Saint Thérèse of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church

This is an official title given to Catholic saints notable for the holiness of their lives, the distinction and orthodoxy of their teaching, and their theological and spiritual learning.

This teaching and learning must be of universal relevance. It is the Church, through the Pope, which declares that a saint is a Doctor, following careful examination of a theological and historical file by the Congregations of the Saints and of the Faith. Until 1970, there were 32 Doctors of the Church, all of them men. That year, Paul VI added two women: Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) and Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380).

It is worth noting that Saint Catherine could neither read nor write. She dictated her "Dialogues" and her highly important letters. This shows that a saint does not have to be highly educated or teach in any formal sense to be a Doctor of the Church. Theology, (words about God) is not a matter of speech but of experience, and this experience is not expressed only in learned treatises. The great women mystics of the Church all have a special place in this heartfelt knowledge of the Divine Mystery, the Mystery of Love.

It is significant that women now figure prominently in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is mentioned six times. She had written in all simplicity and truth: 'Ah! If scholars who had spent their lives studying had come to question me, they would certainly have been amazed to see a fourteen year-old child understand the secrets of perfection, secrets which all their learning cannot reveal to them, for only the poor in spirit can possess them!."

And again, when boundless aspirations were tormenting her, she said: "Ah! In spite of my littleness, I would like to enlighten souls as did the Prophets and the Doctors. I have the vocation of the Apostle."


Pope Names St. Therese of Lisieux Doctor of the Church
October 20, 1997

VATICAN CITY (CWN) - Pope John Paul named St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus a Doctor of the Church on Sunday, only the third time such an honor has been bestowed on a woman.

"In answer to the wishes of a great number of my brother bishops and a multitude of the faithful throughout the world, after having consulted with the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints, and after having obtained the advice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in approval of the doctrine, and after long deliberation ... we declare as Doctor of the Universal Church, St. Thérèse of the Infant Jesus and the Holy Face, virgin," said the Holy Father in bestowing the honor.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, France, also known as "The Little Flower," was only 24 years old when she died in 1897 of tuberculosis. The Holy Father's proclamation naming her the 33rd Doctor in the history of the Church, is a title given to certain saints whose writings have been of fundamental influence in the development of the Church's teachings. St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila were named Doctors by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

"Among the Doctors of the Church, Thérèse of the Child Jesus and Holy Face is the youngest, but her spiritual itinerary shows such maturity and the intuitions of her faith expressed in her writings are so vast and so profound, that they merit a place among the great spiritual masters," the Holy Father said in his homily in St. Peter's Square. Relics of the saint were transported from France and placed in a special gold urn in St. Peter's.

The Holy Father announced during World Youth Day in Paris in August that he would bestow the title on St. Thérèse on World Mission Sunday, October 19. Although the young nun entered the Carmelite cloister at age 15 and never traveled except for a brief pilgrimage to Rome, she is patron saint of missionaries because of her promise to pray for all missions. The Pontiff also declared St. Thérèse a role model for young people. "Thérèse of Lisieux is a saint who remains young despite the years that pass, and she is an eminent model for Christians of our day along the road to the third millennium," he said.


Top of Page©2015