Though just 24 at the time of her death, St. Therese of Lisieux left a lasting imprint on earth through the “highest form of science,” the science of love.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the “science of the saints” --a deep and masterful love of God--in his April 6 general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Continuing his series on the “doctors” of the Church, the Pope said St. Therese led a “very simple and hidden life” yet became known and loved universally through her writings.
Therese was the youngest of nine siblings when she was born in 1873 in Alencon, France. Driven to pursue a vocation to the religious life, she made a pilgrimage to Rome at 14 years old with her father and a sister to ask permission to enter the Carmelite convent of Lisieux.
Leo XIII gave her permission a year later and in 1888, she entered the convent. She took her vows two years later.
During this time of transition, her father was incapacitated by mental illness. In his suffering, Therese saw the holy face of Christ in his Passion, said the Pope.
In 1896, she herself was afflicted by great physical and spiritual suffering, which would last until her death from tuberculosis in 1897 at just 24 years of age.
The faith she showed through this great suffering was "faith at its most heroic, as the light in the shadows that invade the soul," observed the Pope. "In this context of suffering, living the greatest love in the littlest things of daily life, the saint realized her vocation of becoming the love at the heart of the Church."
"My Lord, I love You!" were her final words and these, he said, "are the key to all her doctrine, to her interpretation of the Gospel," the focal point of her writing.
The saint's writing, namely her autobiography titled "The Story of a Soul," is the means through which many have come into contact with her. In it, said the Pope, "Therese expressed this science, in which all the truth of the faith is revealed in love."
He called the book "a marvelous story of love, recounted with such authenticity, simplicity and freshness that the reader cannot but be fascinated!"
This love she speaks of, said the Pope, "has a face, has a name, it's Jesus!
"Little Therese," he said, "never failed to help the most simple souls, the little ones, the poor and the suffering who prayed to her, but she also illuminated all the Church with her profound spiritual doctrine."
Her effect was so great, in fact, that John Paul II named her a "doctor of the Church." The late pontiff later referred to her as an "expert in scientia amoris."
This, said Pope Benedict, is "science, that makes all of the truth of the faith shine in love."
Jesus' mercy, trust and love were all discovered by Therese through her reading of the Gospels, he noted.
She exhibits the "'little way of trust and love' of spiritual childhood" for the faithful still today and leads others to make a "radical commitment to the true love that is the full giving of oneself," he added.
Therese is "one of the 'little ones' of the Gospel who allow themselves to be led by God, into the depth of his mystery."
She continues to be "a guide for all" and especially for theologians, the Pope said.
St. Therese, Pope Benedict explained, “continually entered the heart of the Scriptures which contain the mystery of Christ” with faith and humility.
Reading the Bible in such a way, "enriched by the science of love" is not in opposition to academic science, said Pope Benedict. Rather, it is "the 'science of the saints' ... the highest form of science."
At the conclusion of the catechesis in various languages, the Pope made a special appeal for peace and dialogue in Libya and the Ivory Coast. "Violence and hate are always defeat!" he exclaimed.