Who was the Little Flower?

Who was the "Little Flower"?  And what does the life of a 19th-century French Carmelite nun, cosseted by her parents, raised on a diet of the overheated Catholic piety of the time, and cloistered for the last few years of her short life, have to say to you?  Here is a newly released video on the life of Therese Martin, aka, St. Therese of Lisieux, from Loyola Productions, excerpted from the DVD "Who Cares about the Saints?" 


Who Cares About the Saints? (Therese of Lisieux) from Loyola Productions on Vimeo.

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Frank Gibbons
7 years 7 months ago
St. Therese is remarkable because she reminds us how we are called to love Jesus beyond all distraction.  Pray for us, St Therese, that we might love Him more every day!
Ashley Green
7 years 7 months ago
"Overheated Catholic piety"?  I guess it's too bad that St. Therese was so unsophisticated as to be unembarrased by such an intense and all-consuming love for Christ. Please let us know what other saints we should condescendingly admire from our more enlightened vantage point.
david power
7 years 7 months ago
It is probably one of the best phrases that Fr Martin has ever written.
St Therese was fantastic but we cannot pretend to live in her world.
Also it must be remembered that standards for sainthood are so low now that even a man who knowingly protected pedophiles is well on the way to the altar. Your request may be met in the thousands. 
The article simply points out that St Therese was the product of a certain piety,nothing more.It was an incredible piety and anybody who has read her book knows here was the real deal in sanctity. 
7 years 7 months ago
Thank you, Fr. Jim, for the beautiful video and reflection on St. Therese.  She is one of my favorite saints, too.  In college French class we read her autobiography in French and recently I read it in English and must say, I did get a lot more out of it this time.! For several years I've been saying her "Daily Prayer for Priests", so needed now when our clergy is often maligned.

O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests;  For your unfaithful and tepid priests;  For your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields.  For your tempted priests;  For your lonely and desolate priests;  For your young priests; For your dying priests;  For the souls of your priests in Purgatory.

But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me:  The priest who baptized me;  The priests who absolved me from my sins;  The priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion;  The priests who taught and instructed me:

All the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way (especially................).

O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart.  And Bless them abundantly in time and in Eternity.

Mark Harden
7 years 7 months ago
In fact, it was Karl Rahner who had contempt for St Therese. Rahner wrote

"Many things in this saint and her writings irritate me or quite simply bore me. And if I set out to explain what nearly nauseates me, so that people would understand it, that would still not account for the fact that I took the trouble to do so. There are so many things in the world to deal with that do not necessitate a long exegesis." (Christliche Innerlichkeit, 1973, cited in Fr. Bernard Bro's "St Therese of Lisieux: Her Family, Her God, Her Message")

What a shortsighted, egocentric, overly intellectual assessment. I imagine the Jesuit theologian turned over in hsi grave when the Little Flower was named a Doctor of the Church.

"raised on a diet of the overheated Catholic piety of the time"

I know Fr. Martin has responded (well) above to what he feels is a mischaracterizaiton of this remark, but I can only say I pray to God our society would return to that sort of piety, if it is able to produce humble saints such as St Therese. 
7 years 7 months ago
Norman, I think you are so right about the difficulty in loving some family members.  Having grown up in a very large extended family, I can witness to that.  Loving and being loved and all the difficulties involved, starts in the family as we well know.  That intimate setting is repeated most clearly in situations of forced closeness, eg. dormitory living, convents, monasteries, the military.  I think about Therese in the Carmel and how she so lovingly and humbly lived with the other nuns, some of whom envied her and caused her no small amount of pain.  ( Fr. Jake Martin in his review of "Bridesmaids" has some pertinent comments to make about Christian community living). 

Another aspect of family living that carries over to future relationships is the role that various family members take in their own family.  In the Martin family, the father was the doting member of his four daughters, particularly his youngest, Therese.  After their mother's death, Marie and Pauline took over the motherly role as Therese was only four years old at the time.  They loved, nurtured and supported her throughout her life.  They were well-suited to be "mothers" in their leadership roles in the convent.  Therese had a toughness about her.  She had learned to not only survive but grow in holiness after losing her real mother.  That takes courage, strength and receptiveness to the grace of God.  I love that about her.

