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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

"Therese Today" - Bishop Guy Gaucher, O.C.D May 11, 2017


Therese, Doctor of Hope

Monseigneur Guy Gaucher, O.C.D. Photo courtesy of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Paris

In 1996, before the Vatican announced that Therese was to be made a doctor of the Church, Bishop Guy Gaucher, her great scholar and friend, wrote the short article “Therese Today,” highlighting how she speaks to the world today and prophesying that God would one day allow the Church to recognize her vocation as a Doctor:

Therese's word and prayer frees wounded people, unchains drug-addicted or despairing youth, and constantly raises up priestly, religious, and lay vocations. She goes in search of distant people, insinuates herself into the most unlikely situations, plays an ecumenical role, attracts Muslims, and touches even strangers to the faith, sometimes through a simple look at her real face that photography has made available to us.

With thanks to the Internet Archive, please read Therese Today, a short but important element in establishing the context for our anniversary meditation this year on Therese as a Doctor of Hope. 

A new series to celebrate the 20th anniversary of St. Therese's proclamation as a Doctor of the Church on October 19, 1997


Since St. Therese was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on October 19, 1997, the 20th anniversary falls on October 19, 2017.  But the time is not too long to explore a topic so rich.  For some weeks I've been musing on how to contribute to the celebration of her first 20 years as a Doctor.  

The Holy Spirit seemed to suggest that the celebration could move in two directions, interior and exterior.  That is, we can celebrate and honor Therese as a teacher in at least two ways.  

  • One, attending to our own interior formation: inviting Therese as doctor (both as teacher and as healer) to influence us as individuals and in common, so that her ministry of teaching and miracles may continue to transform not only individuals, families, and communities but also nations, the whole Church, and the whole world.  This might draw us to reflecting, meditating, and praying, alone and together, on texts and resources related to Therese's doctorate and to what she teaches us. 
    • How is that teaching growing and evolving?  Therese was considered the greatest saint of modern times and the perfect antidote to Jansenism, excessive fear of God and anxiety over imaginary sins.  Now that we are in the post-modern era, when Jansenism is no longer so widespread, we need to bring our contemporary life experience to the text of Therese to draw out how she speaks to new generations, some of whom have grown up in a largely secular environment, and to our personal struggles and societal issues in the present.  It is by coming defenseless to the text—prepared to allow the real God and the real Therese to encounter the real me—that I can hope to deepen my knowledge and experience of Therese.  We must never dismiss her as a treasure we've already exhausted (let alone treat her as a kind of heavenly cashier who places our orders with God), but always be willing to let her surprise us. 
  • Second, celebrating the doctorate might call us to a thrust in the other direction.  How can we make the Doctor of Merciful Love known, understood, and loved so that she is in a position to help as many souls as possible?  To be fruitful, this mission must always be rooted in nourishing our interior life.  In practical terms, this could mean moving from enjoying the resources that have formed our knowledge and experience of Therese (and of the Merciful Love of God flowing through her) to exploring how to invite other people to encounter her life and spirituality:
    • promoting (both online and in person) various resources, books, and films
    • sponsoring webinars, retreats, and programs in parishes and in our local communities;
    • incorporating learning about St. Therese into existing programs and curricula;
    • circulating Therese's memoir, Story of a Soul and other valuable works

To support the movement to interior formation and to proclaiming the gospel through making Therese known, I propose to present, from now at least through October 2017, a variety of resources:

  • articles about Therese’s doctorate to furnish some text and history
  • brief excerpts from the papal remarks about Therese as a doctor;
  • resources to help us share Therese
  • brief texts from Therese that highlight what she has to teach us
  • icons, books, films, and other resources

Many of these resources are already on “Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway,” but I hope that presenting them in bite-size chunks during the anniversary year will make it easy for you to enjoy them yourselves and use them for others.  For the moment, I hope to post items in this series two or three times a week.  They will be distinguished from other articles by a smaller version of the graphic you see above, for which I thank Deb Thurston, and by a focus on Therese as teacher.  I expect to offer a smorgasbord of options, so that you can take what appeals to you and leave the rest. 

The late Patrick Ahern, auxiliary bishop of New York, was tireless in promoting St. Therese as a prospective Doctor of the Church.  Exactly how much he contributed to the process remains unknown.  To honor his inexhaustible affection and advocacy for Therese, I open the series with his 1997 article "Therese, a Doctor of the Church," with thanks to the Internet Archive.  Enjoy! 

