Today is the most important day of the year. Well, one of them anyways. To day is the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, my dearest friend, and patron Saint. I love her so much, and her portrait sits right next to our Blessed Mother on my home prayer altar.
I suppose I should explain how a gruff, balding old man with a dissolute past like me would choose a young, innocent girl as his patron Saint. Maybe I should have chosen a manly man like St. Francis Xavier, or a grumpy old guy like St. Jerome, or a man of deep generosity like St. Nicholas. As a man who loves to learn, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose were certainly on my list. But in the end, when I converted, I choose this sweet nun who died at the age of 24, and did very little adventurous or learned in her entire life.
In my mind, she is one of the most heroic of them all.
I hate her writing. When I read it, it grates on my nerves with all its victorian flowery prose, and its over stated idioms drenched in cliche phrasing. It literally causes me pain.
But what she says, what she shares, who she is, is so profound, so deeply moving that it shatters my mind. All of my pompous, nonsensical, “gee aren’t I smart” thinking goes right out the window, and I’m left with the cold reality that this young girl has me beat in every possible sense. Her holiness is off the charts, her ability to sacrifice is unparalleled, and her sheer love make my cold heart look like a lump of mud on a frigid winter’s day. She pours out love, she breathes it, and I realize just how empty my heart is.
This is a Saint for a manly man if there ever was one, no one has ever challenged me more.
“Holiness consists simply in doing God’s will, and being just what God wants us to be.”
I have to be honest, that’s not why I chose her, that is what I learned as I grew the strength to read her. I chose her because of her father. I wanted to be the kind of man that could produce such a daughter. I have two daughters, and I was so deeply astounded by his heroic love and sacrifice for his children that I wanted him as a model. I was so serious about this that I chose to take her last name as my Saint’s name, Martin, because in my mind, I was choosing him by choosing her.
Now that he and his wife, Louis and Zelie Martin, have been canonized, I find my first choice was right. Yes, I have their pictures on my prayer table too, but Therese will always hold the prime position next to our Lord and Lady. She looks on me every morning and every night, I ask her prayers constantly, her face is on my rosary, and I find myself just staring in wonder. This young girl is a champion of the highest order, and what she was able to do in her few short years, I pray I will half by the end of my life. She is my sister, she is my friend, she is my inspiration.
She is my hero.
Today, if you can, either read her story online, or there was a wonderful movie about her called “Therese”. Even better, read her autobiography, “Story of a Soul.” This humble soul, the mighty Doctor of the Church, can only brighten your life with her love, and I know from experience, she will open your heart wider than you thought possible.
St. Therese, pray for us.