the Carmel

Biography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Childhood in Alencon

Thérèse Martin was born on 2th January 1873 in Alencon. She is the youngest of a family of nine children, four of whom died in infancy. Her parents, Louis and Zélie Martin, were very religious husbands. She has four older sisters: Marie, Pauline, Léonie and Céline.

She is baptized the 4th January 1873 by Canon Dumaine in the church of Notre-Dame d'Alençon.

Sainte-Therese-de-Lisieux 01

Le August 28, 1877, Zélie Martin dies of breast cancer. Only four and a half years old, Thérèse was deeply marked by it. She then chooses her big sister Pauline as "Little Mother".

At Les Buissonnets in Lisieux

En November 1877, Louis Martin and his five daughters settled in Lisieux, in the house of bushes, in order to get closer to Isidore Guérin, Zélie's brother and deputy guardian of the Martin girls. Isidore and his wife Céline are parents of two little girls: Jeanne and Marie.

Schoolgirl at the Abbey

De 1881 to 1886, Thérèse attended her schooling at the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Pré, where she was a half-boarder. However, she found it difficult to adapt to collective life with her classmates, and ended up taking private lessons with Madame Papinau until February 1888.

« The Blessed Virgin smiled at me »

In 1882, Pauline, whom she had chosen as a second mother, entered the Carmel. Thérèse is very affected by this and, at the end of the year, falls seriously ill. Headaches, malaise, hallucinations: his family is very worried and prays to Notre-Dame des Victoires. THE 13th May 1883, the day of Pentecost, Marie, Léonie and Céline turn to the statue of the Virgin placed near Thérèse's bed. Thérèse also prays, and then sees the Virgin smiling at her: she is definitively healed.

The First Communion

Le 8th May 1884, Thérèse made her first communion. The same day, his sister Pauline made Profession at Carmel.

« Ah! How sweet was Jesus' first kiss to my soul!... It was a kiss of love, I felt loved, and I also said: "I love you, I give myself to you forever." »

(Ms A, 35r°)

The confirmation

Le 14th June 1884, Thérèse receives the sacrament of confirmation at the abbey from the hands of Monsignor Flavien Hugonin, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux. She chooses Léonie as godmother.

« Ah! how happy was my soul! Like the apostles, I awaited with happiness the visit of the Holy Spirit... I rejoiced at the thought of soon being a perfect Christian and above all at that of having eternally on my forehead the mysterious cross that the Bishop marks imposing the sacrament... »

(Ms A, 36v°)

The Grace of Christmas

In 1886, Thérèse suffered a new separation since it was her sister Marie's turn to enter the Carmel of Lisieux. At the same time, Léonie entered the Poor Clares of Alençon for two months.

À Christmas 1886, Thérèse receives a grace of conversion which brings her out of childhood:

“Jesus clothed me with his armor and, since that night, I was not defeated in any battle, but on the contrary I walked from victory to victory and began, so to speak, a race of a giant. »

(Ms A, 44v°)

Desire to enter Carmel at age 15

Le 29th May 1887, the day of Pentecost, Thérèse informed her father of her desire to enter Carmel as soon as possible, if possible by Christmas 1887, the anniversary of her conversion. Despite some reservations because of Thérèse's young age, Louis Martin gave her his consent. His uncle Isidore Guérin, meanwhile, refuses, asking him to wait until he is seventeen, before accepting on October 22.


Thérèse receives a second grace in July 1887, after a Sunday mass at Saint Pierre Cathedral. As she gazes at an image of the crucified Christ protruding from her missal, she receives revelation of her mission: to save souls through prayer and sacrifice. The first soul she saves through prayer, whose power she then discovers, is that of Pranzini, whom she considers to be her “first child”. The latter, condemned to death for a triple assassination and refusing all help from religion, kissed the crucifix as he ascended the scaffold.

Trip to Bayeux

Le 31th October, after having suffered a categorical refusal from Canon Delatroëtte, superior of the Carmel, Thérèse and her father went to Bayeux to obtain authorization from the bishop, Monsignor Hugonin. For the occasion, Thérèse raised her long hair in a bun to look older. The bishop listens to her express the wish to consecrate herself to God, which she has felt since she was a child, but he postpones his decision until later.

Trip to Rome

En November 1887, Louis Martin takes his daughters Céline and Thérèse to a pilgrimage to Rome organized by the diocese of Coutances-et-Avranches.

During this stay, Thérèse had the audacity to ask Pope Leo XIII for permission to enter the Carmel at the age of 15 despite the opposition of the superiors, but the Holy Father did not give her the expected answer:

« Well, my child, do what the superiors tell you. "And then" Let's go... Let's go... You will enter God willing!... »

(Ms A, 63)

Entrance to Carmel

The bishop finally gives Thérèse permission to enter the Carmel. The date of his entry is set for April 9th, day of the Annunciation.

