Saint Therese of Lisieux and her walk toward Jesus

Over the years, I have wondered how the Little Flower, another title of the great and yet humble Doctor of the Church, St. Therese of Lisieux, got the name Therese of the Child Jesus.  Visiting Les Buissonnets, home of the Martin family, on pilgrimage, we discovered a small manger, in the back of the Martin garden, with a bed of straw, upon which lay a tiny Creche and all the little figures of the Nativity.  We were told Therese made this, when she was just a little child, and that she always had a deep devotion to the Child Jesus.

Throughout her Autobiography of a Soul, and in many letters she wrote to her family, we find her addressing the Child Jesus, inviting Him to use her as His little toy:

“I had offered myself, for some time now, to the Child Jesus as His little plaything. I told Him not to use me as a valuable toy children are content to look at but dare not touch, but to use me like a little ball of no value which He could throw on the ground, push with His Foot, pierce, leave in a corner, or press to His Heart if it pleased Him; in a word, I wanted to amuse little Jesus, to give Him pleasure; I wanted to give myself up to His Childish Whims. He heard my prayer.

Saint Therese not only loved Him as the Child Jesus, she desired to love Him as a child, with a child’s heart.  Taking to heart Jesus’ words, “…whoever does not accept the kingdom of God, as a child will not enter into  it,”  she speaks to Him as a child.  If  you look closely, with the eyes of a child, yourself, you will see a little child, the child Therese putting on the imaginary armor she will later don, when she plays Jeanne d’Arc.  Dream and  you too can enter the child’s innocent world she lived in:

“I want to love You like a little child. I want to fight like a brave warrior Like a child full of little attentions, Lord, I want to overwhelm You with caresses, And in the field of the Apostolate, like a warrior I throw myself into the fight! Your Heart that preserves innocence, won’t betray my trust! In You, Lord, rests my hope. When in my heart the storm arises, to You, Jesus, I lift up my head. In Your merciful look I read: `Child, for you I made the Heavens.'”

Saint Therese does battle

At fourteen years of age, Saint Therese desired to enter the Carmel, where her sisters were cloistered.  She found herself waging battle with insurmountable obstacles blocking her way.

First, according to the Rule of the Mother and foundress of their Order, Saint Teresa of Jesus, no more than two from one family could be in the same House.  Her sisters Pauline and Marie were already a part of the Community.

Second and most important, Saint Therese was only fourteen years old; much too young to enter!

Third, if that wasn’t enough to discourage the most determined, she had to get permission from her father, whom she dearly loved and who dearly loved her.

Fourth, when she was able to convince her dear father, she had to face her uncle.  She waited six months before approaching him.  He’d played a great part in raising her and her sisters, since their mother had died, and he predictably denied her permission to enter!  Saint Therese dramatically writes of this time,

“…it was night everywhere, the dark night of the soul;” I felt, like the Lord in His agony, that I was quite alone without anyone on earth or in Heaven to console me; God Himself seemed to have abandoned me.”

Her sister Pauline interceded with their uncle and he gave his permission.

Now Fifth, she had to gain permission to enter, from the Superior of the Convent.  He insisted she had to wait until she was twenty-one years old!  He finally acquiesced, throwing her a bone, “Of course, the final decision rests with the Bishop.”

On the way to the Bishop’s office, Therese prophesied,

“I said, I’d go to the Holy Father himself, if the Bishop of Bayeux wouldn’t let me enter the Carmel at fifteen.”

The Bishop promised an answer after their pilgrimage to Rome.

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