Thérèse of Lisieux
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was a nineteenth-century French Carmelite nun known as the Little Flower of Jesus. From her childhood she wanted to become a saint and to become perfected in God. Her deep desire to be constant to the will of God, to his wisdom and to his love led Thérèse to live a life of self-sacrifice and self-immolation and to put all of the strength of her heart’s love into drawing souls into the light of Jesus Christ. She ascended at the conclusion of her brief life.
She was born Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin, January 2, 1873, in Alençon, France. At the age of fourteen, Thérèse had such an ardent desire to enter the convent that, on a pilgrimage to Rome with her father, she boldly asked Pope Leo XIII during a public audience for his permission to enter the Carmel at age fifteen. He responded that she would enter “if God wills it.” The next year her request was granted by the bishop of Bayeux, and on April 9, 1888, she entered the Carmel at Lisieux where she took the name Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
She became acting mistress of novices in 1893 and considered it her mission to teach souls her “little way.” Her path was a path of love, for, she wrote, “it is only love which makes us acceptable to God.” Her favorite works were those of Saint John of the Cross, the Gospels and The Imitation of Christ. She desired only “to make God loved as I love Him, to teach souls my little way”—the way of “spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute surrender.”
With the fire of constancy and the zeal of the apostles, she determined to exemplify the path of simplicity midst a world of sophistication. In April of 1896, Thérèse was found worthy to be accorded the initiation of the crucifixion. She experienced a hemorrhage of the lungs and for a year suffered the agony of the cross that Jesus took upon himself as an atonement for mankind’s consciousness of sin. Thérèse bore her burden with the same devotion and trust in God that had marked her mission from the very beginning. In July of 1897, she was sent to the infirmary already wrapped in the ecstasy of the fires of resurrection. She repeated the words day and night, “My God, I love thee.” And on September 30, 1897, at the age of twenty-four, she returned to the heart of her greatest love.
During the last two years of her life, Thérèse was asked to write about her childhood memories and her religious life. The manuscript was published one year after Thérèse’s death in a book entitled Histoire d’une Ame (The Story of a Soul). It quickly became one of the most widely read spiritual books.
Two of the statements for which Thérèse is most remembered are “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth” and “After my death I will let fall a shower of roses,” for she foresaw that her activity after her death would be far-reaching and her mission of “making others love God as I love him” would continue. Statues of the saint portray her carrying a bouquet of roses.
After she passed on, Thérèse lost no time doing that good on earth. The convent received thousands of accounts of healings, conversions and intercession attributed to Thérèse. In one moving account, Thérèse appeared to the prioress of an impoverished convent in Italy to give her five hundred francs needed for the debt of the community. During World War I, many of the soldiers who had read Thérèse’s autobiography carried relics of her and pinned her picture on the dirt walls of their trenches. One French soldier tells of his harrowing experiences on the front lines. He and others prayed the rosary, and he called to Sister Thérèse. As the battle raged, he suddenly saw her standing at the foot of one of the guns. She said to him, smiling, “Fear not, I come here to protect you.” Not one of the soldiers fell, and they soon returned from the battle safe and sound.
Thérèse was canonized on May 17, 1925, less than 28 years after her death. Many miracles have been attributed to her. In 1927 she was declared patroness of foreign missions and of all works for Russia. Her feast day is October 1.
Lessons from her life
Sometimes we like to think of the saints as having been “born saints.” Thérèse’s life shows us that this is not so. Thérèse is often remembered as being sweet, loving and obedient. Yet this did not come naturally to her. In fact, when Thérèse was a child, Mrs. Martin characterized her daughter as “unconquerably stubborn.”
Thérèse learned how to turn her stubbornness into an iron will. She described how she had a “great victory” in a “certain combat.” She writes:
There is in the community a sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything, in her ways, her words, her character, everything seems very disagreeable to me. And still, she is a holy religious who must be very pleasing to God. Not wishing to give in to the natural antipathy I was experiencing, I told myself that charity must not consist in feelings but in works; then I set myself to doing for this Sister what I would do for the person I loved the most.... I wasn’t content simply with praying very much for this Sister who gave me so many struggles, but I took care to render her all the services possible, and when I was tempted to answer her back in a disagreeable manner, I was content with giving her my most friendly smile and with changing the subject of the conversation....
Frequently, when ... I had occasion to work with this Sister, I used to run away like a deserter whenever my struggles became too violent.... Never did she suspect the motives for my conduct, and she remained convinced that her character was very pleasing to me.
