Carmelite St. Therese of the Child Jesus
JOSEPH F. SCHMIDT, FSC
Thérèse of Lisieux, commonly known as the Little Flower, died in a French convent on September 30, 1897. Her popularity rapidly extended well beyond her Carmelite convent community, her hometown of Lisieux, and her country.In 1925 Pius XI responded to the enormous outpouring of popular veneration by declaring Thérèse a saint, calling her a “Word of God” and a “master of the spiritual life” (Francois Jamart, Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, trans. Walter Van De Putte, p. 7). Subsequent popes proclaimed her patroness of the missions and, with Joan of Arc, patroness of France.
The widespread veneration of Thérèse is amazing because she had no tangible achievements to her credit during the twenty-four years of her life. She did no apostolic work, founded no religious community, and engaged in no missionary activity. Except for her immediate family and her community of twenty or so Carmelite nuns, Thérèse lived virtually unknown.
A Shower of Roses
The memory of Thérèse would surely have passed from history had it not been for two phenomena immediately following her death that prompted her enormous popularity: the publication of her autobiographical writings, under the title The Story of a Soul, and the outpouring of miraculous assistance to hundreds of people who implored her help.
Shortly after her death, the Carmelite convent at Lisieux began receiving letters from people around the world, telling of inner healings, physical cures, spiritual illuminations, conversions, and special help received through Thérèse’s intercession. The miraculous help was seen to be the “shower of roses” she had promised on her deathbed.
Thérèse’s picture adorned the trenches of both German and French soldiers during World War I. Her life and spirit captured the imagination of philosophers and writers such as Henri-Louis Bergson, Paul Claudel, and Georges Bernanos. She inspired such diverse people as Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa, and Gustavo Gutierrez.
But above all, Thérèse has been the inspiration of untold numbers of ordinary people to whom her life proclaimed in a compelling way this gospel truth: God’s love comes in the ordinary experiences of life, and nothing—no physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual weaknesses, no psychological defects or moral failures—absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God.
The Story of Thérèse
Thérèse Martin was born in Alençon, France, on January 2, 1873. In the three years before Thérèse was born, the Martin family had lost four children. Consequently, Thérèse’s birth was an event of great joy. Her four older sisters, Marie, Pauline, Léonie, and Céline delighted in caring for her.
Thérèse’s mother, Zélie, sold lacework that she made at home, and her father, Louis, had a watchmaking business. Her mother actively managed the family; Thérèse’s father was more reserved. Both parents were intelligent, reflective, and intensely religious. Prayer, popular devotions, almsgiving, conversations centering on the faith, and church attendance permeated the family’s routine.
During her early childhood years, Thérèse was surrounded with an affection that affirmed and guided her. She blossomed into an expressive child: forthright, trusting, confident, sensitive, intelligent, affectionate, conscious of her own goodness and her limitations, and endowed with a sense of humor.
Thérèse’s First Letter
Written on April 4, 1877, when she was four, Thérèse’s first letter tells us much about her. Guided by the hand of her sister Pauline, Thérèse wrote to one of Pauline’s friends:
I don’t know you, but I love you very much just the same. Pauline told me to write you; she is holding me on her knees because I don’t know how to hold a pen. She wants me to tell you that I’m a lazy little girl, but this isn’t true because I work all day long playing tricks on my poor little sisters. So I’m a little rascal who is always laughing. Adieu, little Louise. I’m sending you a big kiss. Kiss the Visitation for me, that is, Sister Marie Aolysia and Sister Louise de Bonzague, for I don’t know anyone else. (Thérèse, de Lisieux, Saint, General Correspondence, vol. 1, trans. John Clarke, p. 110)
But the sunny days of the first four years of childhood ended when her mother died agonizingly of breast cancer. Shocked and afflicted with profound grief, Thérèse entered a painful ten-year period during which she withdrew into herself and became overly sensitive, pensive, shy, and melancholy.
At eight years old, Thérèse became a day student at the Benedictine Abbey school in Lisieux. Until then she had lived in the sheltered life of her family with her sister Pauline assuming the role of Thérèse’s second mother. Suddenly, at the Abbey school, Thérèse was thrown into the give-and-take world of boarding-school girls. The experience proved traumatic for her. She was no longer the special one, the baby, to be showered with affection and care. For the first time in her life, Thérèse encountered rejection and ill will, becoming the object of petty jealousy.
