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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

For the feast of St. Therese, the documentary "In Search of the Little Flower: Saint Therese of Lisieux" by Sancta Familia Media. October 1, 2019


For the feast of St. Therese, I have the pleasure of sharing with you  the documentary "In Search of the Little Flower: Therese of Lisieux," produced for the September 2019 visit of the relics of St. Therese to Scotland by two brilliant young filmmakers, Brian Anthony Timmons and J. P. Mallon, of Sancta Familia Media in Scotland.  This free documentary, an hour long, fulfills a dream I have had for many years.  

In the bleak days of February, I suddenly learned from their post that Fr. Grant and Brian and J. P. had just arrived in France to film a documentary about the Martin family and about St. Therese as a tool to help the people prepare for the historic first visit of the relics of St. Therese to Scotland in September.  Inspired by their bold vision and their willingness to post the documentary online for all to view for free, I had the joy of writing to them throughout their stay in France with suggestions for sites to visit and what to film there.   The generous cooperation of the staffs of the Shrines at Alencon and Lisieux allowed them to capture all the footage needed for an outstanding film.  Their later work in Scotland produced it.  

On this feast day, being occupied with caring for a beloved family member who is seriously ill (for whom I ask your prayers), I can write no more.   But, thanks to God; Fr. Jim; Brian and J. P.; and all their collaborators (some of whom you will meet in the film), I have the joy of sharing their gift with you.  May St. Therese bless you on her feast.

Posted on Monday, September 30, 2019 at 11:50PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

125 years ago with St.Therese: "Song of Gratitude to Our Lady of Mount Carmel," July 16, 1894

July 16, 1894 was the 26th birthday of Sister Martha of Jesus, a lay-sister who entered three months before Therese.  This birthday furnished the occasion for Therese's seventh poem, "Song of Gratitude to Our Lady of Mount Carmel."  The poem takes its inspiration from the circumstances of Sister Martha's life. 

One of the best ways to understand Therese's way is to get to know the women with whom she lived in Carmel.  Learn more about the young woman who lived close to Therese for nine years: 

Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 at 08:34PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Dr. Frances Renda, the friend of Therese, has entered into life on June 17, 2019

Dr. Frances Therese Renda Photo credit: Sue Princiotto

It is with the greatest sadness that we announce the sudden death, on June 17, 2019, of Dr. Frances Therese Renda, the best friend St. Therese ever had.  Sue Princiotto announced her sister's death in these words:

Family and friends, it is with great sadness that our family announces the passing of Fran Renda, suddenly and peacefully in her sleep. I apologize for posting the news this way, but I wanted to make sure everyone hears before the funeral.

Please join us in paying last respects to Dr. Fran Renda on Tuesday, June 25th from 7:00 to 9:00 in the evening at The Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, located at1076 Madison Avenue in New York City.

On Wednesday, June 26, there will be a Funeral Mass held at 10:00am at the Church of St. Joseph of the Holy Family (405 West 125th Street - NY, NY), led by the beloved Father David Nolan.

Immediately following the Mass, all are welcome to remain at the Church for a reception in honor of Fran where you are encouraged to share stories, travel tales, and fondest memories as a celebration of her distinguished, admirable and exceptional life.

At 3:00pm the same day (June 26), a burial service will be held at St. John's Cemetery (80-01 Metropolitan Avenue - Middle Village, NY). All are welcome.

I will write a personal tribute to Fran later.  Here I merely share some of the highlights of her long and generous apostolate for St. Therese.  Fran fell in love with St. Therese when she first visited Lisieux at the age of sixteen, and, for the rest of her life, during a distinguished career as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, never stopped trying to make Therese known and loved.  I met her in 1988 at a symposium offered by the Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary in Darien, Illinois to celebrate the centenary of Therese's entrance.  We saw each other at conferences and other events devoted to St. Therese. Fran had taught Therese in the seminary at Yonkers, and she also taught Therese to a group of women at St. Patrick's Cathedral.  They were so moved by what Fran communicated that in the 1990s, every day for seven years, they operated what was known as the "Therese desk" just inside the entrance of St. Patrick's Cathedral, offering for sale the best books and most beautiful medals of St. Therese.  A dizzying number of thousands of dollars worth of books were sold, and countless souls were brought to Christ. 

Fran was the moving spirit behind several important books about Therese and about the Martin family.  The first to appear was "Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity," by Pierre Descouvemont translated by Fran's friend, Alexandra Plettenberg-Serban, which appeared in 1997:


It is not widely known that Fran was the catalyst for the conversation that resulted in the visit of the reliquary of St. Therese to the United States in the autumn of 1999.  I was present in when Fran's group and her friends at the Cathedral made the visit of the reliquary of St. Therese to St. Patrick's Cathedral a unique grace.  The memory of those happy days will never leave me.

For years Fran encouraged her friend, Bishop Patrick Ahern, in the writing of his boook "Maurice and Therese," which appeared in 2001.


In 2005, "I Thirst: Saint Therese of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta," translated by Fran's friend, Alexandra Plettenbrg-Serban, appeared in English. 


