Tag Archives: St Therese of Lisieux




Therese of the Child Jesus was born in Alencon, France, of respectable and pious parents. Her mother died when Therese was five years old. At this time, Therese committed herself wholly to Divine Providence under the vigilant care of a most tender father and elder sisters. Under such teachers, she rejoiced as a giant in her race along the way of perfection.


At the age of nine, she was sent to the Benedictine nuns at Lisieux to be educated. In her tenth year, she was tormented for a long time by a serious and mysterious malady, and was divinely delivered from it through the assistance of Our Lady of Victory. Filled with angelic fervour when receiving her First Holy Communion, she seemed to develop an insatiable hunger for this celestial food.


Desiring to enter the Order of the Discalced Carmelites but, not being the proper age, she met with many obstacles in embracing the religious life. She courageously overcame these difficulties and was happily admitted to the Carmel at Lisieux at the age of fifteen. There she burned with extraordinary love for God and her neighbour.


Following the way of spiritual childhood according to the teaching of the Gospel, she taught it to others, especially to the novices. Consumed with the same love, two years before her death, she offered herself as a victim of love to the merciful God. She passed on to her Spouse on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24 years. Pope Pius XI added her name to the virgins declared blessed and, two years later, at the time of the great Jubilee, 1925, solemnly listed her among the saints. He also appointed and declared her the special patroness of all the missions.


O Lord, who said: “Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven,” grant us, we beseech you, so to follow the footsteps of blessed Therese, the Virgin, in humility and simplicity of heart that we may obtain everlasting rewards. Who live…

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964 (bold headings added)


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Catherine Laboure’s pastor in 1830 was Father Charles du Friche des Gennettes. Father des Gennettes’ parish included the area in which the mother house of the Daughters of Charity was located. Father probably did not know Sister Catherine because the community had its own spiritual adviser, Father Aladel. He was very familiar, however, with the story of our Lady’s appearances in the convent chapel and with the Miraculous Medal.

In 1832, Father des Gennettes was transferred to the Church of Our Lady of Victories. This church had been built in 1629 by King Louis XIII in thanksgiving for favours granted him by the Blessed Virgin. The parishioners, for a century and a half, were known for their devotion to the Blessed Virgin.


With the French Revolution, the church fell upon evil days. All sorts of outrages were performed in it by the revolutionaries. Afterwards, it was used by a schismatic sect, and after that it became a stock exchange. In 1809, it was restored to its original purpose, but there were few parishioners left.

Father des Gennettes found that scarcely anyone came to Mass or received the sacraments. Being a very apostolic man, he tried in every way he could think of to bring the people back to their faith. He met with nothing but indifference. At length, Father became discouraged. Perhaps another priest might be able to do better, he thought. He decided it was his duty to resign as a failure.


On Sunday, December 3,1836, Father des Gennettes began to say Mass in an almost empty church. He was seized by a frightful distraction, the conviction that he must resign. He could scarcely keep his mind on the Mass. When he reached the Canon, he cried out in distress.

At that moment he heard a calm distinct voice say very solemnly: “Consecrate your parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

After Mass, Father wondered whether he had really heard these words. He convinced himself that it had been his imagination and knelt to say his thanksgiving. Again he heard the words: “Consecrate your parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary.”


He could doubt no longer. Taking up a pen, he composed the rules for a confraternity of our Lady. The Bishop approved the rules that same week.

The following Sunday, Father told the ten people at Mass about his project. He said there would be Vespers of our Lady that evening and that he would then give the full details of the Confraternity.

When Father des Gennettes entered the church that evening, he found it full for the first time in years. More than 400 people were there. The parish continued to flourish from then on. People began to come to Our Lady of Victories from other parts of Paris, and then from all France, and soon the fame of the shrine was worldwide. Today, about 90,000 thank offerings for cures line the walls.


In 1838, Pope Gregory XVI made the Confraternity the Archconfraternity of the Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners. There are affiliated societies throughout the world.

In March 1855, an octave of thanksgiving was held at the shrine for the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. At the end of the octave, the statue of the Immaculate Heart was seen to move. This happened again. Pope Pius IX took this as a sign of approval for his act, and ordered the statue to be crowned, June 1, 1856.


St Therese of the Child Jesus visited the shrine on November 4, 1887. “Having arrived in Paris,”  she wrote, “Papa took us to see the sights. For me there was only one – Our Lady of Victories. What I felt in her sanctuary, I cannot say. The graces she granted me resembled those of my First Communion. I was filled with peace and joy. It was there that my Mother, the Virgin Mary, told me distinctly that it was indeed she who cured me. With what fervour did I beg her always to keep me and to bring about my dreams., to enfold me ever beneath the shadow of the cloak of her Virginity. I besought her again to keep all occasions of sin away from me.”