Thérèse outshone her classmates in intelligence and academic performance but suffered self-doubt about her ability to fit in, to do things well, and to be accepted. Simply put, Thérèse did not know how to relate to her peers. In the company of her classmates, her reflectiveness and sensitivity proved to be liabilities. She became acutely aware of her limitations and incompetence and grew more introspective, not even sharing her inner distress with her father or sisters. Instead she found consolation in sharing her difficulties with Jesus, whose presence she had treasured since her earliest years.
At this point, Pauline entered the convent at Carmel. Again Thérèse suffered a maternal loss, which threw her into a distressful state of continual headaches and insomnia. Three months after Pauline’s departure, Thérèse became so ill that she was bedridden with nervous trembling and hallucinations. She had suffered this emotional pain for two months, when, according to Thérèse, she saw the statue of the Virgin Mary at the foot of her bed smile at her. At that instant, she was cured.
Unfortunately, this consolation proved short lived. During her visits to Pauline at Carmel, the nuns sought to satisfy their curiosity about the smile of the statue, and their prying questions troubled Thérèse. She started wondering if she really had been all that ill, if she had actually made herself sick, and even if the smile of the Virgin was just another hallucination.
Thérèse’s first Communion and the profession of her sister Pauline at Carmel brought some spiritual consolation, but within the year she entered a crisis of moral scruples and developed severe headaches. Because of her weak condition, Thérèse, now thirteen years old, was withdrawn from the Abbey school and placed with a private tutor.
In the next six months, two of her older sisters, Marie and Léonie, entered religious life: Marie at Carmel with Pauline, and Léonie with the Poor Clares. Although Thérèse found joy in the almost constant companionship of her remaining sister, Céline, four years her senior, a deep melancholy permeated her daily life, causing her to be, as she described, unbearably touchy. She prayed for inner freedom, peace, and strength against her hypersensitivity.
Thérèse’s Conversion and Entrance into Carmel
God answered Thérèse’s prayer through an experience that she described as a complete conversion. Just before her fourteenth birthday, on Christmas morning of 1886, Thérèse received the enlightenment and empowerment that led her into the third period of her life, a period she experienced as beautiful and filled with grace.
Thérèse had just returned home from midnight Mass with her father and Céline. Not knowing that Thérèse could overhear his words, her father impatiently commented to Céline about Thérèse’s childish behavior as she opened her Christmas presents: “Well, thank goodness it’s the last year this is going to happen!” (Ronald Knox, trans., Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, p. 127). Such a rebuke from her father, even if unintended, pierced Thérèse’s heart. But mysteriously, these words carried the miracle Thérèse had been praying for. She realized that Jesus had changed her, giving her a new inner freedom that allowed her to forget herself. Through this transforming experience, Thérèse rediscovered the strength of soul and the joy that she had lost with the death of her mother. The presence of Jesus became more vivid to her, and she gained a keener sense of her own personhood. Melancholy and touchiness left her. She became increasingly concerned for the welfare of other people.
In the May following her conversion, Thérèse requested her father’s permission to enter the Carmelite convent at Lisieux. She was only fourteen years old and her father’s favorite. However, her father approved and championed her cause, despite his sadness over losing his little Thérèse and distress from a minor stroke he had recently suffered.
Because Thérèse was so young, she needed the local bishop’s approval to enter the convent. But when she asked for his permission, he objected that she was not old enough. Thus, only one recourse lay open. During the pilgrimage to Rome that had already been planned, Mr. Martin and Thérèse decided to seek the permission from Pope Leo XIII himself.
As the papal audience proceeded, Thérèse, ignoring all protocol, directly voiced her request to the pope. He told her to follow the directives of her superiors but reassured her, “All’s well, all’s well; if God wants you to enter, you will” (Knox, Autobiography, p. 170). Then guards had to lead Thérèse out of the audience chamber.
Thérèse and her father persisted, and in the December after the papal audience, the local bishop reversed himself, granting approval for Thérèse to enter the convent at Carmel. Thus, in April 1888, at the age of fifteen, Thérèse was received into the cloister by Mother Marie de Gonzague, the superior; Pauline and Marie, her two sisters; and the twenty-three other nuns in the community.
Thérèse at Carmel
In Carmel, Thérèse found a rhythm of life established by hundreds of years of tradition. The nuns followed the same basic schedule that Teresa of Ávila established for her community in sixteenth-century Spain.
