Saint Therese of Lisieux, often referred to as the “Little Flower,” was born as the youngest of nine children to Louis and Zélie Martin, devout parents who had once aspired to monastic lives themselves. Raised in an environment steeped in faith, Therese felt a call to religious life from an early age.
Sadly, Therese experienced profound grief when she lost her mother to breast cancer at just four and a half. Her elder sister, Pauline, stepped into the role of mother, only to leave Therese again when she joined the Carmelite convent five years later. During a severe illness in her youth, Therese saw a vision of the Virgin Mary, which miraculously resulted in her recovery.
Educated by the Benedictines, a burning desire to serve God led a fifteen-year-old Therese to seek entry into the Carmelite Convent. When initially denied, she embarked on a pilgrimage to Rome with her supportive father to appeal directly to Pope Leo XIII. The Pope deferred to the convent’s superior, who eventually allowed the fervent young girl to join, an exceptional occurrence at such a young age.
In 1896, a new chapter opened for Therese when she was chosen to be a missionary in Hanoi, Vietnam. However, a divine revelation told her that she wouldn’t be on Earth for much longer. Indeed, she contracted tuberculosis shortly thereafter. Despite her intense suffering, Therese displayed exemplary resilience and cheerfulness. She believed her true mission would begin after her earthly life, where she’d aid people from heaven. She passed away on September 30, 1897, aged just 24.
St. Therese’s autobiography, detailing her journey of faith, was posthumously published. Its profound insights into living a life of simplicity and devotion resonated with countless readers. Her remarkable sanctity and miracles attributed to her led to the initiation of her canonization process in 1914. Pope John Paul II, recognizing her immense spiritual contribution, declared her a Doctor of the Church in 1997.
Known for her love for the missions, St. Therese of Lisieux is celebrated as one of its patron saints, even though she never ventured to foreign lands. Her life stands as a testament to the power of small acts, underscoring that even in simplicity, one can profoundly impact God’s kingdom. Apart from missionaries, aviators and florists also revere her as their patron saint.