– From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954


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Posted by on September 27, 2019 in Devotions, Prayers to Our Lady


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O Jesus, Who in thy cruel Passion didst become the “Reproach of men and the Man of Sorrows,” I worship thy Divine Face. Once it shone with the beauty and sweetness of the Divinity; now for my sake It is become as the face of a leper. Yet in that disfigured Countenance I recognise thine infinite Love, and I am consumed with the desire of loving thee and of making thee loved by all mankind. The tears that streamed in such abundance from thine Eyes are to me as precious pearls which I delight to gather, that with their infinite worth I may ransom the souls of poor sinners.

O Jesus, Whose Face is the sole beauty that ravishes my heart, I may not behold here upon earth the sweetness of thy Glance, nor feel the ineffable tenderness of thy Kiss. Thereto I consent, but I pray thee to imprint in me the Divine Likeness, and I implore thee so to inflame me with thy Love, that it may quickly consume me, and soon I may reach the vision of thy Glorious Face in Heaven! Amen.

– St Anthony’s Treasury, Laverty & Sons, Leeds, 1916

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Posted by on December 7, 2016 in Devotions


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“St Therese’s activity on behalf of the Missions has not ended with her death. Her letters to her Brother Missionaries throb with the expectancy of how far more effective she will be on their behalf in Heaven.

If I am leaving the battlefield it is not with the selfish desire of taking my repose

‘I count on not being idle in Heaven, for it is my wish to continue to work for the Church, and for souls. I ask this grace from God and I am certain He will grant it. So you see, if I am leaving the battlefield it is not with the selfish desire of taking my repose.

I will teach you how best to sail the world’s tempestuous sea – with the self-surrender of a child

‘When I myself have reached the port I will teach you how best to sail the world’s tempestuous sea – with the self-surrender of a child well aware of its father’s love and of his vigilance in the hours of danger.

Brother, I am so happy to die – because, far more than on earth, I shall help the souls I hold dear. O what joy when comes the happy hour of going Home! I shall not die – I do but enter into life and whatsoever I cannot tell you here upon earth I will make you understand from the heights of Heaven.’

What attracts me to the Homeland of Heaven is the call of Jesus

But more fully still she writes: ‘What attracts me to the Homeland of Heaven is the call of Jesus, the hope that I may at last love Him as I have so longed to love Him, and the thought that I shall bring a multitude of souls to love Him, who will bless Him for all eternity. Brother, you will not have time to send me the list of things I can do for you in Heaven, but I guess them; and in any case you will have but to whisper them and I shall hear you and faithfully bear your messages to Our Lord, to our Immaculate Mother, to the Angels and the Saints you love.’

Till the Angel shall have said: ‘Time is no more.’

Her work for the Missions still continues, and there is every evidence that it will continue, as she prophesied it would, until the end of time.

‘I feel that my mission is about to begin – to make others love God as I love Him – to teach souls my Little Way. I will spend my Heaven in doing good on earth. This is not impossible, for the Angels keep watch over us while they enjoy the Beatific Vision. No, there can be no rest for me till the end of the world – till the Angel shall have said: ‘Time is no more.’ Then shall I take my rest, then shall I be able to rejoice because the number of the elect will be complete.’

These striking words were spoken during her last illness, 17 July 1897, less than three months before she died. Sure of the unfailing support of our Saint, whom Our Lord through His Church has specially given us as our Patroness in these difficult times, the Church in the Mission Field can look forward with quiet confidence to the days that lie ahead.”

– From “The Little Way Association” booklet, Issue No 94 – Little Way Association, London. Internet contact: (external link)


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“This Wednesday, 1st October, we celebrate the feastday of St Therese of Lisieux… St Therese was born in France in 1873 and at the age of 16 entered the Carmelite Convent in Lisieux. St Therese had a childlike simplicity, utter humility, constant self-sacrifice and a boundless love for God. St Therese died at the young age of 24, having written ‘The Story of a Soul’, which is regarded as a spiritual classic. Here are some quotes from St Therese for our prayerful reflection:

• Our Lord’s love makes itself seen quite as much in the simplest of souls as in the most highly gifted, as long as there is no resistance offered to His grace.

• The science of loving, yes, that’s the only kind of science I want and I’d barter away everything I possess to win it.

• When I act as charity bids, I have this feeling that it is Jesus who is acting in me; the closer my union to Him, the greater my love for all.

• Above all it’s the gospels that occupy my mind when I’m at prayer. I’m always finding fresh lights there.

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

• Each small task of everyday life is a part of the total harmony of the universe.

• Time is but a shadow, a dream; already God sees us in glory and takes joy in our eternal beatitude. How this thought helps my soul! I understand why He let’s us suffer.

