Why Is Our Parish Named for Saint Therese?

Have you ever wondered why Catholic churches are often named for patron saints like Therese?  You are not alone. If our faith community is Christ-centered, shouldn’t our name reflect that?

 

Actually, it does. 

 

We are all called to be imitators of Christ ( Ephesians 5:1-2 ). She showed us that being Christ-like can be done by anyone, no matter how insignificant. By naming our church for her we are called to emulate her by dedicating our lives to Jesus as she did. We honor St. Therese because she humbled herself and allowed Jesus to live through her. We don’t venerate her because of any great achievement of her own.

 

Scripture also urges us to pray for one another (James 5:16). Those who have died in Christ still are alive in heaven. They will pray along with us to God if we only ask. St. Therese of Lisieux had a powerful prayer life when she was alive. And the many miracles that have been attributed to her intercession give reason to believe that she is still praying with us.

St. Therese of Lisieux, seated in Carmelite habit

What is Saint Therese of Lisieux known for?

Photograph of Therese of the Child Jesus seated in the garden at the Carmelite convent at Lisieux

St. Therese was a cloistered Carmelite nun known for her “little way” which is outlined in her autobiographical book, “The Story of a Soul. Her life and writings are a model for ordinary people who want to live holy lives. She encourages us to do small things with great love for those around us in God’s name, without looking for recognition. To be kind to those we dislike. And don’t complain, but make your discomfort an offering to Jesus. 

 

Why is St Therese called ‘The Little Flower’?

St. Therese loved nature. She used natural imagery and flowers to show how God is everywhere and everything is connected in his love. 

 

She viewed herself as “the little flower of Jesus” who gave glory to God by just being herself and honoring Him in her own small ways. She did not think of herself as a royal rose or elegant lily, but as a simple wildflower in God’s garden. Small and different from all the others, but loved by God because she was his unique creation. St. Therese recognized that she survived and grew through all the changing seasons of her life only due to the strength and grace of God. 

The official website of 'The Little Flower" is maintained at the Archives of Carmel in Lisieux.

Why is she also called St. Therese of the Child Jesus?

Popular usage has shortened her name. The name she took upon entering religious life was, “Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.” The name change is a tradition that signifies leaving behind an old life and a commitment to a new life with Christ.

 

She chose “Of the Child Jesus” because of the special devotion she had for the infant Christ. When she was 14 years old she had a vision of the child Jesus. Later she spoke of it as her conversion. She took it as a sign from God of the enormous sacrifice that had been made for her by His Son. The vision was a reminder that although small, she was great in the love of God when she put the needs of others first. To be like Him she decided to live a life of sacrifice with a child-like trust in God’s love. Shortly afterward she decided to join the Carmelites.

 

“The Holy Face” came from her desire to see the hidden face of Jesus in everything. It was also a sign of her commitment to her new religious order. The Carmelites of Lisieux were devoted to honoring the pain and sacrifice that Jesus endured for us. They had built an outdoor shrine dedicated to the face of the suffering Christ as tradition says is shown on the veil of St. Veronica.  

 

She is also recognized as the patroness of the missions. Throughout her time in the cloister, she frequently wrote to Carmelite missionaries in China. She prayed for them and supported their efforts.  If she hadn't been cloistered she would have been with them. 

The dream of the Child Jesus. Painting in 1894 by St. Therese

"The Dream of the Child Jesus" painted by St. Therese in 1894

Where Did Saint Therese Live?

"Family Life" charcoal pastel drawing by Pauline Martin, St. Therese's sister.

"Family Life" charcoal pastel drawing of the area where St. Therese was born by Pauline Martin, St. Therese's sister.

Therese lived a simple life and died in obscurity. She was born in 1873 in Alencon, France and was baptized Francoise-Marie Therese Martin. 

Her life almost didn’t happen. Her mother desired sainthood and her father had wanted to be a monk. They got married but were determined to be celibate. Fortunately for us, a priest finally convinced them that wasn’t how God wanted married couples to live! 

They obviously followed the priest’s advice. Therese was one of nine children. She and her four surviving sisters grew up in a loving Catholic family. 

Her mother did become a saint. On October 18, 2015, Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin became the first married couple with children to be canonized in a joint ceremony.

How did St. Therese Die?

Growing In Faith

When Therese was 4 years old her mother died and her father moved the family to Lisieux so that they could live with his brother. At 8 years old she fell very ill. She recalls in her writings that she was cured when a statue of the Virgin Mary smiled at her.  

At age 15 she followed her older siblings into the Carmelite order and at 17 took her final vows. She became known for her devotion to God and the rigors of the Carmelite order.

She was charged with the spiritual development of novices by Pauline, her older sister, who had been elected prioress. Therese remained a novice by her own choice, always having to ask permission of full sisters.

