Who was she?
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, popularly known as the “Little Flower,” was a French Discalced Carmelite nun popular in modern times because of the simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life. After nine years as a Carmelite religious, and having spent her last 18 months in Carmel in a night of faith, she died of tuberculosis when she was 24.
What was she struggling with?
Her health had never been good: she suffered from scruples (a religiously oriented kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder), was prone to frequent bouts of tears, and finally contracted tuberculosis. She gave up her dream of going into the missions field and became instead a cloistered nun, offering her prayers and suffering on behalf of all priests everywhere.
What can St. Thérèse teach us?
Hurt and suffering are part of the human condition, and it’s probable that we all at various times have cried out to God to take our pain away. St. Thérèse offers a different approach: pain, while inevitable, can be turned around completely to be a force for good. We cannot all accomplish everything that we want to, but suffering and setbacks can become something pure, an offering to God on behalf of others. St. Thérèse famously prayed for the soul of a convicted murderer: we, too, can pray for those who cannot or will not pray for themselves, and offer the pain we feel to God on their behalf.
“Much later, when I understood what perfection was, I realized that to become a saint one must suffer a great deal, always seek what is best, and forget oneself. I understood that there were many kinds of sanctity and that each soul was free to respond to the approaches of Our Lord and to do little or much for Him — in other words, to make a choice among the sacrifices He demands.”
Prayer to St. Thérèse:
St. Thérèse, Flower of fervor and love,
Fill our hearts with your pure love of God.
Instill in us your little way of doing
ordinary things with extraordinary love.
Give us the heart of a child who wonders
at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm.
Teach us your delight in God's ways
so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts: Amen.