For the youthful Thérèse it was a difficult routine. She rose at about 4:30 a.m. and, except for a brief siesta, did not rest again until 9:30 p.m. She spent six hours each day praying the Divine Office in choir and two hours in personal prayer. Her meatless meals, served at ten and six, were followed by an hour of recreation during which the nuns conversed together while sewing or doing other simple chores. For five hours every day, Thérèse did manual labor. She swept corridors, gardened, and did common tasks in the linen room, the refectory, the sacristy, or the laundry. Except for the two recreation periods, her day was spent mostly in silence and solitude.
Pauline and Marie welcomed Thérèse into the Carmelite family with great tenderness. Other nuns were more reserved, even suspicious of this fifteen-year-old. Like any group of people, the Carmelite community at Lisieux included the balanced and the eccentric, the intelligent and the slow, the joyful and the distressed. Thérèse found some of the women difficult and hurtful, others more compatible. Community life, especially her interaction with the nuns during work and recreation, challenged and nurtured Thérèse’s ability to love.
Because of her conversion experience, Thérèse, who had been so withdrawn and oversensitive during the ten years following her mother’s death, now became expressive and openly affectionate. Her winning personality, lost for so long, blossomed into maturity. Thérèse’s capacity to accept others and be at ease even with difficult people proved to be a balm to the community. Her unassuming nature and simplicity were disarming, and her sense of humor became a source of delight. She had a gift for storytelling and good-natured mimicry.
Gradually, the older nuns began to respect Thérèse’s straightforward simplicity, quiet wisdom, and profound spiritual awareness, sometimes seeking her out for spiritual advice.
Trials from the Outside
Thérèse entered Carmel to be more completely with Jesus and to offer her life so that others, especially the priests and sinners for whom she prayed, might experience and accept God’s love. Thérèse recognized that convent life would involve the suffering associated with self-knowledge, with detachment from her own self-preoccupation, with being at the service of other people, with obeying what she understood to be God’s will, and with allowing her affectionate nature to be purified so that she could love others as God loves. But external sources of suffering existed as well.
One external source of great pain for Thérèse was her father’s medical condition after a mild stroke. Just three months after Thérèse entered the convent, her father became so disoriented that he had to be committed to the mental hospital, where he died five years later. Even though Céline’s care for their father allayed some of Thérèse’s anxiety, the slow but inevitable loss of her “King,” as she called him, caused Thérèse profound grief.
The regular routine and lifestyle of Carmel also caused suffering for Thérèse. Having been pampered at home, Thérèse found it difficult to adjust to the customary periods of fasting, the common work, the minimal time for rest and sleep, the lack of privacy, and the deprivation of common conveniences. The cold and damp of the seasons, against which the convent offered only a single fireplace in the recreation room, proved especially troublesome for Thérèse. The physical work, to which she was not accustomed, taxed her strength. The convent food was adequate, but Thérèse never showed preferences in what she ate. As a result, she was sometimes served the least appetizing and least nourishing dishes. Thérèse could not endure extraordinary bodily mortifications, so simply accepting life as it unfolded with all of its small irritants, inconveniences, and hurts became her form of discipline.
In her inner life, Thérèse suffered even more intensely. In many ways, she found the spirituality at the convent too mechanical, rigorous, and filled with fear. From the day of her entrance into the cloister, Thérèse experienced an almost constant aridity or lifelessness in prayer. She could not pray or experience God in the ways most of the other nuns did. She often dozed during meditation and the times of personal prayer after Communion, and she became easily distracted while praying the Divine Office. Thérèse had come to Carmel to find Jesus, but Jesus sometimes seemed to be absent.
Only on rare occasions throughout Thérèse’s nine years in Carmel did retreat directors or confessors inspire her. From her companions in Carmel she received little confirmation of her spiritual insights, and her own introspective nature did not easily move her to completely share her inner life with other people. She walked her spiritual journey almost entirely alone and frequently in inner desolation, especially as her health deteriorated.
Later, during the last eighteen months of her life, Thérèse spoke of having been invaded by “the darkness thicker than ever.” She felt like she was traveling through a dark “tunnel” in a dense fog in “the night of mere nonexistence.” Her sense of faith vanished, and only an impenetrable “wall which reaches right up to the sky and blots out the stars” replaced it (Knox, Autobiography, pp. 254, 256–257).
