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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dolls from Heaven: Introduce Your Child to Jesus' Little Flower

by Susan Fox

Thérèse Martin, age 8
One day in 1961, little eight-year-old me sat on the floor happily reading my Treasure Chest Catholic Comic Magazine about the life of St. Theresa of Lisieux.

I was looking at the scene where her father came home, and asked her for a hug. She was about four years old, and she told her father to come to her for the hug. Then she ignored him, and continued to swing on her swing. When her father started to return to the house, she was deeply saddened by her own actions and ran to him in tears.

She became my big sister until I turned 24, the age she died. I’m 62 years old now. So I tell her she is my little sister and my favorite saint. (St. Anthony, you didn’t hear that.) I can still remember the image in that “comic” book of Theresa on the swing ignoring her father. Her regretted actions pierced me deeply as they did her. "What matters in life," she wrote, "is not great deeds, but great love.”

St. Thérèse, age 15
In 1888, Theresa entered the Discalced Carmelites at the age of 15. She held various offices in the cloistered convent, but died at the age of 24 of tuberculosis. At her death, one of her fellow sisters wondered what they would say about her because she hadn’t really accomplished anything.

However, the accomplishments of the hidden flower of Carmel are no longer unknown because of the publication of her autobiography. In fact, she is deeply revered -- even among Eskimos, and Pope Pius X called her the “greatest saint of modern times.”

Theresa taught us to do our ordinary actions with great love. It was in her Little Way of love that she discovered a swift and sure elevator to Jesus. If you find climbing stairs burdensome, her Little Way is the way for you too.  The Church declared her a doctor of the Church because she
St Theresa
holding statue of
the Christ Child
showed us how to be saints by practicing a very simple form of spiritual childhood with complete trust in God who Himself became a little Child.
Unlike many living in the Fantasyland of our current culture, Theresa was firmly rooted in the reality of the present moment.

Such a great gift to me was the story of this girl’s life, offered when I was so young through the Treasure Chest Comic Books. Her mother died when she was four years old. My father died when I was four years old. She was extremely sensitive as a child. I was the same way until the age of 39. In my 20s, I was a White House News correspondent. I can remember sitting in the U.S. Treasury Secretary’s office waiting for a one-on-one interview feeling like crushed eggshells inside. LOL. I still gave them hell. Through deep prayer when I was a young mother, I received the grace to firmly step off the eggshells. Theresa overcame her sensitivity at the age of 10 while  suffering a terrible illness after her older sister Pauline entered the convent. Theresa felt like she lost her mother for the second time since Pauline raised her after her mother’s death. She matured rapidly through that trial so that she was ready to enter Carmel when she was 15, considered a very early age to enter the convent -- even then.  

That’s where the similarities end. Theresa and I both wanted to be nuns. She did it. But I had career, motherhood and marriage. Theresa is a canonized saint. Her parents, Louis and Zellie Martin, are due for canonization in October 2015 in connection with the Synod on the Family.

The cause for the canonization of St. Theresa’s sister,
The forgotten sister
Servant of God Leonie Martin 
Servant of God Leonie Martin, was opened this year. An only child, my only sister is St. Theresa herself and my only Brother is Jesus.

But now every child can have a real St. Theresa doll for his or her own big sister. Every child now has the opportunity to embark upon the Little Way.

Dr. Brian and Esmeralda Kiczek, founder of the End of Abortion Movement, are rolling out Dolls from Heaven.  And the first offering is St. Theresa of Lisieux. The Kiczeks remind us that “Saints are important for our time. They teach us to be a witness for Christ.”

First Doll from Heaven: St. Theresa of Lisieux 
St. Theresa is 18 inches tall, has a cloth body, and a movable, vinyl head and limbs. She comes with a child’s version of her classic autobiography,  “The Story of a Soul.” It’s a paperback version called, “I am Therese.”

She comes with a floor-length Carmelite habit, a brown scapular, a black veil, a two-pieced white wimple and brown sandals. She also has an optional blue outfit – her Sunday best, available for purchase.