 Fran edited for publication the letters of Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese, which were translated by her friend, Ann Hess, and published in 2011:

 In connection with the publication of A Call to a Deeper Love, Fran was interviewed by Bill O'Donnell, host and producer of Spirituality TV in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Fran several times presented about St. Therese and the Martin family:


On January 15, 2012, Fran appeared on EWTN's Sunday Night Prime to discuss Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin:

Again, shortly before the canonization of the Martin spouses, Fran spoke with Jay and Fr. Robert Reed of the Catholic TV Network about them:


 For some years before Fran's death, she and Ann Hess had been collaborating again, this time on the monumental work "Therese de Lisieux," a long biography of Therese by Fran's dear friend and mentor, the late Bishop Guy Gaucher, O.C.D.

On June 9, 1897, the second anniversary of her Offering to Merciful Love, Therese wrote to Maurice Belliere words that might serve as Fran's farewell to us:

Dear little Brother, there are many things I would like to make you understand now that I am at the door of eternity, but I am not dying; I am entering into life, and all that I cannot say to you here below I will make you understand from the heights of heaven.

Posted on Monday, June 24, 2019 at 12:37AM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

125 years ago with St. Therese: Sister Marie of the Trinity enters the Carmel of Lisieux on June 16, 1894


With thanks to Deb Thurston for this logoOn June 16, 1894, Marie-Louise Castel, later named Sister Marie of the Trinity, entered the Carmel of Lisieux as a postulant.  This day turned out to be an important event in St. Therese's life.  At last, she was no longer the youngest in the community.  She was to develop an intimate friendship with Marie of the Trinity, who would be one of the most important witnesses at the process for the beatification and canonization of Therese.

The novitiate of the Lisieux Carmel

At that time, "first vows" (temporary vows) were not made.  A young woman's postulancy usually lasted six months, followed by her reception of the habit.  At the end of a year as a novice, the candidate was usually permitted to make her perpetual vows.  After making her vows, each woman usually spent another three years living on the novitiate corridor under the authority of the novice mistress, an extended period of initial formation.  Then she left the novitiate and moved into the community.  Thus, St. Therese, who professed her vows on September 8, 1890, would normally have left the novitiate on September 8, 1893.  On that date she asked to remain in the novitiate forever.  Her sister Pauline, Mother Agnes of Jesus, then prioress, granted the request.  Mother Marie de Gonzague was then novice-mistress, and her touchy character would not have allowed Mother Agnes to appoint Therese officially as assistant novice-mistress.  By leaving Therese in the novitiate and calling her "senior novice," Mother Agnes hoped that she could discreetly give the other novices the benefit of a good example and some quiet advice.   

The youth of Marie-Louise Castel

Marie-Louise was born on August 12, 1874, at St.-Pierre-sur-Dives in Normandy, the 13th of 19 children of a devoutly Catholic family. Her father, a teacher, refused to accept the 1882 decree of the state declaring the schools secular. Continuing the practice of morning prayer with his students, he was forced to resign, and the family moved to Paris.  Like little Therese Martin, Marie-Louise experienced the call to religious life while she was still very young, and, at age 12, she understood that he was called to Carmel.  Like Celine, she took a private vow of chastity while still a young laywoman. 

Her entrance to two different Carmels

She was received as a postulant by the Carmel of the Avenue de Messine in Paris on April 30, 1891, still more than three months short of her seventeenth birthday.  Two years later, her health suffering, she was forced to leave.  Her father took her to Trouville to regain her health, and she sought consolation at the Lisieux Carmel in an interview with Mother Agnes of Jesus and Mother Marie de Gonzague.  As she recovered, she asked to rejoin the Carmel in Paris, only to find that the priest in charge refused to permit the nuns to receive her until she was 21.  The prioress in Paris suggested that she might try the Lisieux Carmel; her native air in Normandy might be better for her health.  There she encountered the same obstacle Therese had found: Canon Delatroette, the priest-supervisor of the Carmel, found her too young.  Noticing that June 16 was the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, to whom she and her family had a particular devotion, she begged Our Lady to obtain her entrance on that feast, and her prayer was answered.  See in this video the enclosure door through which she entered on that very feast, as Therese had entered on April 9, 1888. 

Entrée du monastère from Carmel de Lisieux on Vimeo.

In the novitiate of the Lisieux Carmel with Therese

There was a great social divide between Paris and the provinces at that time.  Even though Marie-Louise had been born in Normandy, many of the Lisieux nuns considered her a "Parisienne."  That, and the fact that she had already spent time in another Carmel, worked against her in their opinion.  Mother Agnes named Therese as the new postulant's "angel" (the nun charged with instructing her in the many customs of Carmel).  Marie-Louise was the first choir postulant entrusted to Therese.  The close spiritual friendship that developed between these two young women is recounted in Pierre Descouvemont's book "Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity: The Transformative Relationship between St. Therese of Lisieux and Her Novice Sister Marie of the Trinity."  I recommend this book especially to those who are looking for new incidents about St. Therese, new reported sayings, and the perspective of someone who lived close to her in Carmel, but was not a blood relative.  Sister Marie wrote down and testified about many incidents and sayings of Therese not found elsewhere  (Purchases through the links on this page support this Web site).  

