Saint Therese of the Child Jesus
of the Holy Face
The spirit of gratitude is a vital element of the way of confidence and love of St. Therese of Lisieux. We can't be surprised that the saint to whom "everything is grace" radiated a spirit of gratitude. In reading Story of a Soul, Therese's letters, poems, prayers, plays, and reported conversations, I have noticed again and again how often she spontaneously overflows with gratitude to God, to the person to whom she is writing, to Mary, to the saints, or to anyone she is remembering who has been good to her.
St. Therese's counsel on the importance of gratitude to God
In the words of her sister Celine, writing of the years when Therese was her novice mistress at Lisieux Carmel:
"It is the spirit of gratitude which draws down upon us the overflow of God's grace," our holy Mistress said to me one day, "for no sooner have we thanked Him for one blessing than He hastens to send us ten addiitonal favors in return. Then, when we show our gratitude for these new gifts, He multiplies His benedictions to such a degree that there seems to be a constant stream of divine grace ever coming our way." She added, "This has been my own personal experience; try it out for yourself and see. For all that Our Lord is constantly giving me, my gratitude is boundless, and I try to prove it to Him in a thousand different ways." . . . .
One day, when I was lamenting the fact that God seemed to have abandoned me completely, Therese energetically admonished me:
"Oh! don't speak like that. You know that at times I, too, become perplexed about circumstances or the turn of events, but I try to keep on smiling; I even turn to Our Lord and say 'Thank You.' We are disloyal to His love whenever we do not trust Him completely. Please! never any 'imprecations' against divine Providence, but only, and always, a spirit of deep and lasting gratitude!"
My Sister Saint Therese, by Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine Martin). Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1997, pp. 97-98.
St. Therese on showing gratitude to those around us
Celine also speaks of the tender gratitude Therese felt and expressed to anyone who did her the slightest favor;
Even in her human contacts, Therese was always outstanding for this virtue of gratitude, however trifling the favor might be. There was an added dimension to her spirit of gratitude, however, with regard to those priests who, in Our Lord's place, had, from time to time, solved her spiritual difficulties; to these benefactors she was eternally grateful.
My Sister Saint Therese, p. 97.
Celine's remarks about the gratitude Therese showed to the persons around her are echoed by another novice, Marie of the Trinity, who entered in June 1894, shortly before Celine. Therese was her "angel" (in charge of instructing the newcomer in the community's customs), and Marie reports that Therese had done her quite a few favors for which she was grateful, but for which she had never expressed thanks. Then Therese said to her:
You must get used to letting your gratitude be seen, to saying thank you with an open heart for the least little thing. This is the practice of charity, to act this way; otherwise, it is indifference which, even if it is only exterior, freezes the heart and destroys the cordiality that is necessary in community.
Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity, by Pierre Descouvement. Staten Island, New York: Society of St. Paul/Alba House, 1997, p. 110.
These two sources are a valuable look at St. Therese through the prism of two important relationships. Both were written by novices who lived under her care from 1894 until her death in 1897: Celine, the sister whom she called "the sweet echo of my soul;" Marie of the Trinity, for whom Therese experienced a deep spiritual affection. The translationof Celine's memoir, My Sister Saint Therese, reflects the decade of the 1950s, in which Celine was writing, but is full of rich detail about Celine's relationship with Therese and of insights and incidents about St. Therese not available elsewhere. Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity, a more contemporary work, tells much about the relationship between the two young nuns and also tells the life story of this early disciple of Therese and of what happened in the Lisieux Carmel after the death of Therese. Which of her counsels to these two novices can you adapt to suit your own formation in the life of the spirit and in community life?
To cultivate the spirit of gratitude so important to St. Therese, consider these two other resources: the TED talk "Want to be happy? Be grateful," by Brother David Steindl-Rast (a 14:30 video accompanied by a transcript) and his marvelous book, "Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer: A Guide to Life in Fullness." He remarks that "it's not happy people who are grateful, but grateful people who are happy."
I rejoice to think of the gratitude St. Therese has inspired in me and in her countless other friends; every day she is, as St. Paul wrote, "increasing the amount of thanksgiving that God receives."
A film of the veil St. Therese wore for her audience with the Pope, and an interview with Fr. Francois-Marie Lethel, O.C.D. (with English voice-over) about St. Therese as a doctor of the Church
Advance to 21:27 of the October 14, 2014 episode of EWTN's "Vaticano" to see four minutes of film of the Church of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Rome, where the black lace veil the fourteen-year-old Therese wore for her audience with the Pope on November 20, 1887 is on display. The veil was made by her mother, Blessed Zelie Martin, who was a manufacturer of point d'Alencon lace. This is followed by a filmed interview with the French Carmelite friar Fr. Francois-Marie Lethel, O.C.D., who was engaged in the ecclesial proceedings that led to St. Therese's being named a Doctor of the Church in 1997. He reflects on the significance of her doctorate. Fr. Lethel preached the Lenten retreat to Pope Benedict and his household in 2011, and this is a rare chance for the English-speaking world to hear his thoughts on St. Therese.
Note that this church ceased to be a parish church in 2011, but many people still visit it out of devotion to St. Therese. If you're in Rome and want to visit it, it is known as the "Church of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Panfilo," in the Princiano Quarter, and is located at Via Gaspare Spontini 17 in Rome. See a map. The church's Facebook page. More information about the Church of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Rome.
"The Philadelphia Carmel as the Birthplace of Devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux in the United States, Part II: The Relationships Between the Carmels of Philadelphia and Lisieux," Sunday, December 7, 2014 Day of Prayer at the Philadelphia Carmel
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Visit the Web site "Discalced Carmelites of Philadelphia."
For Dorothy Day's birthday, November 8: her reprinted book "Therese: The Story of Saint Therese of Lisieux"
Dorothy Day's classic book Therese: The Story of Saint Therese of Lisieux, in which Dorothy shares how Therese entered and re-entered her life, how she finally became devoted to Therese, and how Therese and the Martin family inspired her in the Catholic Worker movement, has been reprinted. Dorothy was born on November 8, 1897, about five weeks after Therese's death on September 30, 1897.
About eight years after Dorothy died, I had the honor of speaking at the Catholic Worker in New York about St. Therese. Many friends and former co-worker's of Dorothy's came back to the house for the occasion, and the evening truly brought Dorothy's devotion to Therese to life for me. To celebrate Dorothy's birthday by learning more about the book or purchasing it, click on the image below:
To learn more about Dorothy Day, please see, thanks to Fr. James Martin, S.J., text, photos, and a video about her. May she, with Therese, continue to draw "little souls" to the Heart of Christ.
The doctors of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have declared that the healing of little Carmen, whose unexplained recovery from a brain hemorrhage soon after she was born is the "presumed miracle" submitted for the canonization of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, cannot be explained by the intervention of medicine. Read more at our companion site, Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin, The Parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.