A very ordinary life

(by Monsignor Guy Gaucher)

The holiness of Thérèse does not rest on extraordinary phenomena. It consists of "doing very ordinary things in an extraordinary way!" "

It is very difficult to realize that the life of Thérèse Martin was quite ordinary. Because she became Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, known throughout the world, with many titles (Universal Patron of Missions, Secondary Patron of France, Doctor of the Church, etc.) , we forget that she went unnoticed by her family, her entourage, her Carmel, her spiritual father, her bishop, ... Certainly, in Lisieux, we could speak of a young girl who had the daring to speak to Pope Leo XIII during an audience in Rome (a national newspaper reported this). Then she entered Carmel at the age of fifteen and three months. But when she died, unknown, in a small provincial Carmel, there were hardly more than 30 people at her burial in the cemetery of Lisieux. At his canonization at Saint Peter's in Rome, there will be 500 of them on May 000, 17. So?

So, yes, a very ordinary and very hidden life.

Alencon (1873-1877)

A Christian family, in Alençon, father Louis Martin, watchmaker and jeweler, mother, Zélie Guérin, lacemaker. They had nine children, four of whom died in infancy. Four daughters remain and here at forty, the mother is pregnant: Thérèse was born on January 2, 1873. A cheerful little girl, alive, after a year as a nurse (her mother cannot feed her), she has a happy, fulfilled life. love by his parents and sisters. The youngest received from her family a deep, living, charitable faith. All is well, until the drama: Zélie Martin dies of breast cancer (August 1877). Thérèse is four and a half years old.

The shock is very strong for little Thérèse. She chose her sister Pauline as her second mother, but the wound was deep and took ten years to heal.

Lisieux (1877-1897)

Having five daughters to raise, Mr. Martin gives in to the insistence of his brother-in-law Isidore Guérin, pharmacist in Lisieux. The whole Martin family moved to Les Buissonnets. Thérèse found a warm atmosphere there, but the five years she went to school with the Benedictines would remain for her "the saddest of her life". Good pupil but shy, scrupulous, coping badly with the clashes of school life ...

Pauline's departure from Carmel in Lisieux reopens the injury. At ten years old, Thérèse fell seriously ill: alarming symptoms of an infantile regression, hallucinations, anorexia. Medicine gives up. Families, Carmel, pray. On May 13, 1883, a statue of the Virgin Mary smiles at Thérèse who is suddenly healed.

The following year, June 8, 1884, her first communion was for her a "fusion" of love. Jesus finally gives himself to her and she gives herself to Him. She is already thinking of being a Carmelite. The departure to Carmel of her third mother, her sister Marie, destabilizes her. She suffers from a serious crisis of obsessive scruples, she remains hypersensitive and "excessively weeping".

She longs to mature and be liberated. On Christmas night 1886, grace touched her heart. It is a real "conversion" which transforms her into a strong woman. The Child of the manger, the Word of God, communicated his strength to him in the Eucharist.

Here she is ready to fight for Carmel, to overcome all obstacles: her father, her uncle, the chaplain of the monastery, the Bishop, Pope Leo XIII.

Because grace has opened her heart and she wants to save sinners with Jesus who, on the Cross, thirsts for souls. Thérèse, at the age of fourteen and a half, decides to stay at the foot of this Cross to “collect divine blood and give it to souls. This is her vocation: "to love Jesus and make Him loved." "

In 1887, hearing about an assassin who killed three women in Paris, she prays and sacrifices herself for him, wanting at all costs to tear him away from hell. Henri Pranzini is tried, condemned to be guillotined. But at the moment of dying, he kisses the crucifix! Thérèse cries with joy: when she is heard, she calls him her “first child”.

During a pilgrimage to Italy, Thérèse realizes that apart from their “sublime vocation”, priests have their little sides. She understands that it is necessary to pray a lot for them because they are "weak and fragile" men. Thérèse understands that her vocation is not only to pray for the conversion of great sinners but also to pray for priests. During this same pilgrimage, she asks the Pope to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen. Evasive answer, “fiasco”, but on April 9, 1888, she left her father, her sisters, Les Buissonnets, her dog Tom… forever.

In Carmel (1888-1897), a path of solitude

Happy to be there “forever”, “prisoner” with Him… and 24 sisters. Community life, the cold, prayer often in drought, emotional loneliness (even if she found two of her sisters), she endured everything with ardor. His greatest suffering will be the illness of his beloved father, interned at the Bon Sauveur in Caen, a hospital for the mentally ill. New family drama for Thérèse. She sinks into prayer with “the suffering Servant” of Isaiah (cf. Is 53), on the path of Jesus' passion. But the spiritual climate of his Carmel, marked by a diffuse fear of God, seen first as a vigilante, weighs on him. She longs for Love when she reads the Vive Flame of Love of Saint John of the Cross. In 1891 (she was eighteen years old), a priest launched her "on the waves of trust and love" on which she did not dare to advance, being rather retained on this daring path, even by her sister Pauline, Mother Agnès de Jésus, who became prioress in 1893.

