The Little Flower of Jesus
Marie-Françoise-Therese Martin better known as Saint Therese of Lisieux was born on 2 January 1873. At an extremely early age, Therese felt a call to religious life and after overcoming various obstacles she entered the Carmelite Convent in Lisieux at the age of 15. It is difficult to realise that the life of Therese Martin was a completely ordinary life. Because she became Saint Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, known throughout the entire world, with numerous titles (Universal Patroness of the Missions, Secondary Patron of France, Doctor of the Church, etc.) one forgets that she passed almost unnoticed in her family, among her peers, in the Convent and with her Spiritual Director.
After nine years as a Carmelite religious she died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. When she died in the small rural Carmelite convent, there were hardly 30 people at her burial in the local Cemetery. Yet at her canonisation in Rome on the 17th May 1925, there were 500,000 present.
The impact of her posthumous publications, including her memoir The Story of a Soul, made her one of the greatest saints of the 20th century. Pope Pius XI called her the star of his pontificate; she was beatified in 1923, canonised in 1925, declared co-patron of the missions with Francis Xavier in 1927 and named co-patroness of France with St. Joan of Arc in 1944. In 1997 Pope John Paul II made her the 33rd Doctor of the Church, recognising her exemplary writings and life. She was the only saint he named a Doctor of the Church in his long pontificate and she is the Church’s youngest doctor.
A pilgrimage visit to Lisieux is a relaxing and uplifting journey with many places of interest to visit including:
- The Buissonnets – The family home of the Martin family (1877-88) after the death of their mother. When talking of her childhood memories, Therese tells us that it was only in Les Buissonnets that she was ‘truly happy’. This remarkably well preserved period house is now maintained by the Oblates of St Therese and contains many items including the child’s toys.
- St Peters Cathedral – This is the cathedral where Therese participated in the life of the local Church during her youth. Near the door of the north aisle is the chapel where Fr. Ducellier heard Therese’s first confession.
- The Carmel – Pilgrims can come and venerate the remains of St Therese in the Chapel of the Reliquary. Some of her remains have been inserted into the figure which represents her on her death bed. Almost all of the relics are enclosed in a casket underneath the reliquary. Every year on the last Sunday in September, the relics are brought in procession through Lisieux. Above the reliquary is a statue of the Virgin Mary which is the same statue that cured Therese on 13th May 1883 at her home in Les Buissonnets. The Carmel also houses a small museum which illustrates the story of Therese’s life within the convent.
- The Basilica – It was decided to build a large basilica dedicated to Therese in the town where she lived and died. The vast basilica can accommodate 4,000 people and with more than two million visitors a year, is the second largest pilgrimage site in France after Lourdes.
For more information about Therese and the town of Lisieux please visit our friends – www.therese-de-lisieux.catholique.fr.