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I have spent most of my career as a French professor and a research librarian, and have been reinventing myself as a writer. I’m...

October 1 - Feast Day! - St. Therese of Lisieux

Today is the feastday of St. Therese of Lisieux, known now as “The Little Flower”. Her name originally was Therese Martin. She entered the Carmel while she was still a teenager, and died at the young age of twenty-four. She had wanted to be a missionary, but realized this would not be possible. Instead, she decided that her mission was “to be love in the heart of the church”. She was a remarkable saint for her self sacrifice in things small and large, living out the admonisition from Scripture to bear with one another.

In the year 2000, I visited the Carmel where St. Therese lived as a nun. I have to tell you that that entire day was totally remarkable. I began my visit walking to the Carmel to a light drizzle. I had not brought an umbrella, and I had developed some lung congestion in another city. So I asked St. Therese to stop the rain, because I had come to see her and I had no umbrella. You can imagine my shock when the rain stopped immediately. It did not return for the rest of the day.

I proceeded to the Carmel, and entered through the front door, which opened to the Chapel. As I pulled open that door, I felt as though I had been greeted by the Lord of the house. It was such a powerful experience that I had to kneel and pray. At first I thought i was the only person in the Chapel, but soon I realized there was a couple sitting in there also, as quiet as I was, as awed as I was. I could FEEL the holiness of the place!

I then felt drawn to look up and to the glass wall. To my surprise, there lay St. Therese in a glass coffin. She was absolutely lovely, as though she were just sleeping. She looked fresh as a daisy, though she has been dead for 100 years. I felt that she was definitely THERE, WITH US, GREETING US! (And she’s NOT a ZOMBIE! – This for one of my friends who is very interested in zombies!)

Then as we sat in the chapel, me and the couple I believed to be French, this almost unearthly beautiful chant began somewhere on the other side of the altar, not visible to us. The nuns were singing the hours. I understood how Therese could have been carried away when she heard it, wanting to be a nun. It was beautiful, uplifting, and pure. Very moving.

As I left the chapel, I noticed a little gift shop off to the side near the gate. So I went in and browsed a bit. The thing that most caught my eye were a series of bookmarks with various photos of St. Therese, each one with a different and powerful quote from this beautiful saint. I bought quite a few of them, a stack. I left Lisieux sitting on the train, and started writing postcards to send to family and friends. As I looked out the window, there was a RAINBOW! It felt so perfect after the incredible day I’d had visiting St. Therese. I knew she must have had something to do with it. The Rainbow is the sign of salvation, by the way, and it reminded me of another true story of a rainbow, but I won’t go into that here.

When I returned to Paris, I made my way to the airport for my flight back home. On the large airplane, I happened to sit next to some Americans returning home from their visit also, people I had met just before boarding. We began talking about our vacations in France and each told their story. Some did not really enjoy their time there. So I shared my experiences, told them a bit about St. Therese also, and showed them the bookmarks. EVERYBODY wanted a bookmark and claimed the ones they liked the best. We discussed the life of St. Therese and they were as moved as I had been. A few girls who had vacationed together talked the stewardess into giving us the fixings for Mimosas. So we were laughing and talking. It was one of the best trips ever, and I realized that we’d had St. Therese in our midst doing what she always wanted to do. She was using my little visit to do her awesome missionary work on that airplane. She had touched hearts, as she had touched mine. It was the most perfectly lovely flight I think I have ever taken. I enjoyed their company, the mimosas, and St. Therese’s little mission.

If you want to read more about her, there are web sites telling about her. So here’s the Wikipedia page on St. Therese:

Therese has inspired other saints as well. Mother Teresa took her name from the “Little Flower”, but changed the spelling. I’m sure the Little Flower was there with her all the time. She continues to inspire all who turn to her.

So happy feast day, St. Therese! Please intercede with the Lord for us!

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