About St Teresa
Marie Francoise Teresa Martin was born in Alencon, France on January 2nd 1873. She was the youngest of five daughters. Both her parents were deeply religious and the family attended Mass daily. Teresa tells us that her childhood was extremely happy.
“All my earliest impressions are of smiles and endearments.”
Her love of God was evident from a very early age. When only three years old she was missing for some time and after a desperate search she was found in the church where she had gone to ‘talk to Our Lady.’
Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus
(Thérèse of Lisieux)
When Teresa was four her mother died and the family moved to Lisieux. Teresa attended the local Benedictine Abbey school as a day girl. At weekends she would visit with her father many local churches and chapels among which was the chapel of the Carmelite Convent where she would later worship. Not long after, her eldest sister Pauline left home to enter Carmel as a contemplative nun.
Teresa was nine years old and missed her elder sister very much, particularly when she fell ill. Her health deteriorated until her family feared for her life but suddenly she made an extraordinary recovery which baffled her doctor. It was only years later when she was ordered by her superiors to write her autobiography that she told how, when desperately ill, she had seen the Blessed Virgin who had smiled at her and how her rapid recovery followed.
Teresa greatly desired to enter Carmel and when she was fourteen she asked her Father’s permission. He answered her by pulling up a flowering plant complete with it’s roots to show her that life could continue even after replanting. Terese then applied to Carmel. The convent chaplain considered her too young but arranged for her to see her bishop.
While waiting for the Bishop’s reply she went with her father and sister Celine on a pilgrimage to Rome. On Sunday, November 20th 1887 the party were given an audience with Pope Leo XIII. Teresa knelt before him and begged him for permission to enter Carmel when she was fifteen. The Pope smiled and told her “You will enter if it is God’s will.” On her return she received a letter giving her permission to become a postulant. On Monday April 9th 1888 she entered Carmel; she was just fifteen. A year later she was clothed as Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus.
“I am come to save souls and above all to pray for priests.”
Teresa lived only eight more years. Her life in Carmel was outwardly unremarkable but she was learning and perfecting her ‘little way’. The way of spiritual childhood of trust and surrender. At the very young age of twenty she became Mistress of novices to whom she taught the Little Way.
In 1895 the Prioress, Mother Agnes, who was Teresa’s elder sister Pauline, ordered her to write all that she could remember of her childhood. Her ‘Journey of a Soul’ was written in a cheap exercise book by the light of a small oil lamp. It was completed in January 1896, just over a year before she died. Published after her death, it became a sensational worldwide success, translated into many languages.
Teresa’s health deteriorated rapidly in 1897. Although very ill she bore her sufferings with characteristic uncomplaining bravery. A she lay dying she promised to entreat her beloved Lord to answer the prayers of those who invoked her intercession.
“After my death I will let fall a shower of roses.”
Every year our parishioners commemorate her promise by bringing roses to be blessed on her Feast day, the 1st October. Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus died of tuberculosis on September 29th 1897. She was twenty four. Her last words were;
“I love Him, O how I love Him.”
St Teresa was canonized in 1925. She is the Patron of France, of Priests and of the Missions.