|Saint Therese of Lisieux lying in state|
Yet perhaps no woman since Catherine of Siena has influenced, and continues to influence, so many human lives as this French recluse! To us believers it is another striking illustration of the truth that the grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die in order to produce fruit. It is – one may reverently say – the story of Calvary over again. The Man whose words and example have revolutionized human thought and human existence more effectively than any other, died on a Cross, executed as a public malefactor by the official representative of the most flourishing empire the world has ever known.
In the story of Saint Therese, we may perhaps call attention to the following points as helping to explain the extraordinary impression she produced. It is an interesting and probably unique fact that as death approached she foresaw and foretold the spiritual triumph that would be hers after death, and the world-wide favor she would win.
A few of her sentences uttered from her bed of pain have become household words in Catholic circles, such as her promise to send a “Shower of Roses,” or the words inscribed on the plain wooden cross erected over her grave in Lisieux cemetery: “Je veux passer mon ciel a faire du bien sur la terre.” (‘I want to spend my Heaven by doing some good upon the earth.’) On July 16, 1897, Therese received Viaticum from the hands of a young priest who celebrated his first Mass in the Convent Chapel, and next day she made the following prophetic announcement to her sister, Mother Agnes, “I feel that my mission is soon to begin, my mission to make the good God loved as I love Him, to teach souls my ‘little way’. I will spend my heaven in doing good upon earth. There cannot be any rest for me till the end of the world, till the angels will have said ‘time is no more’.” Events since that memorable date have proved the truth of her prophecy. The records of the “Pluie de Roses” (‘Shower of Roses’) published year after year tell how generously she has kept her word.