Novena to St Therese 2015
22nd - 30th September
Feast Day: 1 October
After reflecting on the given text from the writings of St Therese for each day, the prayer given at the bottom should be recited. We
pray with and for you as you journey with St. Thérèse for these nine
You may also wish to look at our novena from 2013 which was written by the Sisters at Kilmacud and also the novena from 2014 which contains texts from Therese on different themes..
Quick Links: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Feast day
Day 1: 22nd September
|St Therese and her mother Zelie Martin
Therese's mother Zelie died from breast cancer when Therese
was only four years old. And yet, even in these early years, Therese remembers
showing her parents much affection. She wrote: "I loved Mama and Papa
very much and showed my tenderness for them in a thousand ways, for I was very
of the extant letters of Zelie Martin describes an incident when Therese was
small: "The little one has just placed her hand on my face and kissed me.
This poor little thing doesn't want to leave me; she's continually at my side.
She likes going into the garden but when I'm not there she won't stay but cries
till they bring her to me."
Therese wrote that she remembered the final weeks of her
mother’s illness, and also her last anointing. She writes about her final
goodbye to her mother: “The day of Mama’s departure or the day after, Papa took
me in his arms and said: “Come, kiss your poor little Mother for the last time.
Without a word I placed my lips on her forehead. I don’t recall having cried
very much, neither did I speak to anyone about the feelings I experienced. I
looked and listened in silence”.
Zelie Martin will be canonised on 18th October
2015 by Pope Francis along with her husband Louis.
On this first day of our novena, as we reflect on Therese’s
relationship with her mother, let us pray for all mothers and all expectant
mothers. Let us pray for children who lose a parent at a young age, and let us
pray for all those who suffer from cancer.
Day 2: 23rd September
St Thérèse and her sister Pauline
After her mother died, Thérèse chose her sister Pauline as her new mother,
crying out: “It’s Pauline who will be my Mama”. Pauline was the
second eldest in the family, and twelve years older than Thérèse. Over the next five years, Pauline took on the
role of educating Thérèse, and preparing her for First Confession. At the age of twenty one, she
decided to enter the Carmelite convent in Lisieux, the first of the Martin
sisters to do so. Her name became Sr Agnes of Jesus.
The loss of her second mother deeply affected young Therese. She wrote: “How
can I express the anguish of my heart! I shed bitter tears because I did not
yet understand the joy of sacrifice… it was as if a sword were buried in my
heart”. Pauline then explained to Thérèse about the Carmelite vocation, and this sowed the
seeds for Thérèse to follow her some years later. In those years, Thérèse and Pauline communicated regularly by letter. Thérèse wrote: “My greatest consolation when I was sick
was to receive a letter from you Pauline. I read and reread it until I knew it
by heart.” To Thérèse’s great joy, her First Holy Communion occurred on the same day as
Pauline’s profession of vows at the Carmel.
Five years after
Therese’s entrance, Pauline was elected Prioress of the Carmel
at the age of 32, and the following year she ordered Thérèse to
write her childhood memoirs. We can be grateful for this because the “Story
of a Soul” made Thérèse
one of the best known and loved saints of our day. After the death of Thérèse,
Pauline held the role of Prioress almost continuously until she died, and
worked hard during the process of her little sister’s canonisation. Pauline
died in 1951 at the age of 90.
Today let us pray
for all those in leadership in society or in the Church, for catechists,
teachers, youth leaders and all those who care for and support the young.
Day 3: 24th September
St Thérèse and her uncle Isidore Guerin
After her father Louis (whom we will focus
on another day), the next most significant man in St Thérèse’s life was
probably her uncle Isidore Guerin, her mother’s brother. He was a pharmacist by
trade and lived in Lisieux. It was he who suggested to Louis to move his family
to live there after the death of Zelie.
Thérèse admits that he frightened her, and
says: “I wasn’t as much at ease in his home”. She goes on: “I listened with
great pleasure… but I didn’t like it when he asked me questions. I was very much
frightened when he placed me on his knee and sang Blue Beard in a formidable
tone of voice”. Near the end of her
life, Thérèse still felt overawed by him and said once after a parlour visit at
“How shy I was in the parlour with Uncle!” However, Isidore must have dearly
loved his little niece, because Thérèse tells us: “He used to call me his
little ray of sunshine”. When she was ill, Isidore and his wife cared for her.