Like Therese, Marie of the Trinity had to endure a longer than usual wait for her profession, which would usually have taken place about December 1895.  Therese suggested that Marie need not wait for her profession to offer herself to Merciful Love, and Marie made that offering, with Therese at her side, on December 1, 1895.  When, on April 30, 1896, Marie of the Trinity made her profession, Therese was triumphant and grateful; she told Marie it was one of the happiest days of her own life.  

The Castel family and St. Therese

Many links developed between the Castel family and St. Therese.  Marie of the Trinity had two brothers and two sisters who entered religious life; her priest-brother served as a chaplain at Lisieux, and her sister entered the Visitation at Caen where Therese's sister Leonie lived.  Two other sisters for many years were in charge of Les Buissonnets, Therese's childhood home, and welcomed pilgrims there.

More stories about Marie of the  Trinity and St. Therese of Lisieux

To read more about the life of Marie of the Trinity, especially her contributions to the Process of Therese and to making her known and loved and the long trial of the disease of lupus she bore so patiently, visit also the following online sources:

  1.  "Sister Marie of the Trinity," the June 2007 issue of the "spiritual newsletter" of the Abbey of Saint-Joseph de Clairval.
  2. Fr. Descouvemont's brief online biography of Marie of the Trinity on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
  3. The obituary circular of Sister Marie of the Trinity, which goes into considerable detail about her life, on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
  4. Marie of the Trinity's testimony at the diocesan inquiry into Therese's holiness, March 13-15, 1911, on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.


Posted on Sunday, June 16, 2019 at 02:33PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan in , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

What happened in the life of St. Therese of Lisieux on June 11, 1895?

Many people know that on Trinity Sunday, June 9, 1895, St. Therese was suddenly inspired to offer herself "as a victim" to the Merciful Love of God, "asking this Love to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my heart, that thus I may become a martyr of Your love, O my God!"  It's slightly less well known that, within moments of making the offering, Therese was inspired to share it with those around her.

On the morning she received the inspiration and spontaneously offered herself, she was in choir. It seems that whether this happened in the hour of prayer before Mass or during the Mass is not definitively known.  Her sister Celine, Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, describes what happened next:

After Mass, she took me with her to Mother Prioress; she seemed beside herself and did not say a word.  When we found Mother Agnes, for it was she who was then prioress, she asked her if both of us could offer ourselves as victims to Merciful Love, and gave her a short explanation of what that meant.  Mother Agnes was at a loss; she did not seem to understand too well what was going on, but she had such confidence in Sister Therese's discretion that she gave her full permission.  It was then that she composed the Act called "An Offering to Love," which she carried next to her heart ever afterwards.1

When they were alone again, Therese explained more fully to Celine the inspiration she had received.  During her free time that Sunday, she gathered her thoughts and put them on paper, and, on Tuesday, June 11, the two sisters met in the anteroom to Therese's cell, where the statue of the Virgin from their childhood home, the one before which they had been praying when Mary suddenly appeared to Therese and smiled at her and she was cured, had been placed.  Kneeling before the statue, the two young women made the offering together. See a period photograph of that little room and the statue on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.

Therese considered the anniversary of her own Offering to be June 9; she listed June 9 in the list of "days of grace granted by the Lord to his little spouse" she placed at the end of her first manuscript.  But June 11 is an important day, for it's the day she first shared the Offering with her first disciple and the day she read the words of the Offering in Celine's presence. 

This prayer contained the words

"Most of all, I offer you the love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dear Mother.  It is to her I abandon my offering, begging her to present it to You." 

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Sees
Photo credit:  L'Instantane

On the same day, June 11, 1895, that Therese and Celine knelt before the statue of Our Lady of the Smile to offer themselves to Merciful Love. about thirty thousand people assembled at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Sees to offer Our Lady a gold crown with precious stones given by the people of the whole region. This Cathedral was bound up with the history of the Martin family.  Mary appeared at Lourdes in the spring of 1858, during Louis and Zelie's engagement.  After she said "I am the Immaculate Conception," their bishop raised funds all over France to build the first church in France in honor of the Immaculate Conception at Sees, the seat of their diocese, now a famous pilgrimage site.  The year before Therese was born, the chapel was consecrated before a vast crowd.   Every year Zelie visited the church in Sees on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a feast on which she had received several important graces.  In 1874 she brought Leonie with her3 to ask for the grace to make a good First Communion. 

     While the crowd offered Mary a gold crown with precious stones, the two sisters prayed "I want no other throne, no other crown but You, my beloved!"  Was it a coincidence that these two different events--one so public, one so hidden--happened on June 11, 1895? 

1 St. Therese of Lisieux by those who knew her, ed. Christopher O'Mahoney, O.C.D.  Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1975, pp. 128-129.

2 A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, ed. Dr. Frances Renda, tr. Ann Connors Hess.  Staten Island, New York: Society of St. Paul/Alba House, 2011.  CF 125, p. 160, footnote 301.

3 A Call to a Deeper Love, CF 125, p. 160, footnote 299.

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