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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

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.

Anniversary of the beatification of Sister Therese of the Child Jesus (April 29, 1923) - A contemporary newspaper article about the beatification from the Australian newspaper "Southern Cross"


from the Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), Friday 22 June 1923, page 5



(Special from Catholic News Service).

ROME, May 5.—More than 25,000 persons are estimated to have been present at the ceremonies in St. Peter's when the Beatification of Sister Teresa of the Holy Child Jesus (known as the Little Flower) was solemnly proclaimed in the presence of the Cardinals. In this vast crowd were numerous French pilgrims, members of the French episcopate and in the tribune the French Ambassador to the Vatican with the members of his suite.

Cardinal Vico, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, presided at the first ceremony, held in the morning. In the canons' stalls in the choir were the members of the Chapter of St. Peter's, with Archpriest Cardinal Merry del Val at their head. It was a ceremony both splendid and brilliant. After the Postulator of the Cause had asked for and received the canonical permission the Canon Archivist of the Vatican Chapter read out the Brief of Pius XI, whereby the Venerable Teresa of Lisieux became Blessed Teresa. As the reading of the document was ended, the relics of the new Beata were uncovered, and the great pictures unrolled. Then the bells clanged out with a mighty peal and the Bishop of Bayeux intoned the Te Deum, during the singing of which he incensed the relics and images of the new Beata.

During the afternoon the second ceremony took place, at which the Holy Father was present in person. Wearing the camail and red stole over his white cassock, and accompanied by the whole of the Pontifical Court, his Holiness entered by way of the Chapel of the Pieta, where he was waited upon by the assembled Cardinals. A flourish on the silver trumpets announced the entry of the Pontiff, who assisted at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and afterwards accepted the special offerings which are customary on such an occasion. The offerings to the Pope were a picture of Blessed Teresa, a handsomely bound life illuminated on parchment, and a very fine gilt reliquary of the 17th century, enclosing a portion of the relics. The acceptance of the offerings ended the Papal ceremony, and the Pope left the basilica, passing on the sedia gestatoria through a double line of the Palatine Guards, who were on duty in gala uniform. As on his entry, the silver trumpets playing Silveri's triumphal march signalised the Pope's departure from St. Peter's, where the crowd lingered on in devotion.

The ceremony was inspiring, though it very naturally lacked the plenitude of a Canonisation—the scenes witnessed at St. Joan of Arc are unforgettable, and all unwillingly invite a comparison. But this Beatification has been a great joy to France, and nothing could have been more moving than the rapt attention and devotion on the faces of the French pilgrims as they assisted whilst Little Teresa of Lisieux was exalted in the Church's hierarchy of the Saints.

Posted on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 06:55PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan in | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

April 28: the birthday of Therese's sister, Celine Martin, later Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face


Celine Martin as a young girl

April 28 is the birthday of Celine Martin, St. Therese's sister.  Celine, the eighth child of St. Louis and St. Zelie Martin, was born on April 28, 1869 in the house at rue Pont-Neuf in Alencon where all the Martin children except Therese were born.  She was baptized on September 5, 1869 at St. Pierre de Monsort, which was the Martin family's parish church in Alencon until they moved to rue St. Blaise in 1871.  She was three years and eight months old when, on January 2, 1873, her baby sister, Therese, was born.

Celine and Therese were remarkably intimate; Therese called Celine "the sweet echo of my soul."  They were separated for six years, from 1888, when Therese entered the Carmelite monastery, until 1894, when Celine herself entered.  A hundred years ago, on April 26, 1892, Therese sent to Celine, for her 23rd birthday, a double daisy (one stem with two flowers) with an important letter explaining the double daisy as a symbol of their two souls knit into one. (from the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux).   

When Celine was in Lisieux, she saw her Carmelite sisters in the speakroom every week.  In a week in which they had visited, the Carmelites were not usually allowed to write to her, so many of their letters date from times Celine was on vacation or otherwise away.  But, when her birthday approached, Celine used to abstain from visiting that week in order to be able to receive a letter from her sisters.  Fortunate for us!  

Learn more about Celine Martin.

Posted on Friday, April 28, 2017 at 06:35PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint