When I was young, my family owned an illustrated Lives of the Saints book. On the cover was a black and white picture of a young girl. I remember flipping through the book one night, trying to find the picture of the girl in the pages of the book so I could read her story. I found the image and read the emboldened name on top of the page: Thérèse of Lisieux.
Is St. Thérèse Really that Special?
After seeing more pictures of her, I realized this was the same girl who I saw statues of in churches. But she was older and usually wearing a habit and holding roses. It was my first time seeing images of her as a young girl and the first time I read her story. I am embarrassed to say now, but as I began reading, I quickly became annoyed. “Why was she a Saint? And what did she do to deserve that title?”
I put down the book, but I was unable to stop thinking of her.
Looking back at this memory, I see how erroneous I was in my thinking. Since reading her story, almost two decades ago, this beautiful Saint in heaven has interceded for me, guided me, and protected me.
Through reading her autobiography, taking her on as my confirmation Saint, visiting her hometown of Lisieux, and experiencing a miracle through her intercession (more on that below), this little Saint clearly showed me not only why she was a Saint, but as Saint Pius X called her, “the greatest Saint of modern times.”
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St. Thérèse and Merciful Love
This past year, my husband Mike and I read the book 33 Days to Merciful Love by Michael E. Gaitley, MIC. This book is a retreat that culminates in a consecration to Jesus’ Divine Mercy through the intercession of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
The retreat led us through the theology of Thérèse’s Offering to Merciful Love (something I never knew existed prior to reading Gaitley’s book!). This book changed our lives. It strengthened our relationship with Jesus, showed us the meaning of mercy, and taught us that Heaven is obtainable. Thérèse’s profound teachings of mercy and love echo Jesus’ teachings found within the Gospel.
3 Lessons I Learned From Thérèse’s Consecration To Merciful Love
Thérèse is the youngest Doctor of our Church and considered to be the Doctor of Merciful Love. I don’t know about you, but prior to reading “33 Days to Merciful Love”, I never equated Saint Thérèse to mercy. I always thought of her doctrine of the “Little Way.”
Yet after learning more, I discovered that Thérèse’s Little Way is in fact, a revelation of Jesus’ Divine Mercy. Here’s what I learned:
1. I can become a Saint.
Thérèse’s doctrine of the Little Way describes that the more humble we become, the smaller we become, the greater God becomes in our life. Thérèse placed her complete and total confidence in Jesus. She realized that true humility is the awareness of littleness. This complete awareness of her littleness, her awareness of her weaknesses and imperfections, gave her complete confidence in becoming a great Saint.
2. Purgatory can be avoided.
For my entire life, I had the mindset of, “I hope I at least make it to purgatory.” After learning more about Thérèse’s Offering to Merciful Love, I discovered the profound reality that purgatory can be avoided. And more so, that talking about purgatory in the way that I did, actually hurt our Lord. Why? Saint Thérèse responds:
You do a great injury to God in believing you’re going to purgatory. When we love, we can’t go there.
With the hope of “just making it to purgatory,” I wasn’t fully trusting in God’s mercy. When a fellow novice told her she feared purgatory, Thérèse said:
You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you not deserve to go there in order to please God, Who so reluctantly imposes this punishment. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakeable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to purgatory.
St. Thérèse believed that after consecrating her life to Jesus’ Merciful Love, after placing her complete and total confidence in God’s promise of mercy, she could go straight to Heaven. With this same confidence and trust, we can too.
3. Ask for the Mercy the world has rejected.
Thérèse felt called to consecrate herself to Jesus’ Merciful Love. She wrote an eleven-paragraph prayer that offered herself to the Heart of Jesus by accepting all the Merciful Love that other souls rejected. Thérèse recited this prayer daily and knew that through the Offering, she was consoling Jesus by letting Him love her. She realized that Jesus’ love, His Merciful Love, was pouring into her heart through the act of her consecration and making her into a great Saint. Through reciting Thérèse’s prayer, and asking for the mercy that people in the world have rejected, I too am consoling Christ’s heart.
My St. Thérèse Miracle
I was blessed to study abroad in college. One weekend, three of my friends and I travelled to Lisieux, France to visit Saint Thérèse’s hometown. It was a beautiful little pilgrimage. I purchased some pictures of her (one of them being the same black and white image of young Thérèse I had first seen on the cover of the book when I was younger).
My friends and I returned to our classes after our weekend in Lisieux with our hearts full of love for Thérèse. Yet sad news on the campus where we studied awaited us. One of our dear professors shared with us that his wife had miscarried. He stood in front of our class, at the podium, weeping as he told us the news, a place where just weeks prior he had announced with us the joyful news of her pregnancy.
My heart was pierced with sorrow for this man, a man totally and completely in love with his wife and child in Heaven. I knew that nothing I could do would fully console their hearts. But I knew I had to do something.
A Shower of Roses
I said a little prayer, and the next day before class I decided to walk to the town’s local flower shop and bring some flowers to him to give to his wife. I looked around and saw yellow roses—the most beautiful bouquet I had ever seen. While I never choose yellow roses (I always go for the white!), I couldn’t leave the shop without them.
Once back on campus, I found an envelope, and inside I placed the picture of Saint Thérèse as a young child I had purchased in Lisieux. I wrote a note to them, signing it Claire Frances. I never sign my middle name (Frances) when writing notes. But for some reason, I did that day.
I got to class a little early, and walked up to the professor and handed him the yellow roses and the envelope. The classroom began filling up with my fellow students, and I saw the professor standing at a window in the front of the room with his back towards us, reading my card to him. I will never forget what happened next. I carry this memory in my heart, always.
He slowly walked up to the podium with tears rolling down his face. He said he and his wife had been praying a novena to St. Thérèse and that today was the ninth day, the last day of the novena. In the novena, they had asked St. Thérèse for a yellow rose if the child was a girl, and that they had named her Faustina Claire Frances.
Cling to His Merciful Love
Sisters, Heaven is real, the Saints are real. They are continually interceding for us. They desire for us to be in Heaven with them. Become friends with St. Thérèse, this beautiful Doctor of Mercy. You will experience her powerful presence in your life as she teaches you the gospel message, the message of mercy and love. And in turn you will spread that message to the world.
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