The path of discipleship
The ascended lady master Thérèse of Lisieux has given some insights into her experiences in the heaven-world:
Following my ascension, I was accorded the grant to spend a portion of my heavens on earth. But for another portion, the Father did assign me to study under the three masters El Morya, Koot Hoomi and Djwal Kul. These three wise men, adepts of the East who did come and tend the birth of the Lord Christ, therefore did tend with me the full flowering and birth of that Christ in my being multiplied many times over by their presence after my ascension.
Therefore, through their hearts I did learn the mysteries of the East, the profundity of the message of the Buddha and his oneness with our Lord. Thread upon thread, they did assist me in weaving and weaving again the fullness of the garment of light that does comprise the whole complement of the teaching of God to this age.
Therefore, beloved, I had full opportunity to receive that instruction that did fill in for me all of those sacred mysteries that had not been revealed through the established Church. Therefore you understand that much teaching that is given to you in this hour I received at inner levels after my ascension.
As I did say recently, there are many in the Church who have had the holiness and the sanctity and the purity [prerequisite for sainthood] but because the powers that be in this world who have seated themselves in these positions of power in the Church hierarchy have not seen fit to deliver the Everlasting Gospel to the people, those who qualified for the ascension and for sainthood could not receive that promotion, and therefore they did reincarnate.
Blessed ones, I desire not to give you any cause for personal pride or spiritual pride, but I am here to tell you that some who are in this place are among those who have reincarnated because they have been “shortchanged,” as you would say, by the Church and its tradition.
Therefore, beloved, I come to tell you that the way of discipleship can be seen by you as a thousand stairs upon a thousand-tiered golden spiral, and that step by step there is an orderly path of discipline. These masters who have sponsored your messenger and this activity, who have supported Jesus in establishing through the messengers the true Church Universal and Triumphant on earth, have seen fit to also establish an ordered ritual, for they are fully aware what it takes to mount one of these steps.
The figure of the nun burdened with the cancer in her body, concealing this from all others and occupying herself with the humble task of scrubbing the stairs of the enclave must be seen as archetypal of the soul who, bearing her karma, recognizes that she must clear the debris in each step of consciousness, scrubbing by the violet flame until that level of record and ideation is fully and wholly transmuted. In the process, she may mount a single step. In past ages it would take a soul perhaps an entire lifetime to mount a single step, for the only purging of karma and record and self, as well as its outcropping in the body as disease, would be manifest through prayer and works of penance.
Thus, beloved, to know “how great, how great thou art, O God, my Father, my Mother, how great is the gift of the violet flame!” you must establish a co-measurement, a sense of realism that such a gift is also an experiment. For it is a dispensation for which ascended beings of the seventh ray, not the least of whom being your beloved Saint Germain, have given this opportunity. And after a certain lapse of cycles, they will give accounting before the Lords of Karma and the four and twenty elders who stand round the great white throne, and they shall determine whether a people have taken that flame and used it only to deliver themselves of their discomforts, or whether they have used it seriously for the path of initiation as an adjunct, as a mighty assistance to the soul’s entering in.
You must therefore understand that you are watchmen of the night, keeping the watch in your time and in your place as many who have gone before you have kept that watch. In this dark night of the age of the Kali Yuga, you bear violet-flame torches and torches of illumination with the beloved Mother Liberty. Therefore, beloved, understand that all holy orders have had their rituals and their disciplines and their rules.
Therefore, those who would serve to keep the flame of this nation must come into alignment, as must those of every nation and city, to understand that it is both the spirit and the letter of the Law that must be fulfilled and obedience in the details of service and the givingness of self. It is this that will lead most swiftly to the desired goal of light in the seven chakras balanced in the supreme blessing of the Father-Mother God.
Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Masters and Their Retreats, s.v. “Thérèse of Lisieux.”
- T. N. Taylor, ed., Soeur Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Jesus (New York: P. J. Kennedy & Sons, n.d.), pp. 339–40.
- Cindy Cavnar, ed., Prayers and Meditations of Thérèse of Lisieux (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant Publications, 1992), p. 172.
- Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, trans. John Clarke, 2d ed. (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1976), pp. 222–23.
- Saint Bernadette (1844–1879), a devout peasant to whom the Blessed Virgin appeared 18 times in a grotto near Lourdes, France, when she was 14, endured the painful and debilitating disease of tuberculosis of the bone for more than seven years while she served as a Sister of Notre Dame at the Convent of Saint-Gildard. During the last two years of her life she developed a large tumor on her knee, which she kept a secret as long as she could so she would not be relieved of her duties, as portrayed in the film The Song of Bernadette (1943) based on Franz Werfel’s novel by the same name.
- Kali Yuga is the term in Hindu mystic philosophy for the last and worst of the four yugas (world ages), characterized by strife, discord and moral deterioration.
- Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, “Outside the Church,” Part II, Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 31, no. 39, July 13, 1988.