Patroness of the Missions, St. Thérèse of Lisieux

World Mission Month begins celebrating the patroness of the Missions, St. Thérèse of Lisieux

“Mission in Scripture” . Reflections on missionary themes in Scripture for the Memorial of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus (October 1, 2021)

St Therese of Lisieux was a Carmelite nun, a saints in the Catholic church and co-patron of the missions. Also known as the Little Flower, she was a devout young French woman who died at an early age 24, but has influenced the hearts and spirits of people around the globe. Her deep faith was passed along to her by her parents, Zelie and Louis Martin, who are now also canonized saints. At age 15, Thérèse entered the Carmel at Lisieux which three of her sisters also joined. Her life, although short, included a great deal of spiritual and physical hardship that she always offered to God, saying “Everything is grace.” She had a great dedication to the welfare of priests and missionaries and those they served. 

In the Gospel for today, the 1st of October, we hear Jesus tell the disciples whom He sent out to preach His word that “Whoever listens to you listens to Me” (Luke 10:16). Clearly St. Therese had an intense personal longing to share the Good News. Out of her love for Christ, she expressed her missionary zeal in this way, “In spite of my littleness, I would like to enlighten souls as did the Prophets and the Doctors. I have the vocation of the Apostles. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach Your Name and to plant Your glorious cross.… I would want to preach the Gospel on all the…continents and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years only but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages.”  

St Therese of Lisieux

Within a few years of St. Thérèse’s agonizing death from tuberculosis in 1897, her autobiography “Story of a Soul” was published. It gained popularity around the world, offering what she called her “little way” of serving God with love at every moment. Despite the little flowers, the starry nights and the lisping tributes to her “heavenly Papa,” there is also a soul on fire, a chevalier of the Spirit and a knight of Christ the King.  With the heart of a gladiator, Thérèse says on her cruel deathbed suffering from Tuberculosis, “When I think I’m dying in bed, I would want to die in an arena!”

In the marvelous ways of providence, the little Carmelite did become a missionary.  Her relics have been taken to every continent in the world; and wherever they appear, thousands flock to venerate them.  Souls are saved.  Confessions are heard.  Sins are forgiven.  Heretics are converted.  Hearts are melted.  Her wish to be a missionary was fulfilled after her death.

Declared a saint in 1925, she became co-patron of the missions, along with St. Francis Xavier, just two years later. In 2015, she was named a Doctor of the Church. The Little Flower is a wonderful reminder of all that can be done by those who put themselves into God’s hands. 

Suggested missionary action: As we begin World Mission Month, we can salute St. Thérèse’s dedication to Christ and her earnest desire to draw all people closer to Him by offering the World Mission Rosary. We can regularly pray for missionaries and those to whom they share the Gospel –and all who spread the light of Christ.