Church Honours St Therese of the Child Jesus – Patroness of the Missions and Missionaries

The story of Therese Martin, the young French girl who longed to join the Carmelites and dedicate her life to Christ, is one of the fairy tales of our age.

No doubt at all that Therese is the most popular Catholic saint of the last hundred years and no wonder Mother Teresa took her own name from this saint.

She was born in 1873, the last of nine children to parents who themselves had wanted at one time to become religious. Two of her older sisters had already entered Carmel before her.

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Lisieux France
Admitted when she was just 15, Therese “of the Child Jesus”, as she wished to be called, was favoured by signal graces and blessings from God. Her characteristic was a boundless trust and confidence in God – much as a child trusts her parents – and a total willingness to sacrifice herself in love for his sake.

“From God, you can never ask too much. You will get from him in proportion to your reliance on him!” she would say. She described it as her ‘Little Way’, that is, doing little things with great love.

She became an inspiration and model for millions of ordinary folk and her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, written at the urging of her superiors, became an instant best seller.

Therese spent barely nine years in the convent at Lisieux, and died all too soon of tuberculosis, aged 26. Most of her time was spent unnoticed, doing the various chores of daily life, and she was generally misunderstood by her companions. Her special task, as she saw it, was to assist the priests and missionaries of the Church with her prayers and sacrifices. She said: “there’s just one thing in life: to love Jesus and save souls for him, so he may be more loved!”

So phenomenal was the devotion to the ‘Little Flower’ – as she was called – after she died, she was proclaimed saint just 28 years later. With St Francis Xavier, she is also the patron of the missions. And in 1997, Pope John Paul II declared her a ‘doctor of the Church’, thus honouring her ‘little way’ of leading millions to God.

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