St. Therese's images of Mary - the statue of Mary before which she recited the Act of Consecration on her First Communion Day, May 8, 1884

The altar and the statue of Our Lady before which St. Therese, in the name of her companions, recited the Act of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin at the Benedictine Abbey of Notre Dame du Pre in Lisieux, May 8, 1884. Photo credit: The Far East Magazine
In the convent school St. Therese attended, the entire day of the First Communion was carefully choreographed to allow the communicants to receive the sacrament in a conscious and recollected way.  The Mass was in the morning.  In the afternoon, after the ceremony of Vespers, the girls consecrated themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary for their whole lives.  One child was chosen to read the Act of Consecration in the name of the others.  If one of the children was an orphan, she was always given that honor so that she might turn to Mary's protection in a particular way.  Therese, who had lost her mother, was selected to recite the Act on her First Communion Day, May 8, 1884.  Therese wrote:
I put all my heart into speaking to her, into consecrating myself to her as a child throwing itself into the arms of its mother, asking her to watch over her.
On the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, read Therese's description of making the Act of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin.

For a detailed report of the ceremony of consecration and of Therese's entire First Communion Day, read "The Little Flower's First Communion," an illustrated account  written in 1934 by one of the Benedictines who taught her and published by The Far East, the magazine of the Columban missionaries, which kindly allowed me to publish it 80 years later.  

The above photograph of the actual place and the statue before which Therese made this consecration is all the more precious because the Benedictine Abbey was completely destroyed when Lisieux was bombed on June 6, 1944.  
Posted on Monday, May 8, 2017 at 08:12PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

St. Therese's Images of Mary - "Our Lady of Victories" - May 7, 2017

The statue of Our Lady of Victories flanked by the portraits of Saints Louis and Zelie Martin. St. Jacques Church, Lisieux, 2008Therese would have known this statue of "Our Lady of Victories" from her early childhood. Devotion to Mary under the title "Our Lady of Victories" was widespread in France at that time. Although the feast has since been renamed "Our Lady of the Rosary," churches dedicated to "Our Lady of Victories" still exist.

Church of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, Paris 24 November 2012

The Church of Notre-Dame des Victoires (Our Lady of Victories) in Paris. By Guilhem Vellut from Amsterdam, Netherlands (Church of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires @ Paris) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Church of Our Lady of Victories in Paris

In Therese's time the Church of Notre-Dame des Victoires  in Paris was already well known as a Marian shrine.

The miracle of 1846

In 1846 Father Charles Desgenettes was pastor.  Because the church was located in a business area, he had very few parishioners, and he believed that he had failed in his ministry there.  He was on the point of resigning his charge when, on December 3, 1846, during and after Mass, he heard an interior voice say "Consecrate your parish to the holy and immaculate Heart of Mary."  With the Archbishop's permission, he consecrated the church to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the evening of Sunday, December 11, 1846.  That morning, fewer than 40 people had been at Mass, but the evening service was attended by more than 500 people. Since then thousands of pilgrims have flocked to the church to give thanks for graces they received through the intercession of Mary. 

The church is considered to be dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge of Sinners, and the Archconfraternity of the Immaculate Heart Father Desgenettes founded prays especially for the conversion of sinners.  Grateful pilgrims have left more than 37,000 votive offerings in thanksgiving.  In 1927 the church was elevated to the rank of a minor basilica.  Read the history of Notre-Dame des Victoires (Our Lady of Victories).

The statue of Our Lady of Victories, in the church of that name in Paris, before which St. Therese was praying when she received a special grace in November 1887. Photo courtesy of Corrinne May (

Our Lady of Victories and the Martin family

Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin both loved Our Lady of Victories.  When Zelie's brother lived near the church while he studied in Paris, she urged him to go in once a day and say a Hail Mary, promising that the Blessed Virgin would protect him in a particular way.  When Louis was in Paris on business, he wrote to Zelie:  "I just lit a candle in Our Lady of Victories, which is a little heaven on earth."  In 1883, when Therese was seriously ill, Louis gave some money to her older sister, Marie, and asked Marie to write to Notre-Dame des Victoires and ask to have a novena of Masses offered for Therese's cure.  Her miraculous cure in response to the prayers she and her sisters offered before their own statue of Mary took place during the novena.  In November 1887, when Louis was escorting Celine and Therese on the pilgrimage to Rome, he took them to Paris a few days early and chose a hotel near Notre-Dame des Victoires.  A little later in this series we will return to the grace St. Therese received whle praying to Mary there.

