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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

An essay illustrated with 19th century photos to celebrate the annniversary of the day St. Therese of Lisieux entered Carmel, April 9, 1888

Therese Martin entered Carmel on Monday, April 9, 1888.  That year April 9 was the feast of the Annunciation, which had been transferred from March 25 because of Lent.  This photo essay is to celebrate the anniversary of her entrance.

Therese a few days before she entered on April 9, 1888

Let's listen to some accounts of her entrance.  First, Saint Therese's own:

"On the morning of the great day, casting a last look upon Les Buissonnets, that beautiful cradle of my childhood which I was never to see again, I left on my dear King's arm to climb Mount Carmel. Chapel entrance of Lisieux Carmel photographed shortly after Therese's death

 As on the evening before, the whole family was reunited to hear Holy Mass and receive Communion.  As soon as Jesus descended into the hearts of my relatives, I heard nothing but sobs around me. 

The sanctuary of the chapel of the Lisieux Carmel in the time of St. Therese

 I was the only one who didn't shed any tears, but my heart was beating so violently it seemed impossible to walk when they signaled for me to come to the enclosure door.  I advanced, however, asking myself whether I was going to die because of the beating of my heart!  Ah! what a moment that was.  One would have to experience it to know what it is.


Louis Martin, probably at age 58, about 1881

 My emotion was not noticed exteriorly.  After embracing all the members of the family, I knelt down before my matchless Father for his blessing, and to give it to me he placed himself upon his knees and blessed me, tears flowing down his cheeks.  It was a spectacle to make the angels smile, this spectacle of an old man presenting his child, still in the springtime of life, to the Lord!


Space where Louis knelt to bless Therese when she entered, April 9, 1888A few moments later, the doors of the holy ark closed upon me, and there I was received by the dear Sisters who embraced me.  Ah! they had acted as mothers to me in my childhood, and I was going to take them as models for my actions from now on.  My desires were at last accomplished, and my soul experienced a peace so sweet, so deep, it would be impossible to express it." 

(Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of LIsieux, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 3rd ed., 1996.  Used with permission).


Canon Delatroette

St. Therese writes "A few moments later."  She tactfully omits what other witnesses report happened in those few moments.  Canon Jean-Baptiste Delatroette, the parish priest of St. Jacques, was the ecclesiastical superior of the Lisieux Carmel (the priest charged with supervising, from the outside, this community of women religious).  He had bitterly opposed Therese's entrance, believing her too young, but was overruled by his bishop, who left the decision up to the prioress.  Before Therese crossed the threshold, and in the presence of her father and her sisters, Canon Delatroette announced "Well, my Reverend Mothers, you can sing a Te Deum.  As the delegate of Monseigneur the bishop, I present to you this child of fifteen whose entrance you so much desired.  I trust that she will not disappoint your hopes, but I remind you that, if she does, the responsibility is yours, and yours alone."  He could not have foreseen that twenty-two years later Pope St. Pius X would call this girl "the greatest saint of modern times."

Much less well known than Saint Therese's account of her entrance is Celine's description of her experience of the same moment. Celine and Leonie were present with their father at the short ceremony. 

Celine and Leonie the year after Therese enteredAfter writing of how inseparable she and Therese had been, Celine continued:

It took much yet to get to Monday, April 9, 1888, where the little Queen left her own, after we heard Mass together in the Carmel, to join her two older sisters in the cloister.  When I gave her a farewell kiss at the door of the monastery, I was faltering and had to support myself against the wall, and yet I did not cry, I wanted to give her to Jesus with all my heart, and He in turn clothed me in his strength.  Ah! how much I needed this divine strength!  At the moment when Thérèse entered the holy ark, the cloister door which shut between us was the faithful picture of what really happened, as a wall had arisen between our two lives."  (from the obituary circular of Celine Martin, Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, copyright Lisieux Carmel; translation copyright Maureen O'Riordan 2013).