Sources of Strength
Throughout her spiritual journey, Thérèse took comfort in the gospels, The Imitation of Christ, and the writings of Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross. When Céline also entered Carmel after their father’s death, she brought some hand-copied sections of the Hebrew Scriptures to Thérèse. In many passages, Thérèse discovered confirmation of the truths that she was learning from her own experience. Proverbs 9:4, which invites little ones to God, and the reference in Isaiah 66:12-13, which describes God’s maternal tenderness, were among Thérèse’s favorite passages. But the Song of Songs, the psalms, and the gospels gave Thérèse her greatest joy and consolation.
Thérèse’s devotional life focused both on Jesus as the divine child and Jesus as the hidden, unknown, and suffering servant spoken of in Isaiah, chapter 53, and described in the passion stories of the gospels. In the image of the child, Thérèse identified her own weakness and helplessness as well as the invitation to an unpretentious boldness and freedom in the presence of God’s goodness and mercy. In the image of Jesus, the suffering servant whose holy face was hidden from recognition in life and in death, Thérèse understood the dark side of life. She came to know the power of evil and the meaning of suffering. In the image of the suffering servant, Thérèse came to identify her own call to a hidden life, a poverty of spirit, a zeal for the salvation of souls, and an acceptance of silent suffering in union with Jesus. Devotion to the suffering servant of God, under the title of the Holy Face of Jesus, was Thérèse’s most important devotion.
The radiance of joy permeated Thérèse’s personality and eclipsed manifestations of her physical and spiritual suffering. After her death, the nuns at Carmel were surprised to learn of her almost constant physical and spiritual trials. Through all her physical pain and spiritual desolation, Thérèse remained determined and cheerful, confident in and sustained by the belief that God dwelled with her. At a deep level in her soul she found a well of inner freedom and joy.
Thérèse as Novice Mistress
At the age of nine, while visiting Pauline, Thérèse first met Mother Marie de Gonzague, prioress at Carmel. At that time, Mother Gonzague paid Thérèse the highest compliment: she took the girl seriously, confirming Thérèse’s conviction that she did have a vocation. Some weeks later, Mother Gonzague even suggested to Thérèse the name that she might choose when she would enter Carmel, the very name that had come to Thérèse in a dream that morning: Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. This coincidence delighted Thérèse and forged a special bond between her and the prioress.
Mother Marie de Gonzague was still prioress when Thérèse entered Carmel, and she served in this capacity for six of Thérèse’s nine years in the community. While she welcomed Thérèse lovingly into the postulancy, she soon began to act with severity toward her. Mother Gonzague respected and appreciated Thérèse, but she was determined that this young girl, babied at home, would not become the pet of the community. Deeply devoted to the prioress, who was a woman of great personal vigor, Thérèse felt deep confusion and pain from the seeming rejection. But in submitting to her superior’s harshness, Thérèse gradually realized and valued the discipline that helped form her. Her love for Mother Gonzague returned in a fuller, more mature way.
In 1893, five years after Thérèse entered Carmel, Mother Gonzague’s term as prioress ended, and the community elected Thérèse’s sister Pauline to the position. Pauline named Mother Gonzague novice directress and assigned Thérèse to be her assistant. Thus, Thérèse was put into the delicate position of working with the former prioress, who was still touchy about the election and who came to resent Pauline.
Thérèse’s appointment told Mother Gonzague and the community that Pauline judged Thérèse’s spiritual awareness and practice to be mature enough to form the novices. In fact, Thérèse, without offending Mother Gonzague, became the de facto novice mistress. When Mother Gonzague was re-elected prioress in another contentious election three years later, she had such confidence in Thérèse that she confirmed her in the role of assistant novice mistress.
As prioress, Mother Gonzague also remained novice mistress, choosing not to relinquish the role to the defeated Pauline, as was customary. Out of her love for both women, Thérèse mediated between them and became a confidant of Mother Gonzague. Indeed, Thérèse served as director for the five novices. She had no formal preparation for the role, and Mother Gonzague, sometimes capricious and unpredictable, gave her little useful advice. Four of the five novices were older than Thérèse, and two were relatives: her sister Céline and her cousin Marie.