His father, who had returned to his family, died in 1894: Céline, who was taking care of him, in turn entered Carmel.

It was around this time that the young Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face (such is her real name, summary of her vocation), discovered, after years of research, the way of spiritual childhood. who will transform his life. She receives the grace to deepen the Paternity of God who is only Merciful Love (expressed in her Son Jesus incarnate). Christian life is nothing other than the life of the Father as a child (“son in the Son”), inaugurated at baptism and lived in absolute confidence. "If you do not become like little children again, you will not enter the Kingdom of God", says Jesus (Mt 18,3). Luckily, Mother Agnès ordered her to write down her childhood memories. Thérèse obeyed and wrote 86 pages in a small notebook.

While in her time the (rare) elite souls offered themselves as victims to the Justice of God, the "weak and imperfect" Thérèse offered herself to her Merciful Love, on June 9, 1895 during the Mass of the Trinity.

This total gift "renews" her, burns all sin in her. In September 1896, Thérèse felt that her beautiful vocation (“Carmelite, wife and mother”) was no longer enough for her. During her prayer, she feels the call of great desires: to be a priest, deacon, prophet, doctor (of the Church), missionary, martyr… These sufferings will disappear when she finally finds her vocation by reading a passage from a saint. Paul on charity (1 Corinthians 13). So, everything becomes clearer for her and she can write: “O Jesus my Love… my vocation at last I have found it, my vocation is Love!… Yes I have found my place in the Church. and this place, O my God, it is you who gave it to me… in the Heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be The Love… thus I will be everything… thus my dream will be realized !!!… »(Manuscript B, 3v °)

More and more haunted by the concern of sinners who do not know this Merciful Love, she enters at Easter 1896 in a thick night when her faith and her hope must fight. Especially since tuberculosis eats away at his health and weakens him. She uses her last strength to teach the path of childhood to the five novices for whom she is responsible and to two spiritual brothers, missionary priests for Africa and China.

Living this "com-passion", in union with the Passion of Jesus in Gethsemane and on the Cross, exhausted by hemoptysis, she keeps her smile and her exquisite charity which lifts the morale of her sisters, dismayed to see her die in her death. 'excruciating suffering. Out of obedience, she continues to exhaustion the writing of her memories in which, with transparent truth, she “sings the mercies of the Lord” in her short life. Praying to “do good on earth, after his death, until the end of the world”, humbly prophesying that his posthumous mission will be to “give souls his little way” and to “spend his Heaven doing good on the earth ”, she died on September 30, 1897.

A year after her death, appeared a book composed from her writings: The Story of a soul who was going to conquer the world and make known this young sister who had loved Jesus to the point of "dying of love". This hidden life was going to shine on the universe. This has been going on for over a hundred years ...

History of the canonization of Saint Teresa

On May 17, 1925, Pius XI, surrounded by 23 cardinals and 250 bishops, proceeded to the canonization of Thérèse. Among the 50000 faithful who came to Rome, only 5000 were able to enter St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and hear the Pope pronounce the solemn formula declaring that we could henceforth call the humble Carmelite of Lisieux: “Saint Thérèse of the Child- Jesus ”.

To pass from the beatification to the canonization of a Blessed One, two miracles are required during the process of canonization of Saint Thérèse. Once these miracles are authenticated, the canonization can be proclaimed by the pope who authorizes and recommends the worship of this new saint in the universal Church.

In the case of Thérèse, the two miracles retained for her canonization are:

  • the healing of Sister Gabrielle Trimusi, of the Poor Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Parma, Italy), from tuberculosis of the vertebrae (1923);
  • the healing of Maria Pellemans (Belgian who came on pilgrimage to the tomb of Blessed Thérèse) from intestinal tuberculosis. The latter had suffered from her illness since 1919.

She addresses her testimony to the Carmel of Lisieux:

“It was in the Carmelite parlor that I conceived the desire to ask for my healing, in order to be able to realize the dream of my life, to be a Carmelite. (…) Despite my extreme fatigue, I wanted to return to the grave. No sooner was I there, that a very sweet and supernatural feeling invaded me entirely… a celestial well-being penetrated my soul and my body, I felt like in another world, flooded with an ocean of peace. (…) Penetrated with such an extraordinary emotion that inside I thought: I am surely cured! ". (…)

On Tuesday March 27, we returned home. My father, very moved, could not believe in my recovery. The doctor, having heard of the prodigy, came to visit me. He examined me for a long time, then, also upset, he concluded: "I do not understand, I find you all changed, that cannot be explained naturally, because the stomach and intestines were incurable ... Yes, if this transformation persists, we can say that it is a great miracle ”.

