Life of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

St. Teresa of Jesus St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus
Saint Teresa de Jesus St. Therese of the Infant Jesus

Saint Teresa de Jesus
St. Therese of the Infant Jesus

When people enter the religious life they take new names to signify their calling from God. When she entered the Carmelite Monastery Marie Francoise Therese Martin chose the religious name 'Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face'. Therese had great devotion to the Infant Jesus. Her spirituality was a childlike simplicity trusting in God's love. The Carmelite Monastery of Lisieux held great devotion to the suffering Holy Face of Jesus reflected on the veil of Veronica. There was even an outdoor shrine in the cloister garden. St. Therese of Jesus is said to have constantly searched for the hidden Holy Face of Jesus in everyone and everything, So she took 'The Holy Face' as the second part of her religious name. She explained: "I desire that, like the Face of Jesus, my face be truly hidden that no one on earth would know me. I thirsted after suffering and I longed to be forgotten."

On Christmas, just a few days before St.Therese fourteenth birthday, she experienced what she described as "my conversion." Legends tell that Saint Therese of the Child Jesus wanted to enter the Carmelite convent but knew she must learn to handle her emotionally outbursts first. She prayed but received no answer until Christmas Day of 1886. It was a Christmas custom in France that children left their shoes by the hearth so their parents would fill them with gifts. By the age of fourteen most children outgrew the custom but one of the older sisters did not want Therese to grow up so the family tradition continued. That day as she and her sister climbed the stair after returning home and leaving their shoes by the hearth heard their father sigh, "Thank goodness that's the last time we shall have that kind of thing." Theresa's expected tantrum never occurred. She swallowed her tears and accepted the gifts as if she had never heard her father speak.

Later Theresa of Jesus wrote of the incident in her autobiography, "The Story of a Soul" published in 1898 after her death: "On that blessed night the sweet infant Jesus, scarcely an hour old, filled the darkness of my soul with floods of light. By becoming weak and little, for love of me, He made me strong and brave: He put His own weapons into my hands so that I went on from strength to strength, beginning, if I may say so, 'to run as a giant."

An indelible impression had been made on this attuned soul; she claimed that the Holy Child had healed her of undue sensitiveness and "girded her with His weapons."
After midnight Mass, Christmas, 1886, the shadow of self-doubt, depression and uncertainty suddenly lifted from Therese of the Infant Jesus, leaving her in possession of a new calm and inner conviction. Grace had intervened to change her life as she was going up the stairs at her home.

The third and last period of her life was about to begin. Therese of the Child Jesus called that third period her life's "most beautiful" when she embarked on her "Giant's Race". She was consumed like Jesus with a thirst for souls. "My heart was filled with charity. I forgot myself to please others and, in doing so, became happy myself".

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