Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin, 1873-1897. Canonized in 1925
. "Saint Therese of the Child Jesus
", "The Little Flower", patron saint
of missions and missionaries
, despite having traveled
little outside of her native France
. A Carmelite nun
from the age of 15, after personally lobbying Pope Leo XIII during a pilgrimage to Rome
She's a saint, but there were no visions or miracles or Great Mystic Moments
in her life, except for an incident as a child, when, while very ill with a high fever, a statue of the Virgin Mary came to life and smiled at her - Therese was cured. As a nun, there was none of that; prayer was often
disappointingly talking-to-the-walls dry. But that was part of the ethos of sacrifice that she chose for herself in the convent - love ("...is a verb") was her form of sacrifice: love and humility was her almost masochistic response to all manner of day-to-day non-loving situations (remember: a convent is a workplace, like any other, and surely you get pissed at something or someone during a workday; try being a cheerful "little flower" role model for nine years), and a stubborn, trusting response to those periods when there seemed to be no indication of God's love for her, wrapped neatly, with bells and whistles.
An emotionally grueling life, carried off with the sort of iron will that brought her to Leo XIII in the first place. And, eventually, physically grueling: she died after an extended illness (tuberculosis), keeping up her schedule and modus operandi, still smiling, to the end. Some of her convent writings have been collected in L'Histoire d'une âme (The Story of a Soul).