Walk in the steps of the Martin family in Paris

Our Lady of Victories is a popular pilgrimage site today.  Together with the priests, the Benedictines of Montmartre are responsible for the Church.  Daily they pray the divine office, participate in the Masses, lead the rosary, and share, with the pilgrims, in the Eucharistic adoration.  For information, visit the English Web site of the Basilica of Our Lady of Victories in Paris.

St. Therese's Images of Mary - A New Series. For May 6, 2017: "The Virgin of the Smile"

A new series for May 2017:
the images of the Blessed Virgin Mary
St. Therese of Lisieux knew


For May 2017, I am introducing a series to present many of the images of Mary which St. Therese saw at different times in her life.  Some will appear in this blog.  Others I can present only as links on Facebook, so, to see them all, please use the button at left to "like" the Facebook page "Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway."  The images will appear in roughly chronological order, and I hope that seeing them will help you to feel closer to Therese and also to enter into her tender and filial affection for Mary.  

The Martin family's treasured statue, "Our Lady of the Smile" 

 The statue of "Our Lady of the Smile" cherished by Saints Louis and Zelie Martin and their children

The history of the statue

The great French sculptor Edme Bouchardon (1698-1762) created the original of this statue for the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris.  During the French Revoution it disappeared.  Later it was replaced by a similar statue.  The statue that came into the possession of St. Louis Martin was modeled after that second statue in Paris.  The statue in St. Sulpice is also linked to the image of Mary that was reproduced on the Miraculous Medal.


Replica of the statue of Our Lady given to St. Louis Martin before his marriage by Mlle. Felicite Beaudoin, a saintly elderly woman who invested in his watch-shop. He put it here in the garden of his Pavilion, a small property on the outskirts of Alencon where he prayed, meditated, and kept his fishing tackle.

The gift of Mlle. Fellicite Beaudoin

Mlle. Felicite Beaudoin, a devout elderly woman who set Louis Martin up in business, gave him this statue.  In 1857 he bought the Pavilion, a one-room, three-story tower surrounded by a walled garden on the outskirts of Alencon.  Here he read, prayed and meditated, and kept his fishing tackle to use in the nearby River Sarthe, and he placed the statue here.

Replica of the Martin family's statue "The Virgin of the Smile" in its original location in the Pavilion in Alencon

The statue in the domestic church of the Martin family

In 1858, Louis married, and his wife, Zelie, who was passionately devoted to the Blessed Virgin, asked him to set the statue up in their home on the Rue Pont-Neuf.  He did so, and every evening the Martin family said their evening prayers before it.  At the end of prayers, the girls were allowed to kiss the statue's hands.  They carried out this little ceremony so fervently that Louis and Zelie had to keep a few extra pairs of hands for the statue around the house.

Close-up of St. Louis Martin's statue, later called "Our Lady of the Smile"


"The Blessed Virgin doesn't leave her place"

While she was praying before this statue, Zelie received special graces from Mary.  One day, her oldest daughter, Marie, thinking that this statue was too much like a school statue, asked her mother to replace it with a smaller and finer statue.  Zelie answered, "When I am dead, you can do as you like, but, while I'm here, the Blessed Virgin doesn't leave her place."  Marie said that her mother's May altar was more trouble to make than the one at the church. 

'Our Lady of the Smile' in Lisieux

After Zelie's death, when the Martins moved to Lisieux, they took the statue with them, and it occupied a place of honor in their new home, Les Buissonnets.  It was only after Therese was cured of a serious illness while she and her sisters were praying before this statue in 1883 that it became known as "the Virgin of the Smile."  We will encounter it again in Therese's story.  

"Our Lady of the Smile" in the Pavilion at Alencon today


A plaque that reads "It was here that Monsieur Martin, the father of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, before his marriage had placed the statue later called 'Our Lady of the Smile,' of which this one is a faithful replica."

The actual statue cherished by the Martin family stands today above St. Therese's shrine in the Lisieux Carmel.  This replica has been placed in the garden of the Pavilion at Alencon to mark the spot where St. Louis put the statue when Mlle. Beaudoin gave it to him.  

At the time of Louis and Zelie's beatification in 2015, the Pavilion came into the possession of the Church, and pilgrims may now visit it.  Louis brought his little girls here on outings, and they used to garden here, too.  This is only one of the joys that await pilgrims to Alencon, where the roots of the Martin family are.