Thérèse wrote: “Uncle and Aunt were very good to me… other friends of the
family came to visit me, but… the only
visit I liked was that of Uncle and Aunt.”
When Thérèse had obtained permission from
her father to enter Carmel
at the age of 15, she next approached her Uncle Isidore: “It was with great
trembling I confided my resolution to Uncle. He showed me great tenderness but
did not grant me his permission to leave. He said that for him to allow me to
leave would require a miracle… My only consolation was prayer. I begged Jesus
to perform the miracle demanded… On the fourth day I went to see Uncle. He
began by making some gentle reproaches because I appeared to be afraid of him,
and then he said it wasn’t necessary to beg for a miracle… Uncle was no longer
the same… He told me I was a little flower God wanted to gather, and he would
no longer oppose it!”
Today, as we remember Isidore Guerin, let
us pray for all those in the medical profession – all doctors, nurses,
health-care workers of all kinds and pharmacists.
Day 4: 25th September
St Thérèse and her sister Leonie
Leonie Martin was ten years older
than Thérèse. She became known as the “difficult one”. She was unruly, slow to
learn and disruptive of family peace. She suffered one illness after another.
When she was eleven she was expelled from school for her wildness, but with her
mother’s help she gradually grew into a gentle, loving girl.
Thérèse shared the family concern
for Leonie, praying constantly for her. In “Story of a Soul”, she speaks of
Leonie with great love: “Dear little Leonie held a warm place in my heart. She
was very fond of me and in the evenings when the family took a walk she used to
take care of me. I still seem to hear those beautiful lullabies she used to
sing to me to get me to sleep. She was always trying to find ways of pleasing
There is a famous story connecting
the two sisters: “One day, Leonie, thinking she was too big to be playing any
longer with dolls, came to us with a basket filled with dresses and pretty
pieces for making others... “Here my little sisters, choose; I’m giving you all
this”. Celine stretched out her hand and took a little ball of wool ... After a
moment’s reflection, I stretched out mine saying: “I choose all!” and I took
the basket without further ceremony.” Later in life, Thérèse was not afraid to
choose all that God sent, even suffering.
Leonie acted as Thérèse’s godmother
for her Confirmation. Thérèse writes: “she was so much moved that she was
unable all through the ceremony to hold back her tears”. As an adult, Leonie
made several attempts to join the Visitation convent at Caen. Thérèse encouraged her and wrote to her
from the Carmel
saying: “I love you a thousand times more tenderly than ordinary sisters love
one another”, and she offered her profession for the intention of Leonie’s
perseverance. It wasn’t until after Thérèse’s death, however, that Leonie was
able to remain at the convent. She had many years of suffering ahead, but with
the inspiration of her little sister, Leonie became a very holy woman herself.
She died in 1941 and the cause for her canonisation has recently been opened.
Today let us pray for all those
struggling with personality disorders, for parents coping with difficult
children, for all those who are ill in body or mind, and for all who are
struggling to persevere with a religious vocation.
Day 5: 26th September
St Thérèse and her four siblings who
St Thérèse was the youngest of nine
children born to Louis and Zelie Martin. Four of their children, two boys and two
girls died in infancy or early childhood between the years 1867 and 1870:
Joseph-Louis, died Feb 1867 aged 6 months, Joseph-Jean-Baptiste died Aug 1868
aged 8 months, Helene (pictured) died Feb 1870 aged five and half and Melanie
died Oct 1870 aged two months.
Thérèse had a beautiful bond with her four
little siblings in heaven. She writes about a time when she suffered from bad
scruples, and turned to them in heaven for help:
“I addressed myself to the four angels who
had preceded me there, for I thought that these innocent souls, having never
known troubles or fear, would have pity on their poor little sister who was
suffering on earth. I spoke to them with the simplicity of a child, pointing
out that being the youngest of the family, I was always the most loved, the
most covered with my sisters’ tender cares, that if they had remained on earth
they, too, would have given me proofs of their affection. Their departure for
heaven did not seem to me as a reason for forgetting me; on the contrary, finding
themselves in a position to draw from the divine treasures, they had to take
peace for me from these treasures and thus show me that in heaven they still
knew how to love! The answer was not long in coming, for soon peace came to inundate
my soul with its delightful waves, and I knew then that if I was loved on
earth, I was also loved in heaven. Since that moment, my devotion for my little
brothers and sisters has grown and I love to hold dialogues with them
frequently, to speak with them about the sadness of our exile, about my desire
to join them soon in the Fatherland!”