It may be spiritually worthwhile to consider our own roles in our families and how they have played out in our lives, using the Martin family as an example.  In my family I was the peacemaker and second mother to my sister who is much younger than me.  Those traits served me well as a mother of children with special needs and in my profession of social work.  But, not so well in personal relationships.  It has always been a challenge to me to control the need to mother, to be "Earth Mother" to all and to try to bring peace to relationships where it is not wanted.  I have had failures along the way, including a recent humbling experience.  God tells us it is never too late to learn!  St. Therese pray for us.  Sisters Marie and Pauline, pray for us.
7 years 7 months ago
I am  offended by the shocking disrespect some Postings show towards St. Therese of Lisieux  and for  personally attacking Jesuit priest James Martin an  internationally recognized  authority on sanctity. For his defense of Doctor of the Church, Therese Martin, some wag their heads incredulously, reminding me of the Calvary scene where some heads also wagged in disbelief unable to recognize truth.
St. Therese is the answer to the cold, bloodless and robotic mentality of our electronic age! She repels  proud minds but attracks humble hearts, enfleshing the word of God which assures, “God gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud!”  Professor Rahner may have found her body of work “nauseating” but now in the Land of the Living I see him sitting at her feet listening attentively to her teachings and behind her the Blessed Trinity stands nodding affirmatively!
I think everyone should remember that people from whom saints come are filled with flaws, holes like in slices of Swiss Cheese. For the saints these flaws or  “holes” become conduits through which grace flows, producing something altogether “other.” Doctor Therese Martin is a good example deserving  credit and adulation for a job well done! 
P.S. DAVID  POWER, the same applies to Blessed Pope John Paul II. I don’t think he “knowing protected pedophiles” no more than did Jesus protect adulterous men when he told the women caught in adultery to “go and sin no more” but did nothing to bring her attacker to justice!
7 years 7 months ago
Norman -
I have no desire to get into an “you say, I say”  exchange of ideas and opinions on Post submissions, but something you said is very bothersome, so allow this final exchange to you.
You said, “We all know that JPII did knowingly protect pedophiles and we know why he did.”  You continued, asserting that JPII did so because he believed Holy Orders gave the priest a permanent change of soul and special spiritual strength to overcome all evil.
Everything you say seems not just fantastic, but absolutely unreal! If there is irrefutable evidence to back up your remarks, I must be totally blind as I have never come across any verification. The only permanent change I know about that happens through Holy Orders is a permanent marking on the soul of the priestly character, something spiritually indelible, a sacramental outcome shared by two other sacraments - Baptism and Confirmation. Once Baptized into Christ it cannot be erased and once Confirmed into Christ that too cannot be erased. Once  a priest always a priest, once a Christian always a Christian, once Sealed in the Spirit, always sealed in the Spirit. What we do with these gifts depends entirely on us. Priests are no less prone to sin and sin again than non-priests so I don’t understand at all this special strength to overcome evil that you spoke of. Thanks for hearing me out, but.
Mark Harden
7 years 7 months ago
Bruce, my understanding is that sacramentally, ordination causes more than just the permanent mark on the soul of Baptism and Confirmation. It effects an ontological change in the man ordained. See


Pope John Paul wrote extensively about this in his apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis.
Here’s a key passage from Cardinal O’Connor:

“In my judgment, this concept of the ontological nature of the priesthood, is critical. We don’t just put on vestments; we don’t just receive an assignment. Neither makes us priests. We become priests at ordination. There is an “ontological change” in our spiritual nature. Such is a profound mystery. Is it too bold an analogy to compare the change to Christ the Son of God’s retaining His Divinity while becoming a man? Or to observe that after bread becomes the Sacred Body of Christ, it still tastes like bread and feels like bread, but is now the Body of Christ? There has been an ontological change. A cup of wine still smells like wine and tastes like it, but it is now the Blood of Christ. At ordination an ontological change takes place.”

