Sometimes called St Therese of the Infant Jesus and the Holy Face, this saint lived between 1873 and 1897. She was born Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin and became a French Catholic Carmelite nun who was canonised and recognised as a Doctor of the Church, one of only three women to receive the honour. She is also known as The Little Flower of Jesus.
St Therese of Lisieux was born in Alencon, France. In a family of nine she was the youngest although only the fifth to have survived. She was born with intestinal problems and was also fortunate not to have died in infancy.
Her mother died when she was young and so was looked after by her older sister but when this sister entered the Carmelite monastery Therese was devastated. She too wanted to enter the monastery but was told she was too young. She tried again at age 14 but was again denied.
Therese went on a pilgrimage to Rome and during a general audience asked Pope Leo X11 if he could intervene. The Pope said to Pope you will enter if God wills it.
Therese returned home and entered the monastery in April 1888 aged 15.
In 1889, Therese entered the Carmelite order with the name Of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
This name later came to be seen as a reflection of two aspects of her character: she was The toy of the infant Jesus, but she was also prepared to suffer the abandonment of the Holy Face on the Veil of Veronica.
Therese was known for her capacity for love and generosity. She cared for the sick and dying nuns and at the same time was in charge of the sacristy at the monastery. She wanted a life of prayer and to serve others.
However Therese was also very sick, suffering from tuberculosis, a crippling disease at the time. Although still very young, Therese bore her steady decline resolutely and without complaint.
On the morning of Good Friday 1896, she began bleeding from the mouth and her condition had taken a very bad turn for the worse. She was moved to the monastery infirmary where she died on 30 September 1897 at just 24 years of age.
On her death-bed she is reported to have said:"I have reached the point of not being able to suffer anymore, because all suffering is sweet to me. Oh I love him - My God I love you."
She is buried at the Basilica of St Therese of Lisiuex.
Therese soon came to mean a great deal to numerous people. She had shown them The way of perfection in the small things of every day. Miracles and graces were being attributed to her intercession, and within 28 years after her death, the simple young nun was canonised.
During her life she was asked to write memoirs of her childhood and another of her religious life. Although heavily edited by her three sisters at the time, also nuns, St Therese of Lisieux is probably best remember for her “Story of a Soul". Since 1973, two centenary editions of Therese's original, unedited manuscripts, including “Story of a Soul", her letters, poems, prayers and the plays she wrote for the monastery recreations have been published.
Canonisation and Doctor of the Church
Pope Pius X signed the decree for the opening of her process of canonisation on June 10, 1914.
Interestingly at this time, and according to some biographies of Edith Piaf, in 1922 the future famous French singer, at the time though an unknown seven-year old girl, was cured of blindness after a pilgrimage to the grave of Therese.
Beatified in 1923 and canonised on May 17 1925 St Therese's feast day was originally October 3 but was moved to October 1 by Pope Paul V1.
Therese of Liseux is the patron saint of people with AIDS, aviators, florists, illnesses and missions.
In 1927 Pope Pius X1 named her patroness of missions and in 1944 Pope Pius X11 named her co-patroness af France alongside St Joan of Arc.
She is one of the Catholic Church's most popular saints.
On October 19 1997, Pope John Paul 11 declared her one of the thirty three Doctors of the Universal Church, one of only three women - the others being St Teresa of Avila and St Catherine of Siena.