• How I thirst for Heaven – that blessed habitation where our love for Jesus will have no limit! But to get there we must suffer. Well, I wish to suffer all that shall please my Beloved, I wish to let Him do just as He wills with me.

• It is your arms Jesus, which are the elevator to carry me to heaven. So there is no need for me to grow up. In fact: just the opposite: I must become less and less.”
– From: Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris (Sept. 2014)

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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Prayers for Ordinary Time


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• Those who have sinned must not despair: Let that never be. For we are condemned not for the multitude of evils but because we do not want to repent and learn the miracles of Christ. (St Mark the Ascetic)

• If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. (C S Lewis)

• The only way to make rapid progress along the path of divine love is to remain very little and put all our trust in Almighty God. That is what I have done. (St Therese de Lisieux)

• There are, therefore three virtues in which the perfection of Christian law consists: charity from a pure heart, hope from a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. (St Robert Bellarmine)

• The gate of heaven is very low; only the humble can enter it. (St Elizabeth Ann Seton)

• God gave Himself to you: give yourself to God. (St Robert Southwell)


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“For millions St Therese of Lisieux has become an inspiration and a challenge. Story of a Soul, already in its fortieth French edition, has over fifty translations, making Lisieux as famous as the Eiffel Tower and giving the Christian world a whole new vocabulary and a renewed school of spirituality.


Though famous, she is not always understood; though millions know her, not everyone has grasped her essential greatness and originality. She has had a bad press, and too often has been presented in cheap sentimental terms or, at the other extreme, as an unreal, superhuman model of virtue and innocence. It must be admitted, the real Therese is elusive; the limitation of her own stylised language, the cultural milieu in which she wrote, as well as her own love of hiddenness, make it essential that we probe beneath the image and strip the statue clean.

Just how elusive Therese was, even to her own sisters in Carmel, is delightfully captured for us in one of the most vivid portraits we possess of her, written by Sister Marie of the Angels when Therese was twenty: ‘… tall and robust, with a childlike face, and with a tone of voice and expression that hide a wisdom, a perfection and a perspicacity of a woman of fifty… a little innocent thing to whom you would give communion without previous confession, but whose head is fills with tricks to be played on everyone she pleases. A mystic, a comedian, she is everything! She can make you shed tears of devotion, and just as easily make you split your sides with laughter during recreation.’ Hardly enough to make her ‘the greatest saint of modern times,’ but enough, surely, to make us cautious of any over-simplification about her.


Therese claimed that her life was a very ordinary one. Others were of the same opinion. ‘Whatever will Mother say about her?’ one of the community wondered shortly before Therese died. Unknown to any of the great ones of her day, untouched by the political or social crises of the age, she lived nine of her short twenty-four years within the cloistered walls of a Carmelite convent. And yet, today, she holds her own with all her contemporaries, taking her place with the great thinkers and philosophers of her age, one who wrestled with the deepest problems of human existence, the enigma of human suffering and the ultimate question of life itself. With them she shared the suffering, the mystery and even the despair but not the ultimate solution; that was uniquely her own.


Monsignor Vernon Johnson, the great apostle of the Little Way, loved to tell the story of the old priest who, on the day St Therese was canonised, turned to his colleague on the steps of St Peter’s and said, KIt is the Gospel that has been canonised today.’ It would be difficult to express more accurately the whole life and message of St Therese of Lisieux. To understand her is to understand the Gospel. Essentially her doctrine is nothing but a fresh and vigorous restatement of the basic Christian truths. This, in fact, was the genius of St Therese that she rediscovered for her own age and for ours the hidden face of God. And she did so like an explorer, through the sheer force of her love and her burning desire to know the true heart of God…

The heart of St Therese’s discovery was that the God of Revelation was a God of love and mercy. For her the ‘good news’ of the Gospel was summed up in John’s cryptic phrase ‘God is Love.’ The meaning of the Incarnation, as she understood it, was to make love visible. In her soul she experienced, in their deepest theological sense, Jesus’ words from the Cross, ‘I thirst,’ as a cry, a plea for the free gift of each human heart. For her He was a ‘beggar of love.’ She realised it did not matter how weak, fragile, even sinful these hearts were previously, as long as they were given in love. Hence her joy at the so-called ‘Gospel love scenes’; the woman at the well, the good thief, Mary Magdalene… where love and mercy met and overlapped.


