Introduction to St. Therese of Lisieux
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Thérèse was born in France on January 2, 1873. She was raised in a family of great faith, and when Thérèse was nine years old, her older sister, Pauline, entered the Carmelite monastery of Lisieux. Thérèse idolized her older sister, and became determined, as well, to become a Carmelite nun for Jesus’ sake. While still of a young age, St. Thérèse made her plans formally known but was informed by the authorities that she would need to wait until age 21 to join Carmel. Even so, she was also informed that she could always ask the Bishop for special permission to enter the monastery at an earlier age. Being the determined girl she was, St. Thérèse did just that.
Journeying to Rome, along with her father, Thérèse visited Bishop Hugonin of Bayeux to seek early permission to join the Carmelite order. The Bishop was surprised at St. Therese’s determination and also by her father’s support. But the Bishop said he needed time to think further about her request. Undaunted, St. Thérèse immediately appealed to a higher authority: the Pope himself. St. Thérèse and her father actually secured an audience with the Pope and while the Pope was impressed by her determination, advised her, nonetheless, to listen to her superiors, assuring her that if God, indeed, willed it, she would certainly enter Carmel as a nun. Ultimately, St. Thérèse did just that, taking the Carmelite habit at Lisieux at 16 years of age.
In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, St. Thérèse writes about a book she loved called, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life by Father Charles Arminjon.
“All the great truths of religion, the mysteries of eternity, plunged my soul into a state of joy not of this earth. I experienced already what God reserved for those who love him (not with the eyes, but with the heart); and seeing the eternal rewards had no proportion to life’s small sacrifices, I wanted to love, to love Jesus with a passion. … I copied out several passages on perfect love, on the reception God will give his elect at the moment he becomes their reward, great and eternal, and I repeated over and over the words of love burning in my heart.”
St. Thérèse, though gifted with a determined will, also felt led to “craft” for herself a simple, childlike and joyful spirituality which she called her “Little Way.” In this Little Way, she obediently and graciously served others no matter where she was or what she was doing. We can, as many people of faith have already experienced—find much consolation in the Little Way of St. Thérèse—as we seek to model our lives after her extraordinary simple yet deep spirituality, in its love and generosity towards others wherever we (or they) are in life. You can learn more about how to fulfill the work of God through the little things as you study the beautiful life and spirituality of St. Thérèse at the Avila Institute.
“Introduction to St. Thérèse of Lisieux” will provide an overview of the life and message of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face as it introduces you to the principal themes of her spirituality and her works, reflecting on why her “Little Way” is so important for us today.
You will also discover how this obstinate little girl grew into a determined young woman who lived and ended her life embracing a Godly docility and a love for others and for the will of God.
Finally, we will explore how the saint we now venerate as The Little Flower attained the summit of love by facing the depths of her own powerlessness, and how, through this, she was able to abandon herself more and more to the incarnation of God’s mercy… Jesus Christ.
Take the course “Introduction to St. Thérèse of Lisieux,” taught by Deacon Colin Coleman on Mondays, 8:30 – 10:30 PM Eastern Time on March 5, 12, 19, April 2, 9, 16 (no class March 26). Apply online at the Avila-institute.com.
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Art for this post, Introduction to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: Photograph of St. Thérèse: Detail of Gravure de “Sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus, Histoire d’une âme écrite par elle-même, Lisieux.