The enclosure door which shut between Celine and Therese on April 9, 1888Saint Therese continues, writing of her impressions that first day:  "Everything thrilled me; I felt as though I was transported into a desert; our little cell, above all, filled me with joy."  St. Therese occupied three cells in Carmel, and until now few people have seen even a photograph of that first cell, for the photo commonly published was of Therese's last cell.  Thanks to the generosity of the Archives of the Lisieux Carmel, we can at last see early photos of the room Therese saw that day.  It was on the corridor near the garden:

The corridor with the door to Therese's first cell standing openThis cell looked out on the roof of the "dressmaking building" where habits were made:

 Carmelite postulants wore a secular dress with a little capelet, and a small net bonnet on the head.  The photograph below of Marie Guerin as a postulant (she entered August 15, 1895) shows how St. Therese and all postulants dressed until they received the habit.

 Learn more about the Carmelite life Therese began to live on April 9, 1888.

The feast of the Annunciation is usually celebrated on March 25, just nine months before the feast of Christmas.  Celine wrote that Therese loved the feast on March 25 "because that's when Jesus was smallest."  Therese began her Carmelite life on the feast of Mary's "Yes" to her Lord.  May each of us enter every day of our own lives with Therese's fervor and joy, for every day is a doorway for each of us to intimacy with God, to wholeness, and to sainthood.

Note: the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux are being digitized and posted online in English at the Web site of the Archives of Carmel of Lisieux.  All the above photos are displayed courtesy of that site.  Please visit it here to see thousands of pages of photographs, documents, and information about St. Therese, her writings, her family, her environment, the nuns with whom she lived, and her influence in the world.  It is a true doorway to Saint Therese!


March 25, 2019: St. Therese of Lisieux and the feast of the Annunciation

Fra Angelico's "Annunciation"St. Therese especially loved the mystery of the Annunciation, and celebrated it every year. At the first inquiry into Therese's sanctity in 1910, her sister Celine testified:  

She had a particular devotion for the mystery of the Incarnation, which she would observe devotedly every 25th March. She loved to contemplate Jesus in his childhood. She once said, “I should like to die on 25th March, because it was on that day that Jesus was the smallest.1

In 1888, the feast of the Annunciation, transferred because of Lent, was celebrated on April 9, the day Therese entered the Lisieux Carmel.  God must have understood that her "yes" to her Carmelite vocation would be a profound echo of Mary's "yes."  

Therese's understanding of what happened when the angel Gabriel came to Mary is remarkably realistic and down-to-earth.  In July 1915, her sister Pauline, Mother Agnes of Jesus, testified at the second process:

She was very simple and had little experience of evil. Fearful of discovering it, as she acknowledges in her autobiography, she entrusted the protection of her purity to the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph.  Later on, she came to understand that everything is pure for the pure of heart. Seeing that she knew about the realities of life, I asked her who had enlightened her. She said that she had discovered them without even looking, from observing nature, the flowers and birds. She added, “The Blessed Virgin knew all these things. For she said to the angel, on the day of the Annunciation, “How will this be, since I know not a man?” Knowing things is not evil. All that God has made is very good and very noble. Marriage is a beautiful state for those whom God has called to it; it is sin which distorts and soils it.”2

  Therese emphasized that Mary, who was purity itself, knew the facts of life when the angel came to her, and that there was nothing wrong with her having that knowledge; Therese, the wise and innocent child of God's mercy, understands with Mary that God has made nothing that is not very good.  



Posted on Sunday, March 24, 2019 at 11:56PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan in , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

"The Philadelphia Carmel: The Birthplace of Devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux in the United States," February 17, 2019

Maureen O'Riordan presents to the American Catholic Historical Society in Philadelphia about the Philadelphia Carmel as the birthplace of devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux in the United States. February 17, 2019. Photo credit: Thomas Rzeznik

 On Sunday, February 15, 2018, I had the honor of presenting this fascinating chapter in our history to the American Catholic Historical Society in Philadelphia.  I am most grateful to the ACHS, especially to Thomas Rzeznik, Associate Professor of the Department of History at Seton Hall University, who arranged for me to speak as part of the ACHS series on local history and who promoted and produced the event flawlessly. 

