Back in those memorable days of Hula Hoops, American Bandstand, and those new cars with those long, sleek, beautiful fins, when I was only eleven years old, I first met St. Thérèse. I can still hear the way the Irish nuns who taught us gave the name a musical lilt with a trill floating off the “r” of “Therese” and slowly fading into a whispered soft “s” sound at the end of her name. We were sixth graders at Our Lady of Refuge School in Long Beach, California and every day after lunch – every single day – we had fifteen minutes of what I used to call “holy listening.”

We were a very active sixth grade class. We put on our own basketball, volleyball, and softball games among our own class during our lunch time and we took it very seriously, and by the time the bell rang, we reluctantly walked as slowly as we could back to the room – of course matched two by two’s in two separate lines “arms distance apart” from the classmates ahead of and behind you.

It was all very disciplined and organized.

But then, after lunch, all hot and sweaty, we had this wonderful reprieve from class work and could put our heads down on our desks (what a blessing!) and just listen to saint stories. We must have gone through at least ten books. I must admit that they were life-changing for me. Maybe you have heard of the “Vision Books of Saint Stories?” They were republished and are now easily available. They’re the best!

These books changed me because through them I discovered a new concept – living a life of virtue, virtuous living. As I listened, character formation was taking place within my young personality. And it was very, very good for me to grow and mature in this way. I think I can truthfully say that the book that I remember the most to this very day over fifty years later is “St. Thérèse and the Roses.”

Each day we followed the lives of Louis and Zelie, her parents, and then when Thérèse’s mom died, we followed her cousins the Guerins too. I can name the children, even today: Marie, Pauline, Leonie, Celine, and Thérèse, as well as their struggles and blessings. I loved that little book and read it myself the following year, in seventh grade.

I learned that at times even children can make sacrifices and pray very deeply and talk to God as a friend and, yes, even have their prayers answered. I learned about a religious vocation and it intrigued me ever so much to accompany first Pauline, then Marie, followed by Thérèse, Celine and finally Leonie to enter the convent. In this family, my eyes were opened to the way of family life God is calling all of us to live.

I saw how Thérèse learned to embrace difficult things and to live her life according to her “Little Way” of confidence and love. I could go on and on.

Looking back I can see that God used this “quiet time” given us by our dedicated teacher to speak to our hearts and since St. Thérèse’s feast day is October 1st, I wanted to pass along this idea to teachers and parents to read these “Vision Books of the Saints” to your children. You’ll be amazed at the changes that will occur and fulfilling the command of Our Lord, “Let the little children come unto Me.”

Now, tell us, when did you meet St. Thérèse?

By Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.

Image: Celine Martin (Sor Genoveva de la Santa Faz), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


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