St. Thérése of Lisieux
Thérèse Martin was a little girl who lived in France. She was the youngest in her family and was loved dearly by her older sisters and her parents. Her father used to call her, “my little queen.”
Even as a little girl, Thérèse understood how special the Mass and Holy Communion are. She knew that Jesus was really present in the host. If someone else in the family had been to Mass, she would run to the door with happiness when they came home because she knew they were carrying Jesus inside them.
One day, when Thérèse was very little, her sister Celine, who was four years older said: “How can God be present in a small host?” Thérèse answered- “God is all powerful.” Celine said, “What does all powerful mean?” and Thérèse answered, “It means He can do what He wants!”
When she was four years old, her mother died, and Thérèse decided that her big sister Pauline would be her new Mamma. Pauline taught her how to pray to God in the morning and how to read and write. She loved learning about God. Every afternoon she went for a walk with her Daddy and they visited a different church each day to pray to Jesus who is present in the tabernacle. Thérèse especially loved a feast day and a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. She loved to throw flowers before Jesus.
One day, when Thérèse was six and she was walking with her Daddy she saw a poor man. She felt sorry for him, and remembered being told that on her First Holy Communion day all her prayers would be granted, so she said to herself, “I'll pray for this poor man the day of my First Communion.” And she really did remember to do that!
On Sundays she was able to stay in bed longer than on any other days, and then her sister Pauline would bring her a chocolate drink and get her dressed and later the whole family went to Mass together. Thérèse loved to hold her daddy's hand and sit beside him in the church. She tried to listen to the priest, even when she didn't understand everything. After Mass, the family would take a walk or visit the cousins, and on Sunday evenings they would play games together or sing or say poems. Sunday was always a special day of rest.
Years passed, and it came to the time for Thérèse's next oldest sister Celine to make her First Communion. Because their mammy was dead, one of the older girls in the family would take Celine each evening onto her knee and teach her about how important First Holy Communion is. Thérèse tried to listen because she really wanted to learn more about Jesus, but often her sisters told her to go away because she was too little. This made Thérèse sad, because she thought it was a long time to wait until she was old enough. She decided to start preparing herself right then for her own First Communion, because she wanted it to be special. When Celine's First Holy Communion day arrived, Thérèse was so excited and later when she grew up she said it was one of the best days of her life.
At long last, Thérèse was old enough to prepare for her own First Holy Communion. The last few months before her big day were a very happy time for her. Every day she would say little prayers to Jesus. Her big sister Pauline was a nun by that time, and she wrote letters to Thérèse to help her prepare. Every evening she would sit on her sister Marie's knee and learn about Jesus, just as Celine had done years before. Marie taught her how to cope with the problems of life in a good way, so as to make Jesus happy. She taught her about the little things we can do every day for God and also about making sacrifices. A sacrifice is when we don't complain if there is something we don't like- but instead we tell God that we offer this thing to Him.
During these months, Thérèse would often go and hide behind her bed just to think about God and heaven. She listened very carefully to the talks given to the children by the priest, and she even wrote down some things that he said so she wouldn't forget. The evening before her First Holy Communion, Thérèse was able to make her first confession and she felt very happy and even asked all her family to forgive her for any time she hurt them.
Thérèse called her First Holy Communion day “The beautiful day of days,” and even years later she remembered so many things about that special day, like all the white dresses of the children, and their procession into the church singing a hymn. Of course, the most special moment of that day was when Thérèse received Jesus in Holy Communion. She said it was like a kiss from Jesus, a kiss of love. She felt that she was loved by Him and she said in her heart to Jesus: “I love you and I give myself to you forever.” She always knew that she was weak and small, as she was the youngest in her family, but at that moment, Thérèse suddenly felt so united to Jesus that she felt His strength with her. She was so happy that she even began to cry! Did you ever cry from being really happy? People said she was crying because her Mammy was not there, but Thérèse said, “they did not understand that I was crying because the joy of Heaven was in my heart.”
Later that day, Thérèse and her family had a feast to celebrate and her Daddy gave her a gift of a beautiful watch. The next day, she looked at her white dress and at all the gifts she had received and she knew that her real happiness would only come back when she could receive Jesus again in Holy Communion. Each time she received him, her desire for Him grew. Thérèse knew that Jesus was her best friend, and she loved to talk with Him because He really understood her more than anyone else. After school she often went to the chapel to talk to Jesus until her Daddy came to collect her.
Thérèse once wrote that Jesus doesn't come down from heaven only to stay in the beautiful golden ciborium on in the tabernacle. (The ciborium is the golden container that the priest uses to keep all the hosts in for the people.) No, Jesus comes every day into another heaven which He loves very much- the souls of the people who come to receive him.
When she was older, Thérèse said that when she was preparing to receive Holy Communion, she asked Mother Mary to help, and to bring all the angels and saints also, so that there would be a big concert to welcome Jesus! She believed that Jesus is happy when He is welcomed properly. But, of course, sometimes Thérèse was sleepy or distracted, and when this happened she tried to remember to talk to Jesus and thank Him later in the day.
When she was fifteen, Thérèse became a Carmelite nun. But after only nine years at the convent, she got very sick and died. After she died, people prayed to her because they knew how much she loved Jesus. People asked Thérèse to help them with problems, or to ask God to cure them from sickness, and many miracles happened. So Thérèse became a very popular saint and lots of people pray to her today. You can see a statue or picture of her in many churches. Thérèse knew how important it is to prepare well for Holy Communion, so during your own time of preparation, why not ask her to help you love Jesus and to talk with Him, just like she did!
This leaflet was prepared at the Carmelite Monastery of St. Joseph, Upper Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin