“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Born: January 2, 1873
Died: September 30, 1897
Feast Day: October 1
Patron of missions, tuberculosis, France, and florists
Being famous would be insanely hard. No privacy, intense pressure, and people pulling on you every minute of the day is not a life to be envied. In fact, we should probably pray against the desire for fame. That being said, sometimes fame finds those who least desire it, as is the case of this saint. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is as close to a “rock star” saint as you are going to find but, ironically, that is the last way she would have wanted to be seen.
Born in France in 1873 to a devout Catholic family, Thérèse was one of six girls. Losing her mother to breast cancer at only four years old, Thérèse looked to the Blessed Virgin Mary for motherhood at a very young age. She was mocked at school and eventually left to be home-schooled by her older sister. Her sister then left for the convent, and Thérèse felt like she had lost her “second mother,” but the Virgin Mary’s intercession was already at work. At age 15, Thérèse sought to enter the convent, too, but she was denied because of her young age. This is where we see how strong-willed young Thérèse was.
After being denied entry into the convent, Thérèse traveled to the Vatican and personally petitioned Pope Leo XIII for permission to enter the order. The pope encouraged her to be obedient and trust God’s plan, and not long after, she was allowed to join the order (and two of her sisters who were already there). The convent was in Lisieux, France. Life in the convent was not perfect. It was cold and the days were long. There was infighting between some sisters and even gossip. There was also a negativity toward Thérèse from some who considered her “spoiled,” “entitled,” and “immature.” Rather than retaliate with anger or gossip, Thérèse’s strategy or “little way” was to love them even more. Her belief was that it was not big speeches or grand gestures but simple acts of love that would turn a heart … and she was right. Though younger, she became an example to all in her community. As she grew older, her health worsened. Now bedridden, her superiors begged her to write down her spiritual insights so others could learn from her “little way.” At age 24, Thérèse succumbed to tuberculosis and went home to heaven, unknown to most in the world. After her death, her words began to be read and circulated and, eventually, became a spiritual classic. She was canonized in 1925, only 26 years after her death.
Thérèse was not known by many while she was alive. Her “fame” came long after her death (which she would have considered a blessing). She did not get to travel the world (as she had hoped) to serve Christ. Instead, she stayed close to home, in obscurity and anonymity at a convent. She did not do interviews, post vlogs, or intend to write a best-seller (though, in time, she did). Rather, she simply looked for a “little way” to love like God. Thérèse reminds us that what Earth often seeks (fame) is not what heaven desires (holiness). In fact, heaven applauds what Earth rarely sees. She taught us what it looks like to love and serve God in “un-famous, unglamorous” ways daily.
Today, I invite you to ask St. Thérèse of Lisieux to pray with and for you that God would reveal to you how you can love Him and the people in your life more simply. What little things can you do to serve your family, your circle of friends, and even your “enemies?” Do not look to be seen or thanked; simply serve out of love for God. You may never achieve earthly fame, but your name will be known, written, and celebrated in heaven.
• Joined the convent at 15
• Is known for her “little way,” offering her life to Jesus in the simplicity and suffering of the everyday
• Her most famous writings include “Story of a Soul,” “Letters of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, volumes 1 and 2,” “The • Poetry of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux,” and “The Prayers of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux”
• Declared a “Doctor of the Church,” an honor bestowed on only 36 saints (to date)
Learn more about saints who lived extraordinary lives in seemingly ordinary circumstances in our book “100 Saints Every Catholic Teen Should Know.” We can also live holy lives worthy of sainthood!