THÉRÈSE MARTIN was born at Alençon, France on 2 January 1873. At the age of 14, on Christmas Eve in 1886, Therese had a conversion that transformed her life. From then on, her powerful energy and sensitive spirit were turned toward love, instead of keeping herself happy. At 15, she entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux to give her whole life to God. She took the religious name Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Living a hidden, simple life of prayer, she was gifted with great intimacy with God. Through sickness and dark nights of doubt and fear, she remained faithful to God, rooted in His merciful love. After a long struggle with tuberculosis, she died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. Her last words were the story of her life: "My God, I love You!"
She was born in Rue Saint-Blaise, Alençon, in France on 2 January 1873, the daughter of Marie-Azélie Guérin (usually called Zélie), and Louis Martin, a jeweler and watchmaker. Both her parents were devout Catholics who would eventually become the first (and to date only) married couple canonized together by the Roman Catholic Church (by Pope Francis in 2015).
On 9 April 1888 she entered the Carmel of Lisieux. She received the habit on 10 January of the following year, and made her religious profession on 8 September 1890 on the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On 9 June 1895, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, she offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God. At this time, she wrote her first autobiographical manuscript, which she presented to Mother Agnes for her birthday on 21 January 1896.
Then in 1896, she coughed up blood. She kept working without telling anyone until she became so sick a year later everyone knew it. Worst of all she had lost her joy and confidence and felt she would die young without leaving anything behind. Pauline had already had her writing down her memories for journal and now she wanted her to continue -- so they would have something to circulate on her life after her death.
Her pain was so great that she said that if she had not had faith she would have taken her own life without hesitation. But she tried to remain smiling and cheerful -- and succeeded so well that some thought she was only pretending to be ill. Her one dream as the work she would do after her death, helping those on earth. "I will return," she said. "My heaven will be spent on earth." She died on September 30, 1897 at the age of 24 years old. She herself felt it was a blessing God allowed her to die at exactly that age. she had always felt that she had a vocation to be a priest and felt God let her die at the age she would have been ordained if she had been a man so that she wouldn't have to suffer.
Her inspiration and powerful presence from heaven touched many people very quickly. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925. Had she lived, she would have been only 52 years old when she was declared a Saint.
Thérèse has much to teach our age of the image, the appearance, the “self.” We have become a dangerously self-conscious people, painfully aware of the need to be fulfilled, yet knowing we are not. Thérèse, like so many saints, sought to serve others, to do something outside herself, to forget herself in quiet acts of love. She is one of the great examples of the gospel paradox that we gain our life by losing it, and that the seed that falls to the ground must die in order to live.
Preoccupation with self separates modern men and women from God, from their fellow human beings, and ultimately from themselves. We must re-learn to forget ourselves, to contemplate a God who draws us out of ourselves, and to serve others as the ultimate expression of selfhood. These are the insights of Saint Thérèse, and they are more valid today than ever.