I know of no other means to reach perfection than by love
Therese of Lisieux
Therese Martin was a young French girl who entered the cloistered Carmelite convent in Lisieux, Normandy, in 1888. She was only fifteen years of age. And just nine years later she died from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four. Therese was canonized a saint in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. She is known as St Therese of Lisieux of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, and also as the Little Flower. She had a very short life and, by our standards today, a life of limited experience.
Therese is often presented as the sweet saint, the young girl who gave her life to God, and popular images of her always depict her holding roses. She is a popular choice for children choosing a Confirmation name. Much of Therese’s writing and spirituality are couched in the piety and religiosity of late nineteenth century France, but Therese’s spirituality transcends this too.
To engage with Therese we have to both understand the world in which she lived and the particular expression of Catholic spirituality of her day, and we have to see beyond that too, to what is timeless in her spirituality and in her writings. When we do that, we find that she was in fact a ‘gutsy’ young woman, a passionate lover of God, who managed to thrive spiritually in the often stifling atmosphere of an enclosed convent of that time, with all the intensity, annoyances and pettiness of the daily interactions of a group of women living in such closeness, without interaction with the outside world. It was love that drew Therese there and love that enabled her to flourish. She has something to say to us today, we who are separated from Therese not only by a century and a bit, but by a vastly different worldview, culture and experiences.
Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator