Saint Of The Month

St. Teresa of Lisieux, virgin (A.D. 1897)

The parents of the saint-to-be were Louis Martin, a watchmaker of Alencon, son of an officer in the armies of Napoleon I, and Azélie-Marie Guérin, a maker of point d'Alencon in the same town, whose father had been a gendarme of Saint-Denis near Séez. Five of the children born to them survived to maturity, of whom Teresa was the youngest. She was born on January 2, 1873, and baptized Marie-Francoise-Thérèse. After her mother's death, the family moved to Lisieux where the eldest daughter took care of the family.

When Teresa was nine Pauline, her oldest sister, entered the Carmels at Lisieux and Teresa began to be drawn in the same direction. When Teresa was nearly fourteen her sister Mary joined Pauline in the Carmel and on Christmas eve of the same year Teresa underwent an experience which she ever after referred to as her conversion.

During the next year Teresa told her father her wish to become a Carmalite, and M. Martin agreed; but both the Carmelite authorities and the bishop of Bayeux refused to hear of it on account of her lack of age. A few months later she was in Rome with her father and a French pilgrimage on the occasion of the sacerdotal jubilee of Pope Leo XIII. At the public audience, when her turn came to kneel for the pope's blessing, Teresa boldly broke the rule of silence on such occasions and asked him, 'In honour of your jubilee, allow me to enter Carmel at fifteen'. Leo was clearly impressed by her appearance and manner, but he upheld the decision of the immediate superiors.

One of the principal duties of a Carmelite nun is to pray for priests, a duty which St. Teresa discharged with great fervour at all times; and she never ceased in particular to pray for the good estate of the celebrated ex-Carmelite Hyacinth Loyson, who had apostalized for the faith. Although she was delicate she carried out all the practices of the austere Carmelite rule from the first, except that she was not allowed to fast. The autobiography which St. Teresa wrote at the command of her prioress, L'histoire d'une âme, is an unique and engaging document, written with a delightful clarity and freshness, full of surprising turns of phrase, bits of unexpected knowledge and unconscious self-revelation, and, above all, of deep spiritual wisdom and beauty.

In 1893 Sister Teresa was appointed to assist the novice mistress and was in fact mistress in all but name. The last eighteen months of her life was a time of bodily suffering and spiritual trials. In June1897 she was removed to the infirmary of the convent and never left it again; from August 16 on she could no longer receive holy communion because of frequent sickness. On September 30, with words of divine love on her lips, Sister Teresa of Lisieux died. She was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1923, and in 1925 the same pope declared Teresa-of-the-Child-Jesus to have been a saint. In 1927 she was named the heavenly patroness of all foreign missions.

- From Bartlett, Lives of Saints

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