Recently I've been working on a project centering on St. Therese of Lisieux. Although I read her autobiography a long time ago, and prayed to her about my vocation before I entered the convent, I never really had a special devotion to her.
Something in the project made me realize, however, that she is very relevant to those who suffer from a major problem today: dysfunctional families. In particular, many people suffer from the lack of real love from their mother and/or father. Many children have been abandoned emotionally, as well as physically by absent parents, especially fathers.
Therese might seem like an odd patroness for these folks, because she came from an extremely loving and affectionate family. The tenderness and love she experienced in her happy home were exceptional. Both of her parents have been beatified. Yet Therese in her own way also suffered the pain of abandonment.
The first way was through the early death of her mother (from breast cancer) when Therese was only 4 years old. That kind of loss is a real trauma, especially for such a little child. To make up for it in some way, Therese chose her older sister Pauline as her "new Mama." Yet not so long after, Therese suffered another loss when Pauline entered Carmel. Therese later wrote: "I had suffered martyrdom getting accustomed to living without her, to seeing between me and her impassable walls. But finally I ended up by recognizing the sad reality: Pauline is lost to me, almost in the same manner as if she were dead."
Therese still had her father, Louis, whom she adored. Yet a painful trial awaited her in his later years. He suffered from some sort of mental ailment, possibly Alzheimer's or another type of dementia, and was no longer himself. He had to spend the last three years of his life in a mental hospital. In this way, Therese lost her much loved father while he was still alive. She suffered deeply from this. Perhaps God allowed her to experience this trial so that she could understand more deeply the pain of those who lack a father's love.
She promised she would send a shower of roses (graces) from heaven. One of those graces is the love destined to heal the hearts of those who suffer painful separations in their families.
St Therese, pray for us!