Lisieux, France: Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus
The parents of Saint Therese of Lisieux:
To appreciate the life of Saint Therese of Lisieux, it is useful to know her family history. Her father, Zelle Martin was born into a military family in Bordeaux. Louis trained to become a watchmaker. He wanted to join a religious community, but was denied the opportunity becaus he didn’t know Latin. Moving to Normandy, he met a highly-skilled lace maker, Zélie Guérin, who also had been disappointed in her attempts to enter religious life. They married in 1858, and over the years were blessed with nine children, losing two sons and two daughters that died in infancy.
Louis managed the lace-making business that Zélie continued at home while raising their children. She died from breast cancer in 1877.
Louis then moved the family to Lisieux to be near his brother and sister-in-law, who helped with the education of his five surviving girls. His health began to fail after Terese entered the Monastery of Mount Carmel at Lisieux in 1888. Louis died in 1894, a few months after being committed to a sanitarium.
The holiness of this couple and the way they raised their children resulted in them being beatified in 2008, and canonized by Pope Francis on October 18, 2015. They are entombed here in the Basilica as well.
We celebrate the feast of Saints Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin on July 12.
About Saint Therese of Lisieux:
The home that Louis and Zélie created nurtured the sanctity of all their children, but especially their youngest, who is known to us as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, born on January 2, 1873.
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 of St. Therese of Lisieux:
Lisieux is the most visited shrine in France after Lourdes. Dominating the town is the huge Basilica, built in honor of Saint Therese. The Magnificent Basilica erected in her honor (shown below, from the train station) has a chapel that holds her body in a reliquary, as well as various 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 and makes a perfect day trip if you are staying in Paris–the journey takes about 1 hour and 50 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). Get train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here.
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 are several shrines dedicated to Saint Therese in the U.S.
Juneau, Alaska: Shrine of Saint Therese
Royal Oak, Michigan National Shrine of the Little Flower
San Antonio, Texas: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower