NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church and our Holy Father. This "little work" is purely a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saint of the Month: October, 2011

"I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth."

~ Words of St. Therese, the Little Flower

St. Therese Martin of Lisieux
The Little Flower of Jesus - Feast: October 1st

Born in Alencon, France, on January 2, 1873, Therese Martin was the youngest daughter of Louis and Zelie Martin. The couple originally had nine children but only five daughters lived past their childhood. These worthy parents were such excellent examples of piety to their daughters, all of them entered into religious life and Louis and Zelie were eventually declared “Blesseds” by the Catholic Church in October 2008.

Going back to Therese, she was self-described as somewhat stubborn and overly-sensitive as a child, characteristics which became more pronounced after her mother passed away from breast cancer when she was still a girl. A few years later, a debilitating illness brought her close to the brink of death, but she was miraculously cured through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. This experience instilled in Therese a new-found maturity and a sense of reflection, and when two of her older sisters entered the local Discalced Carmelite Monastery, she resolved to one day join them. She pleaded repeatedly with her father, and after finally obtaining a special dispensation to do so from her bishop, Therese entered Carmel in 1888; she was 15-years-old.

Therese acclimated well to religious life but faced challenges with a few of the other nuns who treated her condescendingly because of her age. Her sister, Pauline, was elected prioress (superior) of the monastery, and Pauline had a sense that there was something special about her younger sister. The prioress ordered Therese to write her autobiography, which the novice reluctantly did; it proved to be providential as it was through this document that the world came to know the greatness of Therese’s soul.

In her writings, Therese referred to herself as a “little flower of Jesus”, and she laid out her personal plan on how she was going to sanctify her soul. Fully aware of her weaknesses and her frail health, she resolved to be childlike in her spirituality and to grow in holiness not by aspiring to do great things for Jesus, but rather, by conscientiously doing “little” things for him with all the love that she had to offer… and with the intent of spiritually uniting herself to God.  Therese once wrote:

“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love?
Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering
flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word,
and the doing of the least actions for love.”

Her autobiography is filled with many examples of her day-to-day efforts to live out her “little way” such as times when she returned harsh criticism from other nuns with kind words, or endured some sort of discomfort or suffering without complaint. By the time Therese’s early death occurred from painful tuberculosis on September 30, 1897 (age 24), her soul was completely filled with Divine Love. Her final words before dying were, “My God, I love you.”; heartfelt words that summarized her manner of living.

The radiant face of a Saint in death: a photo taken shortly after
Therese died in the Carmelite Monastery of Lisieux, France

"My mission - to make God loved - will begin
after my death..."

~ Words of St. Therese

After her death, Therese’s sister, Pauline, was inspired to have her autobiography - “The Story of a Soul” - published and distributed among other Carmelite monasteries; it quickly became a spiritual classic, which spread outside of Carmel and around the world. Readers were encouraged by Therese’s innovative spirituality, which reaffirms that holiness is attainable by anyone, regardless of how seemingly insignificant they are. Therese Martin was declared a Saint in 1925 and further recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1997.  She remains one of the most popular Saints in Church history.

A Reflection:
“…Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love at which we do them.”  ~ Words of St. Therese

A Short Prayer:
Dear St. Therese, help us to follow your holy example through the little way.  Amen.

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