 

As a novice, she was also ineligible for any important positions. It was hard on her ego, but that way she was able to remain close to her students and serve God with humility. 

St. Therese speaking on her call to love and serve Jesus forever in the cloister.

How did St. Therese Die?

St Therese died in 1897 from tuberculosis.

 

Therese was a sickly infant, but she survived through the constant care and prayers of her parents. She later suffered through many years of chronic ill health before her final illness but continued her adherence to the strict rules of the cloister.  At one point she had to be ordered by her superiors to abstain from fasting.

 

One night in 1896 she spit up blood. She had tuberculosis. This was before the development of antibiotics and vaccines, so many cases were fatal. She suffered without complaint throughout her final painful illness. When she died she was only 24 years old. 

 

After her death, her older sister Pauline gathered her writings together. These became “The Story of a Soul.  She passed them on to other Carmelite convents. Therese’s writings quickly became famous worldwide. They appealed to regular folks who were interested in simple, practical ways to live for Christ in their everyday lives.

Some of St. Therese's thoughts on death and heaven taken from her writing.

How did St Therese Become a Saint?

The St. Therese of the Child Jesus statue in the rose garden in front of our parish church.

All souls in heaven are saints. Some believe that shortly after her death the Little Flower was welcomed into the risen life of Jesus in Heaven. But to be officially recognized as a saint by the Church takes a bit more time and scrutiny. The process usually takes decades, sometimes even centuries. 

 

In the case of St. Therese of Lisieux, it only took 28 years. 

 

How Does Canonization Work?

The official process of canonization is called a Cause. It consists of four parts and can only begin five years after the candidate’s death. However, in the case of St. Therese, she was already worthy to be called saint in the hearts of many. 

 

Servant of God: When the Cause for Therese was opened by the Bishop of Rouen she officially became a Servant of God. The Church then conducted an investigation that determined that Therese was widely known for her holiness and intercessory prayer. They also examined her writings and found that they upheld the teachings of the Church. 

 

Venerable Servant of God: The Congregation for Causes of Saints in Rome reviewed all the evidence for and against her true holiness. They declared that Therese of the Child Jesus led a life of heroic virtue and was worthy of imitation by the faithful. 

 

Blessed: One miracle of unexplained healing is necessary to be declared Blessed. Therese was Beatified on April 29, 1923, because two cures that could not be explained by science were attributed to her intercession. 

 

In the first case, stomach ulcers spontaneously disappeared after Sister Louise of St. Germain had asked for Therese’s help. The second case was a healing of pulmonary tuberculosis. Charles Anne, a 23-year-old seminarian, was dying because of damage to his lungs. After praying one night to Therese for healing he could breathe normally. HIs attending physician said that it appeared that his destroyed lungs were suddenly functioning normally. 

 

Saint: After Beatification one more miracle attributed to her intercession needed to be confirmed before Therese could be declared a saint. Within two years there were two. 

 

Gabrielle Trimusi of Parma, Italy was cured of tubercular lesions on her spine and pain in her arthritic knees. In Schaerbeek, Belgium, Maria Pellemans was suffering from the same intestinal tuberculosis that ended Therese’s life. After a visit to Therese’s grave in France she came back a healed woman. Her doctor verified that she was now able to move about without being out of breath. And her abdominal pain had totally vanished.

 

The canonization of St. Therese of Lisieux was celebrated on May 17, 1925. The ceremony declared that she was a Saint in heaven. It also meant that she is worthy of public veneration by the universal church. Her life is held up as a model for imitation and is a powerful intercessor for all of the faithful. 

When Is St. Therese's Feast Day?

Final illustration in "The Little Way". Drawings by Charles Jouvenot - 1919

St. Therese’s Feast Day is celebrated on October 1st. Saint’s days are usually observed on the day after their death when tradition says that they enter into heaven. She died on September 30.

 

But her day was originally celebrated on October 3rd because of a packed liturgical calendar at the time of her canonization. During the 1970s the church did a review of the official saints' calendar. Her observance was moved back two days to make the calendar more consistent.

The final illustration in "The Little Way."  Drawings by Charles Jouvenot - 1919

Saint Therese Quotes

"The Little Way" by St. Therese. Illustrations by Charles Jouvenot - 1919

Cover illustration of "The Little Way"  by St. Therese. Artwork by Charles Jouvenot - 1919

“Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.”

 

“Holiness consists simply in doing God's will, and being just what God wants us to be.”

 

“If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.”

 

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”

 

“When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.”

 

“And it is the Lord, it is Jesus, Who is my judge. Therefore I will try always to think leniently of others, that He may judge me leniently, or rather not at all, since He says: "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.”

 

About the Eucharist, “Our Lord does not come from Heaven every day to stay in a golden ciborium; He comes to find another heaven, the heaven of our soul in which He loves to dwell.”

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