« I felt my heart beating with such violence that it seemed impossible to move forward when someone came to sign us to come to the convent door; however, I advanced while wondering if I was not going to die by the force of the beating of my heart... Ah! what a moment! You have to have been there to know what it is... »

(Ms A, 69r°)

Life in Carmel

During her postulancy, Thérèse worked in the linen room with Sister Marie des Anges, the sub-prioress, and was also responsible for sweeping the stairs and the dormitory.

She learns about the harsh life of the Carmel:

« I found religious life as I had imagined it, no sacrifice surprised me and yet, you know, my dear Mother, my first steps encountered more thorns than roses!.. . »

(Ms A, 69v°)

The taking of the habit

Thérèse takes the habit 10th January 1889. Shortly after, her father, who has a degenerative brain disease, has a particularly bad attack. He was to be interned at the Bon Sauveur asylum in Caen, where he remained for three years. Thérèse then plunged into silence and prayer, contemplating the Holy Face for a long time. She deepens her vocation, she who wants to become a great saint, practices charity towards her sisters, and reads Saint John of the Cross. Her life of prayer draws its source from the reading of the Gospel which she always carries with her. During her novitiate, she worked as a refector with Sister Agnès de Jesus (Pauline).

The profession

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Thérèse pronounced her final vows on September 8, 1890, in the Nativity of Mary, at the age of 17 and a half, in the hands of her prioress Mother Marie de Gonzague. She then took the name of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face. His capture of the black veil took place a few days later, on September 24.

In 1891, she became assistant sacristan to Sister Saint-Stanislas. In October, on the occasion of the community retreat, she met Father Alexis Prou, a Franciscan, who launched her " full sail on the waves of trust and love ».

Help in the novitiate

In 1893, Sister Agnès de Jesus became prioress. She entrusted the novitiate to Mother Marie de Gonzague, and asked Thérèse to help her in this task.

The same year, Thérèse wrote her first poetry, then in 1894, his first pious recreations (small plays performed on major feast days by a few sisters for the rest of the community).

Entry by Céline Martin and Marie Guérin

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On July 29, 1894, Louis Martin died. Céline entered the Carmel of Lisieux on the following September 14. She brings with her her camera, thanks to which we know so well today the Therese's face.

At the end of 1894, Thérèse discovered her "little way" and experimented with it more and more, until to offer oneself to Merciful Love le 9th June 1895.

On August 15, 1895, the four Martin sisters were joined by their cousin, Marie Guérin, who took the name of Sister Marie of the Eucharist.

Story of a soul

In December 1894, during recreation in the heating room, Mother Agnès of Jesus ordered Thérèse to write down her childhood memories at the suggestion of Sister Marie du Sacré-Coeur (Marie Martin). Throughout 1895, Thérèse therefore wrote what would become the Manuscript A, first part of theStory of a soul. She will give it to Mother Agnès for her birthday on Jan. 20, 1896.


She writes the Manuscript B at the request of Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart in September 1896.

En June 1897, at the suggestion of Mother Agnès, Mother Marie de Gonzague asks Thérèse to write down her Carmelite memories, which will become the Manuscript C. Thérèse uses her last strength in writing this manuscript which will end with the word “love”, like each of her autobiographical manuscripts.

The Spiritual Brothers

Le 10th October, Mother Agnès of Jesus entrusts to Thérèse her first spiritual brother, theAbbot Maurice Bellière, White Father then still a seminarian, who quickly became one of the first disciples of Thérèse's “little way”.

Le 30th May 1896, Mother Marie de Gonzague entrusted her with her second spiritual brother, the Father Adolphe Roulland, priest of the Foreign Missions of Paris who is preparing to leave for China, and who will become a true soul brother for Thérèse.

Illness and the ordeal of foi

In the Thursday night to Good Friday 1896, Thérèse spits blood, which she perceives “ like a soft and distant murmur announcing to me the arrival of the Bridegroom (Ms C, 5r°). These are the first signs of tuberculosis which will prevail a little more than a year later.

A few days later, she is plunged into the deepest spiritual darkness from which she will never emerge.

« He allowed my soul to be invaded by the deepest darkness and the thought of Heaven, so sweet to me, to be no more than a subject of combat and torment... This ordeal was not to last a few days, a few weeks, it was to go out only at the hour marked by the Good Lord and... that hour has not yet come... »

(Ms C, 5v°)

Entry into life

During the winter, Thérèse's health deteriorates, she suffers a lot. Mother Agnès and Sister Geneviève begin to note the last words of their sister in April. THE July 8, 1897, Thérèse is installed in the infirmary of the monastery. On the evening of September 30, she died at the age of 24. " I don't die, I enter into life. ».

She was buried in the square of the Carmelites in the Lisieux cemetery on October 4, 1897.

See here the Life in pictures of Thérèse