She felt an early call to religious life, and overcoming various obstacles, in 1888 at the early age of 15, became a nun and joined two of her older sisters in the enclosed Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy. After nine years as a Carmelite religious, having fulfilled various offices, such as sacristan and novice mistress, and having spent the last eighteen months in Carmel in a night of faith, she died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. The impact of her posthumous publications, including her memoir The Story of a Soul was great, and she rapidly became one of the most popular saints of the twentieth century. Pope Pius XI made her the star of his pontificate. She was beatified in 1923, and canonized in 1925. The speed of this process may be seen by comparison with that applied to a great heroine of Thérèse, Joan of Arc, who died in 1431 but was not canonized until 1920. Thérèse was declared co-patron of the missions with Francis Xavier in 1927, and named co-patron of France with Joan of Arc in 1944. On 19 October 1997 Pope John Paul II declared her the thirty-third Doctor of the Church, the youngest of all Doctors of the Church, and only the third woman Doctor. Devotion to Thérèse has developed around the world.
Thérèse lived a hidden life and 'wanted to be unknown' yet through her writings—as well as her spiritual autobiography she left letters, poems, religious plays, prayers and various notes, and her last conversations were recorded by her sisters—and thanks to the photographs taken inside the Lisieux Carmel by her sister Céline, she became known to, and later seen by, millions of men and women. According to one of her biographers, Guy Gaucher, after her death, "Thérèse fell victim to an excess of sentimental devotion which betrayed her. She was victim also to her language, which was that of the late nineteenth century and flowed from the religiosity of her age." Thérèsè herself said on her death-bed : "I only love simplicity. I have a horror of pretence", and she spoke out against some of the Lives of saints written in her day :" We should not say improbable things, or things we do not know. We must see their real, and not their imagined lives." The critic Marina Warner observed that the excesses sometimes associated with her cult should not blind one to the heroism of her, "struggle to be good, and the radical affirmation of ordinary lives that her sainthood stands for."
The depth of her spirituality, of which she said "my way is all confidence and love," has inspired many believers. In the face of her littleness and nothingness, she trusted in God to be her sanctity. She wanted to go to Heaven by an entirely new little way. "I wanted to find an elevator that would raise me to Jesus." The elevator, she wrote, would be the arms of Jesus lifting her in all her littleness.
The Basilica of Lisieux is the second greatest place of pilgrimage in France after Lourdes.
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