Where, for the majority of people, the truth of God’s love is marginal, for Therese it was a truth to be lived, a central dynamic principle of her life. Her greatness was not that she discovered God’s love but that she lived it at white heat. Fearlessly she stood before the abyss of God and the abyss of herself and found in the mystery of God’s love for her the bridge – ‘the lift’ as she called it – to reconcile them both. It is only in this way that we can understand the intensity of her inner life – her heroic virtue, her willing obedience, her patient acceptance of her father’s humiliating illness, her daily faithfulness, and her gentle surrender to her own painful death. In the burning intensity of her love, old religious cliches – victim, sacrifice, abandonment, oblation – are given back their original beauty; they are purified and renewed. Her last words ‘My God I love you,’ give meaning to her whole life and every particular detail of it.


Her life was love lived. Nothing was too small or too insignificant to be a vehicle of this love. She simply lived each day fully, never missing an opportunity to make this love visible: ‘a smile, for instance, or a kindly word, when I would rather say nothing or look cross.’ It was not the greatness of life that Therese discovered, but the greatness of the ordinary, the mundane, the trivial. The black and white dreariness of everyday living was the raw material out of which she fashioned her ‘Little Way.’ For Therese there was no tomorrow; only today, lived out moment by moment in love. ‘Everything,’ she exclaimed, ‘is a grace.’ And when she said ‘everything’ she meant everything.

On her death bed, the very day in fact that she died, Therese could sum up her life for her sisters with the statement: ‘I have never sought anything but the truth.’ A few weeks earlier she had expressed her understanding of truth in her ardent prayer; ‘O God, I beg You, answer me when I humbly say ‘what is truth?’ – Let me see things as they are, let nothing blind me to it.’ Seeing things as they are – this for Therese was the absolute condition of her way of spiritual childhood. To her search for love she brought a similar quest for truth, making her own St Paul’s summary of the Christian life ‘doing the truth in love.’


Seeing things as they were was not easy for Therese. Her bold, independent spirit amazed and sometimes shocked her sisters. To one, taken aback by the directness of her answer, she replied, ‘If you don’t want the truth, don’t ask me questions.’ It was not so much that she rejected the devotional and the pious but that she purified and restored them to their true place in the Christian life. To her prayer, her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, her love for Our Blessed Lady, her daily practice of virtue, she brought a realism and an authenticity that feared nothing except illusions. And, from illusions, she felt, ‘God in His mercy has always preserved me.’ In the last few months of her life, the honesty with which she confronted her own desolation of body and soul – the humiliation of her physical suffering, the darkness of her night of faith – proved too much for many of the community even to watch. Yet Therese could not dissimulate; ‘if I did not have faith I should have killed myself without a moment’s hesitation.’


Therese was not afraid of the truth; for her it was never hurtful or diminishing. On the contrary it was the essential condition for that true freedom of spirit which she so strongly desired. The truth, she knew, would make her free; free above all to be herself without any masks or any pretence before God or before others. Countless witnesses attest to her gaiety and spontaneity at recreation – ‘clever, witty and full of fun’ one sister remarked, recalling Therese’s impersonations and her ability to make others laugh. Again, how often her famous smile lightened the burden of another sister’s weariness. Neither was she afraid to weep or show her emotions or admit defeat. She was the enemy of sham and of false virtue. A novice who boasted of her mortification in not eating her desert was sent straight back to the kitchen to collect it! The infirmarian who asked her to say ‘something nice’ to the doctor got an even more direct response, ‘let him think what he likes, I love simplicity, I hate humbug.’


In her Little Way there was no room for theatricals and mock heroics. She was a saint who was not a hero; she loved her poverty, her weakness and her littleness too much for that. ‘We carry the cross,’ she told her novices, ‘not bravely but weakly.’ Seeing things as they are meant, above all, seeing herself as she was, accepting the full reality of her fragile humanity. The ingredients of her Little Way were commonplace experiences of every human life: weariness, sadness, defeat, fear and disappointment. What for so many are stumbling blocks, for Therese became stepping stones. She knew that weakness was perfected by grace, poverty enriched by love. Hence her joy at coming before God ‘with empty hands’ for it was only when they were empty that God could and would fill them.

When Mother Agnes was asked at the official Process of Canonization why she wanted to see her sister canonised, she replied spontaneously, ‘Because it will be for the glory of God, by proclaiming His mercy.’ In her constant striving to ‘do the truth in love’ St Therese discovered there was ultimately only one thing that made it all possible: the mercy of God.”
– This is an excerpt of an article by Fr Eugene McCaffrey, OCD entitled “The real Therese is elusive” published in the magazine “The Little Wasy Association” (Helping the missions side by side with St Therese) issue No.74; originally published in the Carmel Magazine. For information and donations for the missions all over the world please contact: The Little Way Association, Sacred Heart House, 119 Cedars Road, Clapham Common, London SW4 0PR. Tel. +44 (0)20 7622 0466.

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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Prayers for Ordinary Time


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