Today let us pray for all those who have
died and ask them to help us in our troubles. Let us remember parents who have
lost children, and for all sick children.
Day 6: 27th September
Thérèse and her father Louis Martin
Thérèse’s relationship with her father
Louis taught her from an early age how to relate to God. Once she said: “How
wonderful it is to call the Good God, ‘Papa’”. Therese called Louis her “King”
and he called her his “little Queen”. She recognised how, after her mother’s
death, he also took on a maternal role: “Father’s very affectionate heart
seemed to be enriched now with a truly maternal love!”
As a child, Thérèse loved to go for walks
with her father. He took her fishing with him, and also around the town of Lisieux. Therese wrote:
“During the walks I took with Papa, he loved to have me bring alms to the poor
we met on the way… All along the way to church and even in the church Papa’s
little Queen held his hand. Her place was by his side… two chairs had to be
found side by side.”
When Thérèse was fourteen, she decided to
ask her father’s permission to enter the Carmelite convent in Lisieux. She
wrote: “How should I speak to him about parting from his Queen… what interior
struggles I went through”. She chose the feast of Pentecost to speak to him.
“Without saying a word, I sat down by his side, my eyes already wet with tears.
He gazed at me tenderly, and taking my head he placed it on his heart, saying:
“What’s the matter, my little Queen?”…. Through my tears, I confided my desire
to enter Carmel,
and soon his tears mingled with mine… In his deep faith he cried out that God
was giving him a great honour in asking his children from him…”
After she had entered Carmel, Louis developed a mental illness and was
institutionalised for three years. Thérèse suffered great anguish during this
time, out of love for him - a time which she referred to as a “martyrdom” and
“a painful passion”. Louis died in 1894. He will be canonised on 18th October
2015 by Pope Francis along with his wife Zelie.
Today let us pray for all fathers, both
natural and spiritual. Let us pray also for all those who suffer from mental
Day 7: 28th September
St Thérèse and her sister Marie
The eldest in the Martin family was Marie,
13 years older than Thérèse. She was Thérèse’s godmother. Their mother wrote
once in a letter: “Marie loves her little sister very much. She finds her very
good, and it would be difficult for her to think otherwise since this poor
little thing has a great fear of causing Marie any trouble”. Thérèse herself
wrote: “I was very fond of my godmother. I was very good and did everything she
wanted. She gave me a lot of gifts, and in spite of their insignificant value these
pleased me a lot”.
Thérèse describes a time when she got sick
at her Uncle’s house: “Poor Marie was obliged to come and live at Uncle’s
because it was impossible to bring me back at the time… Marie was always by my
bedside taking care of me and consoling me with a mother’s tenderness. Never
did she show the slightest sign of annoyance, and still I gave her a lot of
trouble, not even allowing her to be away from me.” Some years later, Marie was the one who
prepared Thérèse for First Communion and as Thérèse said: “guided, consoled,
and added me in the practice of virtue”. Marie also helped her with scruples:
“what patience my dear Marie needed to listen to me without showing any
Marie became a Carmelite about 18 months
before Thérèse, taking the name Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart. After that,
their roles seemed to be reversed, and Marie then turned to Thérèse for
support. When Thérèse’s life was nearing an end, Marie asked her to write an
account of her last retreat: “The secrets of Jesus to Therese are sweet, and I
would like to hear about them… Write me a short note… Ask Jesus to love me,
too, as He does His little Thérèse”. We can be grateful to Marie for this
request, because Thérèse’s response was the famous “Manuscript B” which contains
the account of her “little way”, the discovery of her own vocation to be “love
in the heart of the Church”. Thérèse wrote a personal word for Marie, which she
sent with the Manuscript: “these secrets He confides to you, I know, for you
are the one who taught me… do not believe I am swimming in consolations; oh no!
My consolation is to have none on earth.” Marie died in 1940.
Today let us pray that religious men and
women may be renewed in their vocation to be “love in the heart of the Church”.
Let us pray for vocations to religious life.