david power
7 years 7 months ago

I know people who would argue about how angels can be in many different places at once etc and I think they may have a confused theology as did the late Pope but see it as nothing more.
With all due respect to Fr Martin he is not an internationally respected authority on sanctity.I have asked him a couple of  times to explain sanctity and he has never answered.I would ask very simple how can a man who protects pedophiles like Maciel and Groer and be so chummy with Law be a saint?How could a man who obstructed the paths of justice and the work of the CDF be a saint?Are saints always overcome with such worldly thinking  like "this guy has the seminaries full"? Knowing that there were thousands of victims what did the great saint do?He stressed that the abusers were a small minority.Translation "let's move on". He removed Pedro Arrupe from his position at the helm of the Jesuits so he must have thought that the Holy Spirit was no longer on the case.
Rather than a mystical thinking I see a very worldly thinking.The same saintly Pope who wouldn't shake hands with Priests not in priestly garb would give the holy eucharist to a non-catholic pro-abortion politician.Why?It served his cause.The money aspect is only being looked at now. The Papacy of Wojtyla was for the buying.He always turned a blind eye to all of the shenanigans that went on.Cardinal Sepe is being investigated.Cardinal Sodano's family look corleonesque.There are many examples.This is what is meant by "personal holiness".It means nothing can stick to him.Others did the dirty work.Clientism was the reign of the day.Soon we will see the Cloyne report in Ireland and the Bishop there who was also a pedophile protector Magee was an ex-papal secretary.His only possible merit to the role of bishop was that he knew the late great  jOhnny ace. He encouraged and helped build up a cult of personality around himself.This was the chief task of Navarro-valls.Carefully selecting images and revealing anecdotes and always working on narrative. It worked brilliant.    

Frank Gibbons
7 years 7 months ago
David Power,

Say, what?
7 years 7 months ago
Thanks, I stand corrected.  I accept JPII’s teaching on the  functional  ontological change in being that takes place through Holy Orders, which does set the recipient apart to act in persona Christi. The priest does become, mysteriously, and ever remains so, an “alter Christi” which does not change no matter the sin, or crime committed. Once a priest, always a priest.
Now I am not a theologian, but in its own way is not this also true of Baptism, which ontologically changes human nature into something ”other” producing an ontological change in being, formerly incapable ,but now  capable of participating in the Divine Nature, setting that person apart by election, conferring the ”right” to an actual  son/daughter relationship to the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit? This makes possible configuration to Christ through Holy Orders,  which could not happen apart from Baptism, meaning that Holy Orders gets its efficacy from and through Baptism of which Confirmation is its “other part.” Is this not why Baptism holds primacy of place within the sacramental system, the conduit through which, and from which, all grace flows?  Like Holy Orders, Baptism cannot be undone. So it seems to me.
Maureen O'Riordan
7 years 7 months ago
Dear Fr. Jim,

Thank you for this thoughtful reflection on St. Therese.  If Karl Rahner did not appreciate her, Hans Urs von Balthasar did, and I am happy to see a contemporary Jesuit author who loves her so much. 

You mentioned that Therese often sought out the nun she disliked, Sister Therese of St Augustine.  She went so far in this matter that her older sister, Marie, once said sadly ''After all, God made family ties, and now she loves that sister, whom I can't stand, more than she does me!''  And, when Therese was directing her sister Celine, then a Carmelite novice, she wanted to encourage Celine in her efforts to overcome her natural dislikes, so she told Celine how much effort it cost her to act lovingly toward someone she did not like.  Celine remarks ''When, on top of it all, she named the object of her daily struggles, I was stunned:  I had always thought this sister was her best friend.'' 

To see other resources about St. Therese, please visit my Web site ''St. Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway'' at http://thereseoflisieux.org. 
david power
7 years 7 months ago
BTW Norman,

I truly appreciate all that you wrote in the previous posting and once again find your views very interesting.The Vision that you present of the Pope is a compelling one and a deeply spiritual reading of things. I see it as a problem of clericalism though.His mind was that of a company man.
His father was a army Captain just like the current Pope's father was a police officer.Even if people don't like to admit it that has an effect.That is why I see so many bishops into socialism.
They are deeply embedded in a system,a structure.Fascists were no threat to this system and so the Church let them slide.Communists were and so the Church smelled the end of the status  Quo. Power is to be used I think.If he were speaking to a fellow man of power he would think of him in another way.Roncalli of peasant stock saw things and people differently.  
Jp2  would never have liked that children be raped and would have been sickened by it but if it is a choice between the system he has preserved all  his life and some victims he will do what has to be done. Children losing their innocence is one thing but Priests losing their authority is another. 


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