The Little Flower — St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Third in a Series by Albert H. Dolan, O. Carm.

The Mighty Promises of the Little Flower

St. ThereseIt will not be inappropriate to sketch the life of the Little Flower and the history of devotion to her. Even those who are very familiar with her life will not find this repetition irksome, for the Little Flower's story is to adults what fairy tales are to children—perennially interesting and fascinating, no matter how often repeated. Indeed, there is something of the fairy tale about the history of the Little Flower. There is so much that is unusual and marvelous about it; it is so full of wonder, as we shall see.

The Little Flower's name in the world was Marie Frances Therese Martin. When she entered Carmel, she took the name of Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, but she is everywhere known as the Little Flower, the name which in humility she gives to herself, for she looked upon herself not as a great captain in God's army, not as a stalwart oak in God's kingdom, but as a simple, humble, little flower in God's garden.

The lives of the great men and women of this world may not be told in just one sentence. Although it is certainly true that the Little Flower is the best known woman of modern times, her life may be told in a single sentence: She was born in 1873 in Alençon in France, and at the age of fifteen she entered a Carmelite convent, where she died at the age of 24, in 1897. How apparently insignificant and unimportant is that life which may be so briefly sketched. She worked no miracles; she never was in the public eye; there was nothing remarkable about her life except her mighty prophecies, "I will spend my Heaven doing good upon earth. I will let fall a shower of roses." These prophecies she repeated constantly and confidently. She was certain of their fulfillment.

Suppose that some freethinker heard of these promises during the Little Flower's lifetime; suppose that someone had said to some skeptic of France, "There is a nun in Normandy, in a cloistered convent, who maintains that her work will begin after her death; that then she will become known everywhere—draw thousands of souls to God by spending her Heaven doing good upon earth." What would that unbeliever have said? He would have maintained that she was suffering from delusions. He would have predicted, "She will never be known five miles from her convent."

Yet how wonderfully her promises have already been fulfilled. She has been dead little more than a century and yet she is the most widely known and best beloved woman of modern times. She would have been scarcely over fifty years of age if she were alive at the time of her canonization—indeed, since the modern process of canonization began, she was canonized sooner after death than any other Saint. At the time of her canonization in 1925, she had been dead only 28 years, and yet she had already become the best beloved of the Saints—with devotion to her more widespread than devotion to any other Saint excepting the Holy Family. Therese Martin, who was born so obscurely and lived so hidden a life, who died at the age of 24, when most people are beginning their life's work, nevertheless foreknew and prophesied that after her death her work would begin; that after her death she would draw thousands of souls to God. And lo, already in 1925 the whole world was running after her; her pictures looked down from the walls of millions of homes; thousands of hearts were raised to her every day in prayer. The Holy Father, Pius XI, deigned to honor her himself with the very first canonization of that Holy Year. The great Basilica of St. Peter was illuminated for the first time since 1870 with sixty thousand torches in her honor on the day of her canonization. Her roses were let fall everywhere; roses of grace and healing. She numbered among her devotees the Holy Father himself, bishops, priests, nuns, young men and young women; people of all ages and condition of life—even children. She lived and died in obscurity, yet she had in a few short years captured the hearts and captivated the affections of the entire world.

What would the Little Flower have said if it had been prophesied to her, while she was alive, that only 28 years after her death the Holy Father, moving amid scenes of surpassing splendor, would solemnly enroll her name on the registers of the Saints? Would she have been surprised? I think not. She would have smiled in her simple way and have said, "Yes, God will make me known just that soon in order that my work may better be accomplished; my work of bringing thousands of little souls to Him." She would not have been surprised if it were prophesied to her that she, who in life was not known five miles from her convent, should in death be honored thousands of miles from her birthplace, honored by so many thousands.

Yes, the popularity of the Little Flower is one of the wonders of modern times. It is a standing marvel that the girl who never lifted her finger to become known should in so few years have won over the world, and this according to her own promise made with miraculous foresight.

St. ThereseWhat explains her popularity? First, God's will. God saw the modern world was buried in pride, prayerlessness and immorality. Accordingly, He sent to that world a messenger, the Little Flower, and her message was the necessity of prayer; the worth of humility; the beauty of purity. Since the Little Flower was the embodiment of these virtues, God provided, in His providence, that she, His messenger, should become known so soon. The spread of her devotion is God's will. Her popularity is explained also by the fulfillment of her promises. Everyone who practices habitual devotion to the Little Flower has experienced the marvelous power of her intercession. She has indeed kept her promise of "doing good upon earth," of "letting fall from Heaven a shower of roses;" roses of every kind of material and spiritual favors. Only a few years after her canonization, five volumes had already been written called "The Shower of Roses," each one containing account after account of marvelous favors attributed to her intercession.

How may we win the favor of this "wonder-worker of our own time?" First, by laboring to make her better known. She has revealed that the surest way to her favor, the chief means of securing her roses, is to labor to make her better known, in order that she may deliver her message to souls who do not know her. We may win her favor secondly by imitating her virtues. It is inconceivable that the Little Flower would bestow her favors indiscriminately upon all who come to her, independently of their state of soul. It is absurd to think that she would grant her favors as readily to those who come to her in a state of unrepented sin as to those who are in the friendship of God.

No doubt God has given her the gift of miracles, not for her own sake, but for His. His purpose is to attract attention to her, His messenger, in order that she may deliver His message, the message of the possibility of happiness in goodness; the message of the necessity of prayer and humility, the message of the beauty of purity and of the possibility of intimate friendship with God.

The conclusion from all this, is that those who accept this message of the Little Flower and try to become, like her, pure, humble, prayerful and little in God’s sight, are the ones most likely to receive favors from her. Let us look upon the Little Flower then as God's messenger and let us accept her message. Let us make the resolutions that are suggested by these thoughts and we will thereby become worthy to receive the roses that she lets fall from Heaven with the lavishness of a queen.

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