Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face
eresa was born on January 2, 1873 in Alençon to watchmakeLouis Martin, and Marie-AzélieGuérin Martin, also called Zélie, renowned as an expert lace maker in the well-known "point of Alençon". They had nine children, of whom four died within infancy and five children reached adulthood, all girls and all later became nuns:
Marie (February 22, 1860) Carmelite in Lisieux - with the name of Sister Marie du Sacré-Cœur
Pauline (September 7, 1861) Carmelite in Lisieux - nun and later mother Agnès de Jésus
Léonie (June 3, 1863) in the religious order of Poor Clares 1886 then Salesian Sisterin Caen (1894) - Sister Françoise-Thérèse
Céline (April 28, 1869) Carmelite in Lisieux - Sister Geneviève de la Sainte-Face
Thérèse (January 2, 1873) Carmelite in Lisieux (1888) - Sister Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus et de la Sainte-Face - she died on 30 September 1897 and was canonized in 1925.
She grows up in a devoted Catholic family. The Martin spouses have a very prosperous economic situation, but they also find the time to devote themselves to charitable works, welcoming travelers, assisting the sick and the elderly.
Her mother fell seriously ill with cancer and died on August 28, 1877, after a long agony. Being orphaned at the age of four and a half, her sister Pauline was then chosen by her as "vice-mother".
On November 16, 1877 Louis and his five daughters moved to Lisieux, to get close to Isidore Guérin, brother of Zélie, and to his family.
During the summer of 1882, Teresa becomesaware that her sister Pauline is about to enter Carmel. The prospect of losing her "second mother" drives her to despair. Later her sister Marie, who after entering the convent of Pauline had followed her in her scholastic and religious formation, also entered Carmel.
On Christmas Eve when she was fourteen years old, following an event that was quite trivial in itself, she had a very particular grace that made her rediscover in herself "the strength of spirit lost at the age of four, her balance and full self-control". That was a very important event for her, which she did not hesitate to define her "conversion"; with it began the third period of her life, decisive for her sanctification. In fact, the Christmas conversion was "complete". Theresa began "her race as a giant" from then on. She felt spiritually lit by a great fire of love for God, of love and understanding of neighbor, of apostolic zeal for souls and for their salvation.
Thérèse now feels ready to enter the Carmel of Lisieux. Although the nuns of Carmel had given their favorable opinion, and her father and uncle, had given their authorization, for her young age she met the objections of the parish priest of Saint-Jacques, the canon Jean-Baptiste Delatroëtte, who advised her to contact the bishop. In November 1887 the bishop of Bayeux, Flavien-Abel-Antoine Hugonin, denied her permission and she embarked with her father Louis and her sister Céline on a trip to Rome to address this request directly to Pope Leo XIII. During the visit, Teresa kneels weeping in front of the pontiff, saying to him: "Most Holy Father, I have a great grace to ask from you". The vicar explains that she is a girl who wants to enter Carmel. "My child, do what your superiors tell you," the pope then says to Teresa. But she insists: «Most Holy Father, if you said yes it would be good for everyone!». Pope Pecci then replies: "Let's go, let's go: you will enter if the good Lord wants it!" A few months later, on April 9, 1888, at just over fifteen years of age, Teresa took the name of "Teresa of the Child Jesus" (later by Divine inspiration, she begins to live the little way, she tries it on herself, makes it her own and then begins to spread it. The best synthesis of the small way is found in manuscript B: Jesus is pleased to show me the only path that leads to this Divine Furnace. This path is the abandonment of the child who falls asleep without fear in the arms of his father (MS B).
The Little Street
The fundamental points of the small way are:
Teresa is bold in trust, faith, hope, love. She lives an intense relationship with God, she is firmly convinced of what she feels, she is a girl in love:
It is my own weakness that gives me the audacity to offer myself as a victim to your love (Ms B, 3v).
Teresa confirms to us how the spirit of childhood is a fixed point of the small way. A childhood spirit that is not to be confused with infantilism. The spirit of childhood is above all a total trust in God, it is becoming simple and pure in heart like children. Abandonment to God, according to Teresa, is closely linked to spiritual childhood, as the little child depends on others as we must depend on God, trust us!
Spiritual poverty is the heart of the small way: and it is necessary to consent to remain poor and without strength: and here is the difficult because where to find the true poor in spirit? We must look for it very far (letter 197). According to Teresa, obviously the most difficult thing is to remain poor in spirit, that is, to always depend on God, on his Grace; not to seek the spiritual riches that could make us fill with pride and arrogance and thus make us like God in our eyes.
