In spite of the intense love she experienced as part of her upbringing, her young life was not without tragedy. Her mother died of breast cancer when Therese was 4 years old. Her oldest sister, Pauline, became her second mother, but entered the Carmelite cloister 5 years later. Therese was so devastated, that she fell ill, and was thought to be near death. When she heard her sisters asking the Blessed Mother to pray for a cure, Therese looked up at the statue of Mary in her room and noticed Mary smiling at her. She was instantly cured.
Her next 2 sisters, Marie and Leonie, were the next to join the convent. Therese was left alone with her sister Celine and her father. She was her father's favorite, and didn't help out with any of the housework. If she had any inkling that she was being criticized for anything, she would burst into tears.
Therese was interested in following her sisters into the convent, but others questioned her ability to handle the cloistered life because she couldn't even handle her own emotional life. She turned to Christ and prayed for help.
The Christmas when Therese was 14, she returned from Midnight Mass, and went upstairs with Celine to put away their hats. Most children of 14 had long outgrown the French custom of putting out their shoes on Christmas Eve to be filled with gifts, but not Therese. Her father came to the bottom of the stairs, looked at her shoes that were waiting to be filled for presents and said, "I am glad this is the last year I will have to do this."
Celine looked at Therese and waited for the inevitable outburst that never occurred. Christ had answered Therese's prayer by coming into her heart and doing something that she herself could never have done. He kept her calm and filled with His love. She deliberately descended the stairs and exclaimed over the gifts, thanking her father as if she had never heard what he said. From that day on, she never forgot her "Christmas Conversion" experience.
The following year, after having to go the bishop and the pope for permission, Therese entered the convent where she died at the age of 24.
She is often seen as a sometimes sickeningly sweet saint, but she is a model for us Christians in the West who have been given so much, but still must turn to Christ for the will to be generous and gracious instead of spoiled and pouting in the face of all our blessings.
Her "little way" is the perfect way to God for those of us who feel that we are not called, do not have the opportunity, or the wherewithal to do "big things" for God. She literally "offered up" her everyday annoyances to Christ to grow closer to Him.
Her death of tuberculosis came after a struggle with a "Dark Night of the Soul", similar to, although not nearly as long as the one Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta has recently been revealed to have suffered.
The picture above is a photograph of the actual statue that was in Therese's room when she was cured of her illness in May of 1883 from www.TheLittleWay.com.
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, the Little Flower, Pray for Us!