St Therese of Lisieux

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Carmelite nun. Patron of the missions. St Therese was born in 1873 in Alencon in France. When she was 15 she told her father she was so devoted to God she wanted to become a nun. The Carmelites and her bishop thought she was too young, but she persisted and eventually got her way.

Therese loved life. She had many dreams and wanted to go to the Far East as a missionary. But it wasn't to be. In 1896 she began to cough up blood. She had contracted a very virulent form of TB and suffered a very painful illness, without complaining, before she died at the age of just 24, in 1897. Her last words were: "My God I love you."

St Therese might have been forgotten. But her superiors asked her to write her autobiography, called the Story of a Soul. They published it after she died (with some of their own sentimental additions) and the appeal of the book was astonishing. The book was translated into many languages and became an instant best-seller.

Therese's attraction lies in her simplicity. No scholar, or great student of the Bible, she simply longed to be a saint as she thought any ordinary person could.

"In my little way are only very ordinary things. Little souls can do everything I do."

Her influence helped to lead many to a rediscovery of first principles, and the primacy of ordinary duties of the religious life over personal initiatives, which so often cloak self-will.

St Therese was full of fun. She devised a coat of arms for herself and Jesus with the initials MFT and IHS and enjoyed making up jokes and funny stories.

In art she is represented in a Carmelite habit holding a bunch of roses in memory of her promise to "let fall a shower of roses" of miracles and other favours. She was canonised in 1925.

For more information visit The Society of the Little Flower website dedicated to St Therese: www.littleflower.org/

The parents of St Therese, Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin, were canonized by Pope Francis on 18 October 2015 at the Vatican during the Synod of Bishops on the family.

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