St Thérèse de Lisieux was born in Alençon, France, the daughter of a watchmaker and a lacemaker. They had a number of children, of whom only five survived to adulthood; the family was subject to tuberculosis. Thérèse was their youngest child.
Her mother died in 1877, and her father, unable to continue to work, sold his business and moved to Lisieux, in the Calvados region of Normandy. When Thérèse was nine years old, her oldest sister Pauline entered the Carmelite order of nuns. During the next year, Thérèse repeatedly expressed her wish to become a nun also, but the bishop of Bayeux would not allow this, on account of her minority. She also sought out Pope Leo XIII, and asked the Pope's permission to become a nun at the age of fifteen, but the Pope stood by the decision of the bishop.
When Thérèse turned sixteen, the bishop of Bayeux gave permission, and in April of 1888 she became a Carmelite nun, following her three sisters. In 1889 her father suffered a stroke and was taken to a private sanatorium, where he lingered for three years.
St Thérèse is best known for her spiritual autobiography, L'histoire d'une âme ("The Story of a Soul") which became a devotional best seller, on account of its naîve but appealing style, and on account of her innocent trust in God despite her sufferings. Thérèse wished to travel to a Carmelite mission in what was then French Indochina, but her health would not permit her to travel there.
On the morning of Good Friday, 1894, Thérèse began hæmorrhaging at the mouth; her tuberculosis had taken a turn for the worse. Her final years were marked by a swift decline; in June of 1897 she was moved to the convent infirmary, which she never left.
Pope Pius X signed the decree for her canonization on June 10, 1914. Pope Benedict XV, in order to hasten the process, dispensed with the usual fifty-year process required between death and beatification. She was canonized in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, only 28 years after her death. Her feast day is October 1. On her deathbed, she is reported to have said, "I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me."
Therese of Lisieux is the patron saint of aviators, florists, France, illness, missions, and Russia. In 1927 she was made a patron saint for foreign missions. On October 19, 1997, Pope John Paul II declared her a "Doctor of the Universal Church". She is known as "the little flower of Jesus." Her feast day is October 1.