Day 8: 29th September
| St Thérèse and her cousins Jeanne and Marie
did not have many cousins, but after her family moved to Lisieux, she
had the chance to spend time with Jeanne and Marie Guerin –
daughters of her uncle Isidore. Jeanne was five years older than
Thérèse, and Marie was two and a half years older.
Thérèse says in her autobiography: “I was very
fortunate in having such nice little cousins. I loved them very
Thérèse was particularly close to Marie as a child. She
says: “What pleased me was when by chance I was alone with little
Marie… I chose a game that was entirely new. Marie and
Thérèse became two hermits… everything was done
with such mutual understanding, silence and so religiously that it was
just perfect. The two hermits recited the rosary together…
Cousin Marie and I were always of the same opinion… one evening
I said to Marie: “Lead me, I’m going to close my
eyes”. “I want to close mine too,” she
replied… We were on a sidewalk and there was nothing to fear
from vehicles; having savoured the delights of walking without seeing,
the two little scamps fell together on some cases placed at the door of
a store, or rather, they tipped them over. The merchant came out in a
rage to lift up his merchandise, while the two blind ones lifted
themselves up alone and walked off at great strides, eyes wide open,
listening to the just reproaches of Jeanne who was as angry as the
merchant!” Marie later followed Thérèse and became
a nun at the Carmelite convent in Lisieux with the name Sr Marie of the
Jeanne married a doctor called Francis LaNeele, who occasionally
attended to Thérèse during her final illness at the
Carmel. The marriage of Jeanne and Francis occurred around the
time of Thérèse’s Profession, as she noted in her
book: “It would be impossible for me to tell you how much I
learned from her example concerning the delicate attentions a bride can
bestow upon her bridegroom. I listened eagerly to what she was
saying… since I didn’t want to do less for my beloved
Jesus than Jeanne did for her Francis… I even went so far as to
composing a letter of invitation which was comparable to Jeanne’s
Today let us pray for those who are blind, deaf or impaired in their
movements. Let us pray for young people preparing for marriage and for
Day 9: 30th September
St Thérèse and her sister Céline
On this last day of the novena, we come at
last to focus on Céline, the closest family member in age to Therese. And they
weren’t only closest in age. Therese called her “Dear Céline, sweet echo of my
soul”, and “the little companion of my childhood”. She wrote about their
relationship: “We understood each other very well, only I was much more lively
and less naïve than she; although I was three and a half years younger, it
seemed to me we were the same age”. Their mother Zelie also wrote about their
closeness: “Céline and Therese are inseparable and it’s impossible to see two
children love each other so much. When Marie comes to get Céline for her
classes, poor Therese begins to cry.”
Céline was a talented artist, and gave
lessons to Therese, who also proved to have an aptitude for art. According to
Therese, the two of them also “carried on spiritual conferences together
frequently”. She describes these as follows: “Céline had become the confidante
of my thoughts.....Jesus wanting us to advance together formed bonds in our
hearts stronger than blood. He made us
become spiritual sisters....How sweet were the conversations we held each
evening…” Céline was also a great support to Therese at the Benedictine Abbey
in Lisieux. Therese wrote: “The five years I spent in school were the saddest
in my life, and if I hadn’t had Céline with me, I couldn’t have remained there
and would have become sick in a month.”
But Therese also admits that “at times there were little arguments.”
Céline apparently took such good care of Therese’s health that Therese was
“wearied of her at times”.
Céline’s First Holy Communion was a very
special time for Therese. She followed all her preparations and said she never
loved her as much as during those days. On the day itself, Therese said she was
“inundated with joy” and that it was one of the most beautiful days of her
life. It was Céline who cared for their father until his death. After that, she
too entered the Carmel
in Lisieux, taking the name Sr Genevieve of the Holy Face. She was the last of
the family to die, in 1959.
On this last day of the novena, let us pray
for all our own personal family members and friends, and for all who have been
following this novena with us.
Day: 1st October
After the reflection for each day
continue as follows:
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be...
to St. Thérèse
St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face:
teach us to follow your little way
of confidence and trust.
Help us to realise that a Father's love watches over us each day of our lives, in sorrow as in joy, in trials as in peace.
Obtain for us the graces we hope for from God's infinite goodness.
St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, pray for us.