The main stages in the life and glorification of Thérèse


  • 1873
    • January 2: Birth of Marie Françoise Thérèse Martin.
    • January 4: Baptism in the Notre-Dame church.
    • March 73 - April 74: Nanny in Semallé (near Alençon).
  • 1874
    • April 2: Definitive return to the family.
  • 1877
    • August 28: Death of Madame Martin from breast cancer.


At the Buissonnets

  • November 16: Arrival of Monsieur Martin and his five daughters at Les Buissonnets.
  • August 8: In Trouville, Thérèse sees the sea for the first time.
  • October 3: Thérèse enters as a half-boarder at the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Pré (school run by the Benedictines).
  • October 2: Pauline enters the Carmel of Lisieux and takes the name of Sister Agnès of Jesus.
  • May 13: Feast of Pentecost: Thérèse is healed at Les Buissonnets by the smile of the Virgin Mary.
  • May 8: Thérèse's first communion at the abbey. Profession of Pauline (Sister Agnès) in Carmel.
  • June 14: Confirmation of Thérèse by Monsignor Hugonin.
  • February: Sick, Thérèse is withdrawn from school; particular lessons.
  • October 15: Marie, elder sister and godmother of Thérèse, enters the Carmel of Lisieux and takes the name of Sister Marie-du-Sacré-Coeur.
  • December 25: After midnight mass, Thérèse receives the grace of her conversion.
  • May 29: Pentecost. Thérèse obtained permission from her father to enter Carmel at the age of 15.
  • July / August: Thérèse prays for the conversion of Pranzini who has just been condemned to death.
  • November 4-December 2: Pilgrimage to Italy. in Rome.
  • November 20: Audience with Pope Leo XIII.

At Carmel

  • April 9: Thérèse entered Carmel at the age of 15 3 months.
  • January 10: Taking the habit.
  • February 12: Mr. Martin is hospitalized at Bon Sauveur in Caen. He will stay there for three years.
  • September 8: Religious profession of Thérèse.
  • May 10: Mr. Martin is brought back to Lisieux.
  • February 20: Sister Agnès (Pauline) is elected prioress of Carmel
  • July 29: Death of Monsieur Martin.
  • September 14: Céline Martin enters the Carmel.
  • Winter: Out of obedience, Thérèse begins to write down her childhood memories (Manuscript A). Discovery of the "little way".
  • June 9: Feast of the Holy Trinity: Thérèse receives the inspiration to offer herself to the merciful Love of the Lord.
  • October 17: The seminarian Maurice Bellière is entrusted to Thérèse.
  • March 21: Mother Marie de Gonzague is re-elected prioress.
  • night of April 2 to 3: First spitting of blood. Shortly after Easter, Thérèse entered the night of faith.
  • May 30: Father Adolphe Roulland is entrusted to him as second spiritual brother.
  • September: Letter writing (manuscript B) for Sr Marie du Sacré Coeur: “My vocation is Love”.
  • June: Out of obedience, she writes the manuscript C.
  • July 8: Thérèse went down to the infirmary.
  • September 30: around 19:30 p.m .: Thérèse dies.
  • October 4: Burial in the cemetery of Lisieux.
  • October 19-20: First edition of "The Story of a Soul" (2000 copies).
  • First pilgrims to the tomb of Sister Thérèse: first miracles.
  • May 26: Healing, on her grave, of Reine Fauquet, a blind girl from Lisieux, aged 4.
  • Pope Benedict XV promulgates the decree on the heroic virtues of the Venerable Servant of God.
  • April 29: Beatification of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus by Pope Pius XI and transfer of the relics from the cemetery of Lisieux to Carmel.
  • May 17: Solemn canonization by Pope Pius XI (500 pilgrims to Rome).
  • December 14: Pius XI proclaims Thérèse patron saint of missions, on a par with Saint François-Xavier.
  • September 30: Laying of the first stone of the Basilica of Lisieux.
  • July 11: Inauguration and blessing of the basilica by Cardinal Pacelli, legate of Pope Pius XI.
  • May 3: Pope Pius XII proclaims Thérèse secondary patron of France, on a par with Joan of Arc.
  • July 11: Consecration of the Basilica of Lisieux.
  • Publication of the facsimile edition of the Autobiographical Manuscripts (Originals of the History of a Soul).
  • June 2: Pope John Paul II pilgrim to Lisieux.
  • October 19: Pope John Paul II proclaims Saint Thérèse Doctor of the Church.