of Lisieux is one of the patron saints of the missions,
not because she ever went anywhere,
but because of her special love of the missions,
and the prayers and letters she gave in support of missionaries.
Even as a child, Thérèse
Martin was fascinated by the missions. She lived at a time of epic
missionary expansion, which saw hundreds of young priests and nuns
leaving for Africa, South America, China and the South Seas.
On their journey to Italy,
Celine brought her some missionary journals which Thérèse
refused to read; she was too eager to travel to other countries
herself to preach the love of Jesus. She felt drawn to the Carmel
as a way of doing this; working through prayer and the gift of herself,
like her "Spanish Mother" Saint Teresa of Avila, for the
conversion of others. Like Teresa, "she would have given a
thousand lives to save a single soul".
When she entered the
Carmel she said, "I came to save souls and especially to pray
for priests". By praying for priests (she had discovered on
her Italian pilgrimage that even the holiest priests needed the
constant prayers of others), she wanted to become an "apostle
of apostles" and so make herself an even more effective missionary.
Increasingly, the whole
purpose of her life became "to love Jesus and make Him loved".
She was delighted when she was given two "spiritual brothers"
and asked to help them in their ministry. Father Maurice Belliére
later became a White Father and missionary in Africa and Father
Adolphe Roulland of the Paris Foreign Missions went to China. Thérèse
wrote to them until she died, and in so doing, extended her vision
of salvation to embrace the whole world.
This desire for the missions
continued until she was on her very deathbed, culminating in the
hope that she would become an even greater missionary in the life
to come. She wrote to Father Roulland, "I will not be inactive
in heaven, my desire is to continue working for the Church and souls.
I ask this of the Good Lord and I am sure He will grant me this
She repeatedly promised
her sisters, "I will return.", "I will come down."
The most astonishing thing of all is that, in 1927, the Church actually
proclaimed her Universal Patron Saint of the Missions.
When her faith was being
tried for the last time, she came to realize that her own darkness
could bring light to "unbelievers". This was why Cardinal
Suhard, Archbishop of Paris, deeply distressed at the general decline
of religious faith in France, founded the seminary of the Mission
of France in Lisieux in 1941.
the patron saint of missions abroad and at home, never left her
cell, but she put so much of the Trinity's love into her own daily
life that she made God's Merciful Love illuminate the world.