Marie Francoise Thérèse Martin was born on January 2, 1873, the youngest child of Saints Louis and Zelie Martin. When Thérèse was just four years old, her mother died of breast cancer. Thérèse adopted her oldest sister, Pauline, as a “second mother.” Not without reason, she grew into a sensitive, pampered child who would cry at the slightest provocation. In spite of these weaknesses she developed a deep, yet simple, love of God.
A monumental spiritual change occurred on Christmas Eve, 1886. After coming home from Midnight Mass, she overheard her father complain about having to play Father Christmas to her, a 13-year-old girl. Immediately, she rushed upstairs in self-pitying tears. Then something miraculous happened. Feeling charity enter her soul, she was instantly cured of all her childish and wounded behavior.
From that moment, Thérèse was a different person. She “longed to snatch the souls of sinners from the eternal flames.” Thérèse was on fire with her quest, and she was determined to enter the Carmelite monastery at the unheard of age of fifteen. Her father, realizing the authenticity of her call, took her to the bishop for permission, and then to Rome. Neither avenue proved successful. However, shortly after she returned home, Thérèse received a letter stating that permission had been miraculously granted.
Upon her entrance into the Carmel of Lisieux, Thérèse began to discover the “Little Way” that was to become her great contribution to the Church. She preached a message of God’s mercy and an acceptance of one’s weakness as way of growing closer to Him. She embraced even her own sins as proof of her need for God. Thérèse saw herself as a “Little Flower.” She was not a rose, like the great saints who have changed the world, but rather a daisy, who must be content to do little things for love of God. Thérèse presented a way for ordinary people to become saints.
Pauline, then Mother Superior of the convent, asked Thérèse her to write down her life story and her reflections. She obediently complied, and began her famous autobiography, The Story of a Soul. Then Thérèse contracted tuberculosis, for which there was no cure. At the age of 24, she succumbed to the disease and died on September 30, 1897. The Story of a Soul spread like wildfire throughout the entire world, and devotion to this hidden young Carmelite multiplied everywhere.
In response to the unprecedented number of miracles and the exemplary life that Thérèse Martin lived, she was canonized in 1924. In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II declared her a Doctor of the Church. She continues to shower roses down upon her many faithful devotees.