Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus: How Family Makes Saints

Grace to you!
 
Thousands of pilgrims were in attendance at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome on Sunday, October 18, 2015, to witness the canonization of Marie-Azelie and Louis Martin, the parents of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus.  
 
During the homily in the serenity of the solemn Eucharistic celebration, the Holy Father Pope Francis stated: “The holy spouses, Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin practiced Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters, among whom was Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.”  
 
Saints Marie-Azelie and Louis Martin are the first-ever married couple with children to be canonized at the same Liturgical ceremony. History was made. 
 
It is people who make history. The Martins did, and in a big way—the way of sanctity. In this context, I look at the story of Saint Theresa (January 2, 1873 – September 30, 1897), popularly known as The Little Flower. Her appreciation and practice of virtue started in the home, the church of the home. Modeling the way for the child, as Proverbs 22:6 admonishes, is rewarding. 
 
From her parents, Saints Zelie and Louis Martin, Thérèse saw pure love and felt God’s enduring love. In that home, she never heard voices raised, hate discussed, materialism promoted and immodesty approved. Love and kindness trumped. She saw beauty as it is and realized how God was seen in the family’s life and activities. Suffering and sickness were not to take away the joy of that home.  
 
So for the girl Therese, the home nurtured the saint. We need to pay attention to the impact our examples could have on children. Children practice what they learn from home, just as they practice what they learn elsewhere, including what they copy from the media at home. Watchful care is essential. A tender, pure, and loving example is vital.
 
The Little Flower’s example of “the little way” is spiritually brilliant. “Doing ordinary things extraordinarily,” sounds simple, but it is profound. It’s a spiritual model that could permeate every aspect of our lives today if we live up to it. Often, in those little acts of love, the holiness of life flourishes, and God is glorified.
 
Simple acts like house cleaning, making our bed, and keeping the restroom better than we saw it could mean so much in our spiritual life. There are also other gestures such as a genuine smile to a stranger, proper use of time, not wasting food, giving somebody a listening ear, simple acts of charity, and spontaneous prayers in response to a prayer-burden. In doing these things with the purest love, we can find the way of perfection.
 
The temptation to be known, to be famous, or to do incredible things is huge for many. Nonetheless, we learn from the Little Flower how true it is that exaltation comes from God to the simple and the humble (Prov 3:34; Mt 23:12). Pope Pius X called her “the greatest saint of the modern times.” It wasn’t because of her unusual ascetic life, exceptional academic qualifications, physical beauty, mind-boggling ideas or innovation, or material success. It was for her purest love and bold simplicity. Her heart was like that of a child, the kind the Lord presents to us as a model (Lk 9:46-48). 
 
Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus (I take her as my girlfriend) has taught me many things as she taught another Father Maurice, a French Missionary in Africa, who was her penpal and friend, how to love God above all else. I owe her some aspects of my spiritual journey.  
 
Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, pray for us. 
 
God love you. God bless you.
 
Fr. Maurice Emelu 

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Fr. Maurice Emelu

The Reverend Dr. Maurice Emelu is the Chair of a number of non-profit boards and a professor of digital media and communication at John Carroll University, United States. His research and practices focus on digital storytelling and design, media aesthetics and theo-aesthetics. Dr. Emelu lives where digital media technology meets culture, communication, philosophy, theology and society. He is the founder of Gratia Vobis Ministries, Inc. To know more about his professional background, visit mauriceemelu.com

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