St Therese of Lisieux - 1st October

The eyes are the window to the soulSaints during my childhood years; St Anthony, Blessed Martin and the Little Flower.  We had statues, holy pictures of the saints, but of the Little Flower there was a photograph!  Somehow that made her more real, more like one of ourselves.  Since then I and all of us have seen several photos of St Therese of Lisieux. 

The one of her dressed in her Carmelite habit is the most familiar.  She is perhaps the most famous Carmelite of all time.  The Carmelites take their name from the Holy Mountain of Carmel in Israel.  It is a beautiful place, the word Carmel means ‘GARDEN LAND’: a place of beauty, order, colour where things grow and blossom.  It is a place where God can seem so near and it is a place where Carmelites feel at home and can blossom – like flowers – little flowers!

So, when we see Therese in her Carmelite habit we are assured once more that she is praying for us, for the Church and the World.  The vocation of the Carmelites is to support us by their prayers.

There is another photo of Therese which shows her as a little girl of about four years of age.  It is an image of innocence and beauty and lovability.  It is all the more poignant when we learn that it was taken around the time of her mother’s death.  Her childish innocence comes through when we hear from her that when her mother died she asked her big sister would she be her mother from then on.  This innocence and simplicity was to be the hallmark of her character throughout her short life.  “I rejoice to be little because only children and those who are like them will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.”

My favourite picture of her is the one of her as a beautiful young woman of fifteen and half years.  She has dressed-up for her important meeting with the bishop – she wanted to make an impression so that he would allow her to join the Carmel.  Here she looks like a princess, radiant and beautiful, attractive and lovable.

This is a real woman.  This woman is human.  This is a woman with whom we can identify, even compare ourselves to her.

Saint Therese of Lisieux became a saint long before she entered Carmel.  Her saintliness started when she learned God worked in her family, in her village, in her own understanding and in her emotions and feelings.  It was through the grace of God that she recognised God’s call to her, it was through the grace of God that she pursued the call to Carmel, it was God who gave her the courage and strength needed to leave her home and wonderful family to join an enclosed community of Carmelite nuns. 

For many of us it is in her suffering and pain that we can best identify with her.  We will never attain to such acceptance of suffering as she did, but she shows us that it is possible, she leads us to accept that life is one of pain and she is a beacon for us that God sustains us and strengthens us in our weakest moments.

Today we remember her in a similar way to how we remember our loved ones on the anniversary of their deaths.  We feel a closeness to her and can almost remember her as a reality in our lives.  We give God praise and thanks for the power of the Spirit as seen in her life – it’s like we actually knew her.  So, we call to mind the important things about her.

We remember how God has blessed the lives of so many people through the memory and intercession of St Therese.  She “understood that love was everything; that it embraced all times and places; that it was eternal”.  She discovered, early on, that her vocation in this life was to love and when she knew that she was dying, she prayed that she “could spend her heaven doing good on earth”.

“I am perfectly sure that I shall not stay inactive in Heaven, my desire is to go on working for the Church and for souls.   That is what I keep asking God, and I am certain that God will say yes”.  That is her promise to us.

Her example to us is, as one who was close to God and kept close to God through prayer.  Once she was asked how she spent the hours she did in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  Her answer was “I just sit there noticing God, noticing me”.

Her assurance to us is “Look into the Face of Jesus … There you will see how much He loves you”