Thérèse soon realized that forming novices into contemplative nuns under these circumstances was altogether beyond her, so she redoubled her prayer and relied on her own insights for guidance. With a combination of firmness and gentleness, Thérèse gained the novices’ confidence and a reputation for blunt honesty, simplicity, and good judgment.
Thérèse’s Illness and Death
In 1896, less than a month after Mother Gonzague had been re-elected prioress, Thérèse coughed up blood on the evening of Holy Thursday. Her health had been deteriorating during the past months, but this was the first clear sign that Thérèse was in the early stages of tuberculosis. Thérèse reported the experience to Mother Gonzague, but with such simplicity that Mother Gonzague was not alarmed. At her own insistence, Thérèse continued to participate in the community routine, asking for no relief from the common, and now increasingly painful, daily tasks. Her health continued to fail, but a full year passed before the symptoms of the illness became so pronounced that she was forced to withdraw from community practices.
Finally she was confined to the infirmary, her health gradually ebbing away. Medical treatment for tuberculosis was largely rudimentary, and, as was customary at the time in Carmel, Thérèse was given no painkillers. Her suffering intensified with each passing day.
During the months of her illness, Thérèse continued the writing of her memoirs, a task begun earlier when Pauline, as prioress, had asked Thérèse to record her memories and some of the delightful stories of their family life. Thérèse did so sporadically over the course of a year. Then her sister Marie asked Thérèse to write reflections on her spiritual way and to share her retreat meditations. Thérèse wrote some of her thoughts during the last community retreat she made, a year prior to her death.
Now that Thérèse was clearly entering the last months of her life, Mother Gonzague directed Thérèse to finish her memoirs, especially her reflections on the years in Carmel that the earlier writings did not include. When her strength permitted, Thérèse did as she was requested, writing her story in short snatches of time.
During her struggle with tuberculosis and while finishing her memoirs, Thérèse also underwent her most severe spiritual suffering. Spiritual desolation, feelings of abandonment by God, and despair nearly overwhelmed her. Such images of terror and darkness so flooded her consciousness that she was afraid to speak of them lest she discourage her sisters or utter blasphemies. She spoke of the hissing of serpents in her ears and even of passing thoughts of suicide.
Nevertheless, Thérèse continued to believe, because, as she acknowledged, she wanted to believe. And the belief that God had led her in a way that anyone could follow provided some solace. She understood that her own life contained nothing extraordinary, and since God carried her—little and imperfect as she was—on her spiritual journey, God could bring anyone and everyone to holiness. She hoped that her prayers, writings, and the example of her brief life might bring other people to know God’s love and faithfulness.
During the last two months of her life, Thérèse suffered high fevers, fits of coughing, difficulty in breathing, bed sores, and searing pain in her lungs. Medical remedies proved useless; her spiritual desolation also continued unabated. Until the end, self-doubt, frightful nightmares, spiritual darkness, and temptations to despair plagued her.
Thérèse’s patience and calm smile disguised her desperate state from many of the nuns. She lingered in agony. Then on the evening of September 30, 1897, she died with her Carmelite community gathered around her and with a prayer on her lips: “Oh, I love Him! My God, I love you!” (John Clarke, trans., St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations, p. 206). Thérèse was twenty-four years old.
Thérèse’s Story Spreads
Thérèse’s passing would have been unmarked by the outside world except for a great number of miracles attributed to her intercession and the extraordinary history of her memoirs. Her stories of family life, reflections on her spiritual way, and recollections about her days at Carmel were combined and distributed under the title The Story of a Soul. The nuns at Lisieux sent the manuscript to the other Carmelite convents as a substitute for the usual obituary issued upon the death of a nun.
The nuns began lending The Story of a Soul, together with some of Thérèse’s letters and several of her poems, to their friends and relatives. Between 1897 and 1932, 700,000 copies of these writings were distributed. Also, over two and a half million copies of a popular edition of the work were produced and sold.
Besides her memoirs, Thérèse wrote over 260 notes and letters, some poems—most composed at the request of the nuns in her community—and several plays for the edification and recreation of the nuns. Her sisters recorded Thérèse’s conversations with them as they ministered to her on her deathbed during the last several months of her life. All these writings testified to a profound, simple, and inspiring holiness, all but hidden behind the walls of Carmel.