It’s really rather amazing what you can accomplish with a gift like this for a child. I didn’t realize the impact that the Treasure Chest Comic books had on me until I went to Lisieux, France in 2000 in my late ‘40s. I didn’t plan it. I was on a 9-day silent retreat in Lourdes, and I signed up for the four-day trip afterwards not realizing I would go to St. Theresa’s own home in Lisieux.

In fact, in my typical oblivion I was busy talking in the bus from Paris, and then suddenly I found I was in Lisieux. I can’t explain adequately what happened when I reached St. Theresa’s home. I actually knew every inch of the building and all the events that had occurred in each room. The house was entirely familiar – like I had been there before.
Les Buissonnets, the childhood home of Léonie Martin and St Thérèse in Lisieux
But I was not prepared for the experience. I only had one Kleenex, and I was in the little tour group with the priest leading us. How embarrassing. I spoke to no one, only wept into my horribly inadequate Kleenex. There was the fireplace where Theresa had left her shoes on Christmas Eve in 1886 in anticipation of receiving gifts from the Child Jesus, as was the custom for French children. As she went up the stairs, she overheard her father say regarding the shoes, "Well, fortunately this will be the last year (she would receive gifts)!"

Theresa had begun to cry, and then suddenly she pulled herself together and ran back downstairs, knelt by the fireplace and then unwrapped her packages as jubilantly as ever.

Later she said this was the instant that Jesus healed her of her nine-year struggle to overcome her mother’s death. "In an instant Jesus, content with my good will, accomplished the work I had not been able to do in ten years," she wrote. She re-discovered the joy of self-forgetfulness: "I felt, in a word, charity enter my heart, the need to forget myself to make others happy -- since this blessed night I was not defeated in any battle, but instead I went from victory to victory and began, so to speak, ‘to run a giant's course.’”

Then I went to the museum in Lisieux, and I discovered an amazing secret. They had shaved off all her hair when she entered the convent at the age of 15, and they saved it! It’s in the museum. I had always assumed that St. Theresa was a brunette like me. But she had the most glorious long blond curly hair I’ve ever seen. With hair like that, she could have been an actress! I had always wanted to be a blond.

So naturally, I found myself standing outside her house near the statue of 13-year-old Theresa sitting on the bench with her father as she told him that she wanted to enter Carmel.
St. Theresa, age 13
Her father tenderly picked up a little white flower
, root intact, and gave it to her, explaining how carefully God brought it into being and preserved it to that day.

Theresa believed she was hearing her own story, the story of the Little Flower of Jesus. The flower seemed to be a symbol of herself destined soon to be transplanted into the soil of Carmel. I stood across from the statue, and looked at the priest leading the tour, a tall man from Goa, India. He stood behind the statue.

“Father, Father!” I yelled excitedly, “St. Theresa was a blond!” Suddenly I noticed that there were several women in our group standing around Father, and all of them were stunning blonds! He muttered quietly something about not knowing why people think blonds are dumb... That, of course, was not why I was excited since I believed that blonds were beautiful and greatly to be envied.

Now if you order a St. Theresa doll for your daughter, niece,  godchild, please do not expect her to have blond hair. The Kiczeks carefully considered the hair color and decided to go with a lovely chestnut brown because that is how she looks in most black and white pictures. But consider the wonderful surprise your grown niece, daughter or godchild will experience when they arrive in Lisieux and see the museum for the first time, suddenly learning St. Theresa was really a blond!

The Kiczeks have met their production goals, and the dolls are already in the process of manufacture. You can order yours hereIf this year’s doll campaign is successful, they hope to roll out a new saint doll each year. They have proposed drawings of St. Bernadette, Saint Pope John Paul II and St. Francis of Assisi.

But please Esmeralda and Brian, consider a St. Anthony doll at some point soon? He would look so cute holding an even smaller Child Jesus doll. For you know, St. Anthony held the Christ Child in his arms.

St. Theresa doll in her Sunday best 
Did you enjoy this story? Susan Fox, the author, is a Catholic Memoirist. She uses her memories to explain the Catholic faith. Here's another one full of memories used to explain where atheism originates: Cradle For Atheism: Life Without Father

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