A Brief Biography of St. Therese of Lisieux

A Brief Biography of St. Therese of Lisieux

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Therese lived a very short life and died when she was 24, after she had lived as a nun for less than ten years. Unlike many other saints, St. Therese never went on missions, nor founded a religious order, nor performed “great” works. However, she did write in a journal that was published briefly after her death called “Story of a Soul.” Within 28 years of her death, the public after reading her book demanded that she become canonized and so she was.

Therese was born in Lisieux, France in 1873. She was a pampered and well-treated daughter of a mother who wanted to become a saint and a father who wanted to become a monk. Therese was one of nine children. Only five of these children lived and they were all daughters. She didn’t experience the happiest of childhoods, however, because her mother died of breast cancer when Therese was just four and a half years old. Her older sister Pauline became the mother of the family but she entered the Carmelite convent five years later. Just a few months after she entered the convent Therese became very ill with a fever that people thought she was dying. Therese saw her sister’s praying to the statue of Mary in her room, so she followed their example and prayed too. Mary smiled at Therese and suddenly she was cured. She tried to keep the grace of her curing a secret but people found out and constantly questioned her about Mary. Therese didn’t give into their curiosity which caused people to assume that she had made up the story.

At the age of eleven years old she had developed a habit of mental prayer. Therese’s two other sisters, Marie and Leonie, left to join religious orders too. There was only Therese, her father, and her last sister Celine. Therese wanted to enter the Carmelite convent to join her sisters though, but people were not convinced she could handle the rigors since she couldn’t handle her own emotional bursts. She prayed to Jesus for help but he did not answer.

In 1886 on Christmas, the fourteen year old Therese hurried home from church. At her age most children no longer received gifts in their shoes, but Celine didn’t want her baby sister to grow up so she continued leaving presents. Therese heard her father say as he stood over the shoes, “Thank goodness that’s the last time we shall have this kind of thing!” She froze and everyone waited for the tantrum, but it never came.

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It was then that Therese realized Jesus had come into her heart and done what she could never have done. He had made her more sensitive to those around hers feelings than her own. The following year she entered the convent. Convent life was not how she had imagined though. Her father suffered from many strokes but as a cloistered nun couldn’t visit him. She suffered for many years and experienced dryness in prayer due to not getting any answers from Jesus. Therese’s sister Celine entered the convent shortly after her father’s death. She wanted to be a saint but when she compared herself to one she realized she didn’t compare to their great deeds.

In 1896 she coughed up blood but she continued working and didn’t tell anyone. However, a year later she was so sick that everyone knew it. Therese said that her pain was so great that she would have taken her own life without hesitation had she not had faith. She died on September 30, 1897 at 24 years old. After Therese’s death Pauline put together her sister’s writings and sent copies to other convents.

Therese of Lisieux is one of the patron saints of missions, because of her love for them and the prayers and letters she gave in support of missionaries. Her life is a reminder that it is the little things that count.

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