Photo of the audience at "The Philadelphia Carmel as the Birthplace of Devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux" at the American Catholic Historical Society in Philadelphia. February 17, 2019. Photo credit: Thomas Rzeznik

 The lovely historic house which is the ACHS's home was filled to capacity, a testament to the enduring popularity of St. Therese in Philadelphia.  I was delighted to meet some friends from Old St. Joseph's, several readers of my Web site, and a number of  graduates of my alma mater, Little Flower Catholic High School. One of them had been on the pilgrimage to France and Rome sponsored by Little Flower to celebrate the canonization of Sts. Louis and Zelie!

The ACHS was most generous in giving me the chance to do justice to the "four foundresses," the young women (three from the Church of the Gesu) who founded our Carmel in 1902 and, while praying, working, and waiting patiently to build the present monastery and form the applicants who came, set the city of Philadelphia and later the whole country on fire with love for St. Therese.

Listen to a radio show on the same topic

One of the guests, Barbara Shinkle, interviewed me for Holy Spirit Radio a few days before the event.  Please listen to the interview about the Philadelphia Carmel as the birthplace of devotion to St.  Therese in the United States.  To listen, click the link above, choose "2019 Archive," and then select the date February 14, 2019.

 Read my four articles reporting on this story through 1911

Click for Open lines of research on this topic, which I would be pleased to help you pursue. You can always reach me by clicking the "e-mail" link on any one of my three Web sites.

To place this presentation in the context of the worldwide growth of Therese's cult, please see this fascinating 2011 doctoral thesis by Sophia DeBoick:  "Image, Authenticity, and the Cult of Saint Therese of Lisieux, 1897-1959."  Carefully researched and written and beautifully illustrated; I can't recommend it highly enough.

For various important events in the rise of St. Therese's cult, please see my page Storm of Glory: St. Therese 1897-2019.

 About Saint Therese:

For some free online films embedded here, see "films about Saint Therese."

To learn more about the spirituality of St. Therese, please click this link.  Prophet Elijah Media Store is distributing audio of three conferences I presented at a day of recollection at the Carmel of Santa Clara, California in November 2017:

"A Map of St. Therese's Way of Confidence and Love"

"How Can We Love One Another?  St. Therese's Practice of Sisterly Love in her Carmelite Community"

"Saints Louis and Zelie Martin: Lay Persons, Spouses, and Parents"

These three conferences are available as MP3 files, so you can download them and listen to them as soon as you order them.  Thank you very much.

For more about my apostolate for the spirituality of St. Therese and the Martin family, please visit

 About Maureen O'Riordan

A note about using this site:

Much information is on the site through its blog, and this information does not appear in the navigation section.  So please either scroll chronologically through the blog or use the search box to locate what you would like to know.  This applies, too, to my other two sites, listed below:

Please see my site "Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, the Parents of St. Therese of Lisieux," which, on its front page, contains a photo gallery of the life of the Martin family in chronological order.

Please see my site "Leonie Martin, Disciple and Sister of St. Therese of Lisieux."  Leonie became a Visitation nun at Caen, and the diocesan inquiry into her possible beatification was opened in 2015.

Note that, if you are a Facebook user, each site has a Facebook page with the same title as the site.  You can "like" the page and click "notifications."  This is an easy way to stay up to date when I post something new.

Thank you!  

Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at 05:01PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

"The World of St. Therese and Her Parents," a new photo show. August 19, 2018

In honor of the visit of the relics of St. Therese and of her parents, Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, to Ireland in for the World Meeting of Families, I have created a photo show, "The World of Saint Therese and Her Family," to offer you a visual experience of the concrete reality of their lives on earth, during which they became holy. It contains more than 350 photos.  Many are from my visit to France in May, and some are of locations never published before.  I am excited to be able to offer it to you.

To see it, please click the photo below.  If you enjoy it, please help me to spread the word quickly.  Thank you.


Posted on Sunday, August 19, 2018 at 04:49PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

St. Therese asked the Pope's permission to enter 130 years ago today, on November 20, 1887

Therese Martin, 14, asks Pope Leo XIII for permission to become a Carmelite at age 15. Stained-glass window in the church of St. Eulalie, Bordeaux, where her father, St. Louis Martin, was baptized.

Read St. Therese's description of the memorable day when she requested the Pope's permission to become a Carmelite before the usual age at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.

Posted on Monday, November 20, 2017 at 10:39PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint