Born in France on January 2, 1873, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face enter into the Carmelite order in Lisieux at the early age of 15 after pleading her case to Pope Leo XIII. Upon entering Carmel, she joined two of her older sisters who had joined the order before her. Later on a third sister joined the Carmelites, allowing St. Thérèse the joy of being with her biological sisters as walked out her pledge to Jesus. St. Thérèse died in 1897 of tuberculosis at the age of 24, having spent nine years within Carmel. Six
Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, was written in three selections during the last three years of her life at the request of two of her Prioress (i.e. the first nine chapters was written at the request of Mother Agnes while the last two chapters came at the request of Mother Marie de Gonzague). Her biological sister, Mother Agnes, combined St. Thérèse’s writing and published them on the one year anniversary of her death (September 30, 1898). Sixteen years later a cause of Beatification was introduced in Rome with her becoming “Blessed” in 1923. Two years after that St. Thérèse was canonized with a Doctor of the Church declaring coming in 1997. All of these events are very remarkable seeing how St. Thérèse died so young.
The autobiography itself is fairly straight forward as it tells the story of St. Thérèse life from her earliest days as a young toddler to the months leading up to her death. Each chapter is focused on a short time period of two to four years, with chapters six and nine focusing on one year each. The first few chapters are quite remarkable due to the details St. Thérèse remembers of her young life. As the book continues, she starts skipping more and more details, choosing instead to focus on a few highlights that happened during those years.
At first the book seemed to carry with it a sense of pride as she talks about obeying her parents and seeking to follow the ways of the Lord. However the more I read the more I realized that rather than been prideful, St. Thérèse was being overly honest and transparent. While she didn’t go through a ton of outward trials and pains (i.e. she have a good family upbringing, loving parents and sisters, etc.), she had a deep sense of spiritually and self-reflection that caused her to feel pain at every little mistake or selfish act. Her book brings out this self-reflection with a sense of humanity has she seeks to lessen herself and raise to awareness the work of Jesus within her.
In addition to teaching us about how to allow Jesus to work in our lives, St. Thérèse’s book should teach us that children really do matter. They are always listening and watching their parents and older siblings. Instead of dismissing them as too young for spiritual things, we should be encouraging and teaching the young children in the ways of the Lord. The King Himself, after all, beckoned the little ones to himself over the objections of the Twelve. Rather than being the church of tomorrow, children are the church of today and we can learn a lot about following Jesus through them.
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