The poor in spirit lives day by day without accumulating. Spiritual poverty is the final goal of a journey, it is the perfect joy that makes us similar to Christ who saved the world from being poor.Teresa often repeats that the Christian spiritual life is not about growing, feeling better than others, but it is a becoming little, a lowering ourselves that allows God to work in us with all his strength, his will, his love. Allowing in this way to make our soul holy. God always seeks the smallest and the poorest precisely to realize the wonders of him.
Sister Mary of the Trinity is a novice very close to Saint Teresa, who testified in the beatification process. And it is she who gives us short exchanges of words and allows us to get to know the Saint of the little ones better.
She one day she asks her who had taught her the little way and she replies:
It is Jesus himself who taught me. No book and no theologian have taught me and therefore I feel deep in my heart that I am in the truth. I received no encouragement from anyone, except Mother Agnes of Jesus and, when the opportunity arose to open my soul, I was so little understood that I said to the good Lord, like Saint John of the cross: do not send me more now before messengers who cannot tell me what I want.
One day when she expressed her desire to have more strength and energy to practice virtue, Teresa replies:
and if the good Lord wants you as weak and helpless as a child do you think you have less merit? Accept therefore to waver at every step, even to fall, to carry your cross weakly, love your impotence, your soul will profit more than if, carried away by grace, you carry out heroic actions with enthusiasm, which would fill your soul. of personal satisfaction and pride.
On another occasion she cheers her up and tells her:
a pain that overwhelms and discourages comes from her self-love; a supernatural punishment restores courage, gives a new impetus for good; we are happy to feel weak and miserable, because the more we humbly recognize him, expecting everything for free from the good Lord without any merit on our part, the more the good Lord lowers himself towards us, to fill us with the gifts of him with generosity.
Teresa asks Sister Mariagrato one day with the addition of the words "of the Holy Face").
Teresa asked Sister Mary of the Trinity one day if after her death she would still follow the little path of trust and love and Sister Mary of the Trinity replied that surely even if the Pope had told her that it was not right she would have continued to follow her example and Teresa replies:
Oh! You should believe the Pope first of all, but don't be afraid that he will come and tell you to change your life; I would not give him time, because if, arriving in heaven, I came to know that I have misled you, I would obtain from the good Lord the permission to come immediately to warn you. Until then, believe that my way is safe, and follow it faithfully.
Teresa on more than one occasion makes it known that she wishes, after her death, to return to Earth, to help us on this journey. She desires God to be known... to be made known and loved. In fact, there are various occasions when you make your desire for her present: in the month of March, Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, seeing her in prayer in the hermitage of Saint Joseph: she asks her what are you asking so fervently?
She replies: I ask Saint Joseph to really support my great desire to return to earth
with God... Another day Mother Agnes of Jesus asked her for explanations on the way she was said to want to teach souls after her death. And she:
My Mother is the little way: it is the path of trust and total abandonment. I want to teach them the small means that I have so perfectly succeeded in, tell them that down here there is but one thing to do: throw the flowers of small sacrifices to Jesus, take him with caresses, and so I took him, which is why I will be so well received.
And she explains it to us in a practical way which are these flowers to offer to Jesus, the ways to follow this little way:
1) to bear the faults of others, not to be surprised by their weaknesses and instead of trusting the smallest acts that are seen to be done.
2) not care about being judged well by others.
3) do for unpleasant people, everything you would do for nice people.
4) never apologize or defend yourself against accusations.
5) not to be disheartened in seeing oneself weak and imperfect rather to have reason for joy because Jesus covers the multitude of sins.
6) give to those who ask with bad grace by responding with kindness
7) to be unhappy if they take something of ours or ask for a service that is not ours, to be happy to interrupt a work in progress for charity.
8) do not seek human consolations but leave everything to God.
9) if you have to take someone back to accept the suffering of having to do it even though you feel incapable and not up to it.
10) do not try to attract others to oneself but lead them to God from useless servants.
11) accept humiliation and criticism with gratitude.
12) seek the company of people less liked by others we will draw them closer to us and they will run after the love of God.
These are some of the suggestions Thérèse of Lisieux gives us. I wholeheartedly recommend reading her autobiography and her writings, a wonderful journey that will lead you to discover God from another angle.
Story of a Soul