Feast day: October 1
Each year a triduum is celebrated on September 29, 30 and October 1. The following prayer to St Thérèse of Lisieux is said at the triduum and also at the weekly St Jude Novena (Tuesdays at 8.00pm) and at which the people are blessed with the relic of St Thérèse:
Prayer to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus,
during your short life on earth
you taught us the little way of love
and confidence in the goodness of God our Father.
You promised, too, that after your death
you would let fall ‘a shower of roses’
and come to the aid of those
who would ask your intercession.
Obtain for us from God
the graces we ask for from his infinite goodness.
Help us to love him and make him greatly loved.
Grant that we may so follow you
in humility and simplicity of heart,
that we may finally reach our true homeland in heaven.
O Saint Thérèse, Patroness of the Missions,
pray for us and for all priests
and missionaries throughout the world.
St Thérèse was born in 1873, at Alençon in France, the youngest of a family of nine girls, four of whom died in infancy. After their mother died of cancer, the family moved to Lisieux, and there the girls came to know the Discalced Carmelite nuns. Four of them entered the Lisieux convent; Thérèse at an early age in 1888. In 1893, Thérèse was appointed assistant mistress of novices. She died of tuberculosis on 30th September 1897.
The Lisieux convent, and especially Thérèse’s own sisters in it, became convinced, even before Thérèse died, of her holiness. They had made her write a brief autobiography and an account of her spiritual teaching. Thérèse told her sister, Pauline (Mother Agnes), to cut and edit her writing as she judged fit. Mother Agnes did considerable rewriting on the saint’s original texts — which, published as they stood, would have made no appeal to the literary taste of the contemporary public. In 1898, the Lisieux Carmel had 2,000 copies printed of The Story of a Soul; a bold venture, for how would they ever sell them? Even with Mother Agnes’s editing, some Carmelite convents did not like the new book! But in twelve years, it sold 47,000 copies, and the demand went on rising.
The unknown Thérèse from a French provincial convent was acclaimed as a saint, and a great spiritual teacher — because of her “little way”. Thérèse had said that she wanted to spend her heaven doing good on earth — it seemed those who prayed to her for help were finding that her wish had been granted. Thérèse’s cause was introduced in 1914, she was beatified in 1923, and canonised in 1925. One of the most popular, if not the most popular, saints of modern times, she has been named, with St Francis Xavier, patron of Catholic missions. Thérèse was an extraordinary person and one of great strength. Her ambitions to do great things for God were boundless: she wanted to be a priest, a missionary, a martyr, a crusader, all at once. Joan of Arc was her heroine, and a Russian Orthodox writer has claimed that they resemble each other closely, almost alone among saints; these two do not see holiness as an ascent from earth to heaven, but the reverse; they try to bring heaven down to earth. For others, Thérèse’s “little way” is the little way of ordinary folk, it is not a teaching confined to the routine of a Carmelite convent, but a teaching for the routine of daily life everywhere.
The Shrine of St Thérèse in Whitefriars Street Church was blessed in September 1955 by the Rt. Rev Mgr Vernon Johnson of St James’, Spanish Place, London. The statue of the saint, designed in marble, is a replica of the statue of the saint over the High Altar in the crypt of the Basilica in Lisieux. It stands on its plinth with an impressive background which depicts, in mosaic, Our Lady of the Smile, which was originally designed for the Church of St Sulpice, Paris, by Bouchardon in 1750.