THERESE OF LISIEUX by Monica Furlong

THERESE OF LISIEUX

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KIRKUS REVIEW

ThÉrÉse of Lisieux, canonized in 1925, was referred to privately by Pope Pius X as the greatest saint of modern times. Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, has been recognized as a classic ever since it was published, shortly after her death from tuberculosis in 1897. This slim volume by Furlong (biographer of Alan Watts and Thomas Merton) presents a three-dimensional portrait of the young French girl whose greatest desire in life was to be a Carmelite nun. Because ThÉrÉse's entire family considered sanctity the single, greatest value, they left detailed records of her life. These details of personal life are set in historical context and illuminated with psychological insight by Furlong. ThÉrÉse is revealed as the product of an extreme family situation: she was raised to be a saint, as indeed were her sisters (all of whom became nuns). At the same time, she suffered the trauma of loss over and over again in a series of early separations, and this created in her a fierce need both for mothering and for constancy in her environment. Pampered and overly protected, she became a nun at fifteen. It was then that the strength of her personality became apparent: ThÉrÉse herself approached the ecclesiastical authorities, including the Pope in Rome, in order to receive permission to enter Carmel under age. And she won. In the end (she was 24 when she died), she articulated a spiritual path called The Little Way--taking the smallest opportunity and making out of it a great challenge. Furlong's writing is sympathetic, yet she cuts through sentimental glosses. By touching the pain and need and neurosis experienced by ThÉrÉse, she evokes understanding and empathy for a very human saint.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1987
ISBN: 1570753776
Publisher: Pantheon