Our Catholic Church canonizes saints largely because successful models of Christian living are most helpful to us as we try to be better Catholics.  Saints are given to us not so much for our admiration as for our imitation.

                During the month of October, the church honors many saints.  St. Theresa of the Child Jesus was called by Pope Pius X “the greatest saint of modern times.”  She was born Marie-Francoise Therese Martin on January 2, 1873.  She was the last child of two devout and loving parents.  At the age of 4 ½, her mother died of cancer, and she was left in the care of her father, four sisters, and extended family.  Her first five years in school were extremely difficult, as she suffered from school phobia, and by the age of thirteen, two older sisters had left to enter the Carmelite Convent in Lisieux.  These multiple separations from early childhood through adolescence, were traumas that would certainly affect her deeply.  However, from her autobiography, Story of a Soul, we come to see her as a normal and loving child. 

                In 1882, at the age of ten, Therese suffered from a severe emotional disorder, once again due to separation.  But after one year of suffering from this tormenting disturbance, on May 13, 1883, she was blessed with a complete cure by the Blessed Virgin Mary, who appeared to her with a beautiful smile.

                Therese carefully discerned the signs of God’s presence in her life and what they meant to herself and for the Church.  In 1887, after reading of a mass murderer in Paris, she had one desire to save his soul.  She prayed and offered sacrifices for him and asked for a sign of repentance before he was sent to the guillotine.  At the last moment, he called for a crucifix and kissed the wounds of Jesus crucified twice before he died.  This unique grace increased her determination to pray for sinners. 

                On April 9, 1888, she entered the Carmelite Convent in Lisieux where two of her sisters were already professed.  From the beginning, the superior was impressed by her maturity, sound judgement and spirituality.  Here begins the journey that would one day bring her to the altar of the Church, as a saint. 

                During her nine years in the convent, her prayers crystallized in her real works of service and ministry to others.  She found new ways of loving Jesus.  She turned the mundane and ordinary concerns of daily existence to God and His relationship to us.  Through her readings of St. Paul and her own meditations, she came to realize that her vocation was love.  Thus, at the age of 24, she decided to do everything out of love.  Through small, daily and often hidden acts of love, service, and self-giving, she taught us that everyone can be present to God.  She taught us that the nothings of our lives, united to Christ, become treasures of grace. 

                Her greatness is that she taught us how to sanctify our humanness.  She challenges us to feel, to rediscover the mystery of love, and the courage to love – even the unlovable ones.  She makes us conscious of our resistance to loving.  She shows us that our life can be a permanent transformation in which all that is ordinary and natural can be elevated through love. 

                On September 30, 1897, at the age of 25, St. Therese of the Child Jesus died of tuberculosis after a heroic battle with this illness.  She said, “suffering joined to love is the only thing that appears to be desirable in this vale of tears.”  She linked suffering to redeeming others, and to complete abandonment, to whatever God wanted of her.

                Her life shows that emotional handicaps, traumas, various diseases, nothing can separate us from God’s merciful love.  Through the study of her life, we can learn that evangelical sanctity is within our reach.

                St. Theresa pray that each of us dedicated to you can find our holiness in the ordinary everyday things of life.