Lisieux, France: Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus
The story of Saint Therese of Lisieux:
Lisieux is the most visited shrine in France after Lourdes. Dominating the town is the huge Basilica, built in honor of one of the best-loved saints of our time, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, better known as St. Therese of Lisieux, or the Little Flower. Born on January 2, 1873, she lost her mother to breast cancer when she was only four and a half. Her family then moved into Les Buissonnets.
At ten years old, she became seriously ill and the doctors said there was no hope for recovery. On May 13th, 1883 (which happened to be the Feast of Pentecost that year), at the end of a novena to Our Lady of Victories, the statue of the Virgin Mary in Theresa’s room smiled at her and she was completely healed. Two of her sisters joined the Carmelite convent and she felt called to join herself, desiring to save sinners by offering herself completely to the Lord. She personally petitioned Pope Leo XIII in Italy to enter the Carmel at age 15, and she eventually entered later that year.
On September 30, 1897, Therese died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. After she died, everything at the convent seemed to be as it was before. There was little thought to any lasting impression that she might have made here on earth.
One nun commented that there was nothing to say about Therese. But her sister, Pauline, put together Therese’s writings and sent 2000 copies to other convents. Therese’s “little way” of trusting in Jesus to make her holy and relying on small daily sacrifices instead of great deeds appealed to the thousands of Catholics and others who were trying to find holiness in ordinary lives. Within two years, the Martin family had to move because her notoriety was so great and by 1925 she had been canonized. St. Therese was declared a Doctor of the Church on October 19, 1997 by Pope John Paul II.
Shortly before her death, Therese confided : “Yes, I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth… I would like to help priests, missionaries, the whole church.” This is why many priests have wished to entrust themselves to her and walk in her footsteps. Therese of Lisieux is one of the patron saints of the missions, not because she ever went anywhere, but because of her special love of the missions, and the prayers and letters she gave in support of missionaries.
This is reminder to all of us who feel we can do nothing, that it is the little things that keep God’s kingdom growing.
About the Basilica:
The Magnificent Basilica erected in her honor (shown here) has a chapel that holds her body in a reliquary as well as relics along with the statue that smiled at St. Therese. You can also visit her family home where she grew up (les Buissonets).
Traveling to Lisieux:
The shrine is in easy reach of Paris by train–the journey takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes on the non-stop trains. Trains leave almost every hour from Saint Lazare station (remember there are 4 major train stations in Paris, corresponding to the four points of the compass). There are also a couple of other train stations so be sure to check which station has service to Lisieux.
The train station in Lisieux is at the foot of the hill leading up to the Basilica as you can see from the photo on the right. A bit of a climb, but not too bad. Driving by car is a bit longer of course, taking about 2 1/2 hours and there is parking available at the Basilica.
Address: Avenue Jean XXIII, 14100 Lisieux
GPS coordinates: 49° 8′ 22.2324” N, 0° 14′ 9.5892” E
Tel: +33 02 31 48 55 00 — Fax: +33 02 31 48 55 25
Click here for the official website of the Shrine of Saint Therese in Lisieux
There is also a shrine dedicated to Saint Therese in the U.S. at Juneau, Alaska.