God’s will.” Nearly a year and many prayers later, she joined the order. She was named Sister Thérèse of the Infant Jesus; later “and of the Holy Face” was added.

What made her a saint? Sister Thérèse spent her days in penitence, meditation and work. In her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, she described herself as “the little flower of Jesus” in God’s garden of souls. As she reached her 20s, Thérèse desperately wanted to join the Carmelites in French Indo-China. Tragically, incurable tuberculosis dashed any chance for her to serve as a missionary. Instead, she counseled two missionaries, writing them often to offer spiritual encouragement.

How she died: As she lay dying in agonizing and constant pain at the age of 24, Thérèse could see the roses she loved blooming outside.

Best quote: Confident of God’s love, she promised, “After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth.” Through the years, some of Thérèse’s petitioners have said that they smell or see roses when their petitions are answered.

Prayer: O Thérèse of the Child Jesus, please pick for me a rose from the heavenly gardens and send it to me as a message of love. O Little Flower of Jesus, ask God to grant the favors I now place with confidence in your hands. St. Thérèse, help me to always believe as you did in God’s great love for me, so that I might imitate your Little Way each day. Amen.