Europe October Saints

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Feast Day: October 1

How To Make French Apple Tart

Today we are feasting with… Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

To celebrate this feast day, we are making a French Apple Tart. This delightfully flaky puff pastry is adorned with slices of cinnamon-sugar-coated apples and arranged to look like a “little flower”.

The “Little Way” of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin, the youngest of nine children, was born in Alencon, France in A.D. 1873. Her father, Louis, was a successful watchmaker and jeweler. Her mother Zelie Guerin, was a skilled lacemaker.

After the death of her mother, when Thérèse was only four, her father, who referred to her as “my little queen” would give her anything she wanted to keep her happy.

Thérèse was a very sensitive little girl. At times, she seemed like a spoiled little girl, who would stomp her feet and have a temper tantrum if she did not get her own way. At a young age, this precocious child wanted everything.

Ailing both physically and emotionally, she was healed when she looked upon a statue of Our Lady at the age of eleven. She also experienced a profound conversion regarding her selfishness on Christmas Eve, 1886, at the age of fourteen.

Around this time she felt a call to enter Lisieux Carmel as a contemplative nun so that she could give herself totally to Jesus. However, she was told she was too young. Appeals to the Mother Superior and the Priest Chaplain yielded: “when you are old enough”.

Discontent with this reply, Thérèse and her father appealed to the Bishop. Again not getting the response she wanted, she appealed directly and personally to the Pope while on a parish pilgrimage to Rome. During their audience with the Pope, they had been asked not to speak to him, but that didn’t stop Thérèse. As soon as she got near him, she begged that he let her enter the Carmelite convent. She had to be carried out by two of the guards.

The Vicar General who had seen her courage was impressed and soon Thérèse, now fifteen, was admitted to the Carmelite convent that two of her sisters, Pauline and Marie, had already joined. She took the religious name Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. 

God’s Spirit worked powerfully in Thérèse, so open was she to Divine Love. Dreaming of taking on the world as a priest and missionary, she wrestled with her vocation and place in the Church. Finally, she came to realize that her “vocation is love.” The love of God was the energy source for the Church and fulfillment of the human heart and longing.

Despite her desire for a more exciting mission, Thérèse developed a simple spirituality that was based on childlike trust and confidence in God. The spirituality of her “little way” was not about doing extraordinary things – but rather about doing simple things of life well, and with extraordinary love.

She believed and taught that “everything is grace” – God’s face and presence could be experienced in every person and situation of our lives if we just attend with love and expectancy.

Her struggle, like ours, is to be where God places us in the real-life situations of our lives. This is what made Thérèse shine, her spirituality is simple, childlike, yet profound – it is refreshing in our confusing and complicated world.

Her poems and plays reflect her struggle to give all to God. Her Mother Superior (her sister Pauline) asked her to write down her reflections, which became her autobiography, Story of a Soul.

After a long struggle with tuberculosis, she died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. Believing that her life was really just beginning for God, and promising to spend her time in heaven doing good on earth. She promised to let fall a “shower of roses”. Her last words were: “My God, I love You!”

She was canonized by the Church in 1925. In October 1997, Pope John Paul II declared her a Doctor of the Church, because of the impact and challenge her spirituality has had on the lives of so many of God’s children.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is the patron saint of aviators, florists, illness(es), and missions.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us.

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