October 1: Feast of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, the Little Flower, Virgin and Carmelite Nun
The youngest of nine children, Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus was born Maria Frances Theresa Guerin in 1873 at Alencon near Normandy in France and was one of four of the daughters who survived infancy. Five of the other children born to Theresa's parents Louis Martin Guerin and his wife Zelie-Marie had died in their infancy. Theresa was sent to the Benedictine monastery in Lisieux where she became known for her total suppression of her own will in favor of what Jesus wanted, offering every little sacrifice she could. Frail from birth, Theresa had been healed of a serious illness in 1883 through the intercession of Our Lady, and decided then and there she would become a Carmelite Nun. However her age prevented her from pursuing this immediate goal. Undaunted and persistent that Jesus wanted this, she even approached the Holy Father Pope Leo XIII during a group audience with him in Rome on pilgrimage, asking him to allow her to enter the convent. He was somewhat taken aback by her forwardness but replied gently, "Whatever your bishop advises, you follow, my child." This news from such a powerful prelate forced Theresa to bite her lip for she thought surely the Pope would allow this. Saddened she returned to France where she waited until old enough to be admitted which she was in 1888 and given the name Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face. Five years later at the age of 20 she was chosen mistress of novices. Three years later in 1986 Tuberculosis set in. Once this was known, Theresa's older blood sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus insisted that Theresa write down her memoirs for posterity. This she did and after her death this work entitled The Story of a Soul was widely circulated. In it, Theresa emphasized her doctrine on the "little way" of spiritual childhood stressing that she wanted to save souls to help priests save souls by prayer, sacrifice, and suffering. Her "little way" means loving and trusting in God as a child, held in His loving arms as she writes, "From the age of three, I never refused our good God anything. I have never given him anything but love. I just want to love God. I want to do hard things for Him. I want to pray for priests and for sinners. I want to shine like a little candle before His altar." She exemplified two of the greatest virtues, humility and total dependence on the Will of God. She even prayed that God would hear her prayer and save so many souls by offering herself in total reparation, including letting God give away any graces she would earn to any soul who needed it. As she lay dying in the convent in 1897, she pressed her precious crucifix to her heart and peering Heavenward replied, "I love Him! My God, I love You!" Shortly afterwards the tuberculosis took its toll and Theresa died on September 30, 1897 at only 24. True to her promise that she would let fall from Heaven a "shower of roses," she became known far and wide as the "Little Flower" with many miracles of intercession attributed to her throughout the world so that in 1925 Pope Pius XI canonized her proclaiming, "St. Theresa of the Child Jesus is the greatest saint of modern times." In 1944, at the height of World War II when France was being pummelled by German howitzers, Pope Pius XII proclaimed her patroness of France along with Saint Joan of Arc. French aviators and soldiers took up the battle cry encouraged by her intercession and many attribute the fall of Germany to storming Heaven. Theresa also shares a title with Saint Francis Xavier as patroness of Foreign Missions. Though Theresa never had the opportunity to set step outside of Europe, she had a longing to go to a Carmelite mission in Hanoi, Vietnam in the late 19th Century.
Novena to the Little Flower
To be prayed nine days in a row
O Little Therese of the Child Jesus, please pick for me a rose from the Heavenly Gardens and send it to me as a message of love.
O Little Flower of Jesus, ask God today to grant the favors I now place with confidence in your hands...
(Here mention specific requests)
St. Therese, help me to always beleive as you did, in God's great love for me, so that I might imitate your "Little Way" each day. Amen.