As seen from the outside, Thérèse’s life was eminently simple. Those with whom she lived did not recognize her holiness. They believed that Thérèse did nothing extraordinary in her life and that the virtue she manifested came quite naturally to her. When Mother Gonzague heard that the cause for Thérèse’s canonization might be introduced in Rome, she remarked that if such were the case, then many of the nuns would be eligible.
Thérèse composed no theories of spiritual life and preached no great sermons before throngs of believers. Rather, her spirituality flowed from her little experiences. Indeed, her spirituality became known as the “Little Way,” which has the following characteristics:
God Loves Each of Us
François Jamart wrote that in her life and her understanding of love, Thérèse proclaimed this fundamental gospel message: “God is merciful Love, a love that stoops down in order to draw us to Himself. ‘The proper characteristic of love,’ she wrote, ‘is that it stoops down, it must stoop down even to nothingness and transform that nothingness into fire.’ It was Thérèse’s mission to teach us ‘a way of confidence and love, he called this ‘the way of spiritual childhood’” (Jamart, Complete Spiritual Doctrine, p. 7).
God Is the Source of Our Love
Thérèse rejoiced in the awareness that God acts most powerfully by stooping down in mercy. God, like a loving parent, delights in helping the weak and struggling child. God loves us first and is the source of our love and goodness. Then, we can become channels of God’s own love.
Trust in Providence
By faithfully responding to the daily experiences that Divine Providence offered her, Thérèse expressed her desire to please God. She did not have the capacity, as she readily admitted, to be a great saint, but she was confident that God wished her to be a saint. Unable to be like the giant trees in the forest, she would give God delight by being a piece of moss or a little flower on the forest floor. She would not be discouraged by her own inadequacies or weaknesses, but would give God the pleasure of her complete surrender to his mercy.
Poverty of Spirit
By giving special attention and love to the little, the simple, the weak, and the poor parts of life and of herself, Thérèse showed us how to live in poverty of spirit. Her life testified to the truth that the little ones, those who are poor in spirit, are special to God, are in touch with truth, and contribute to the building up of the church. Thérèse reminds us that many little saints fill the church, even though we may not recognize them in their simple garb and plain ways. These are the people who accept their own limitations and weaknesses, and open themselves to God in total trust. These little saints receive God’s love and mercy and allow that love to flow through them to others by responding to what they believe God wills.
One source of Thérèse’s poverty of spirit was the sharp sense she had of her own weaknesses. By weakness, she meant not only her failings, human limitations, and inner conflicts, but also her capacity to stray from the path of personal authenticity, truth, and inner freedom. She recognized that she was capable of rejecting God’s will for her and of compromising her own identity and call. She lived with her weaknesses, confident that God’s grace would give her strength.
Love for Other People
Thérèse had an affectionate nature, nurtured by the love of her family. Community life in Carmel brought her face-to-face with her own antipathies and taught her to care for other people despite these adverse feelings. Love for other people meant fostering and doing freely, without compulsion, the best good for them in the circumstances in which she found herself. As Thérèse matured she learned to respond in love, not because she felt compelled by her desire to please, but because she saw the good in other people and could empathize with their difficulties, having accepted her own inadequacies and weaknesses.
Search for Truth
From her youngest days, Thérèse offered her heart to God as a daily morning prayer. To be heart-to-heart with God became the theme of Thérèse’s life and the way she expressed her desire to be totally authentic with God. She sought to unmask her personal illusions and dishonesty and to open herself to the spirit of truth. Through her prayer, reflection, and in her writing, Thérèse made seeking the truth of her life with God a lifelong quest.
Thérèse for Today
Thérèse is the saint of the “Little Way,” the way of spiritual childhood. She characterized her way as being like a little child who is lifted up by God through the daily events of life. With eyes ever on God, the child responds to that love, knowing that God’s mercy transforms all. As she reflected on her life, Thérèse recognized that God led her, with all her inadequacies and littleness, to holiness. She assures us that God can do the same for us.
In 1997 Pope John Paul II conferred on Thérèse the title “Doctor of the Universal Church,” an honor she now shares with only thirty-two other saints. “Her Doctrine,” the pope proclaimed in his apostolic letter Divini Amoris Scientia, “is at once a confession of the Church’s faith, an experience of the Christian mystery, and a way to holiness. Thérèse offers a mature synthesis of Christian spirituality.” Thus Thérèse’s message is not limited to some special school of spirituality; nor is it only of passing interest. Thérèse is a saint for all of us in these modern times.