The miraculous cure of St. Thérèse of Lisieux through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary

St Therese of Lisieux and the 'Virgin of the Smile'
The 'Virgin of the Smile'--The story of how St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was miraculously cured on Pentecost Sunday (May 13) through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Depicted on another page on this website is the story of the miraculous intercession of St Therese of Lisieux in the lives of 6 different Mystics, but what many people are unaware of is the story of how St. Therese herself had her own extraordinary mystical experience, and was miraculously cured of a very grave illness when she was just 10 years old, through the remarkable intercession of the Virgin Mary.

Therese's mysterious illness began at age nine in late 1882 when she started having what she described as a "constant headache". On April 7, 1883 during Easter season, she was suddenly overtaken with what she described as a "strange trembling" throughout her entire body. In addition to this, she suffered weakness and soon began to have frequent hallucinations, and thus she became completely bedridden.

Her physician, Dr Notta, was very thorough in his examinations, but he was unable to determine the cause of her mysterious illness. Because of her uncontrollable trembling, weakness and hallucinations she could not be left alone, so her sisters and other family members took turns taking vigil at her bedside, praying for a cure.

 In fact, many family, friends and neighbors were praying for little Therese. As Therese herself later recounts, her father gave her sister Marie some gold pieces and asked her to write to the shrine of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in Paris, to ask for a novena of Masses to be offered for Therese's cure. And it was during this Novena to "Our Lady of Victories" that she was cured.

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus
The Virgin of the Smile- Therese's healing on Pentecost Sunday, May 13, 1883

On Pentecost Sunday, May 13, 1883, while her sister Marie had gone out to the garden, leaving Therese with Leonie who was reading near the window, Therese began to call for "Maman" which was her nickname for her sister Marie.  But when Marie came back into the room, Therese did not recognize her, for she was in the midst of the worst attack of her whole illness.  Marie later testified how she wanted to give Therese something to drink, but Therese screamed in terror: 'They want to poison me."

Everyone was quite distraught at this sudden downturn. After some futile attempts to show Therese that she was by her side, Marie knelt by the bed with her sisters Celine and Leonie, and began praying fervently before the statue they later called the "Virgin of the Smile."

Therese also turned towards the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Suddenly Marie saw Therese's face grow calm and her eyes clear. They all realized that something extraordinary was happening.  We shall let Therese herself describe what happened next:

"All of a sudden the Blessed Virgin appeared beautiful to me, so beautiful that never had I seen anything so attractive; her face was suffused with an ineffable benevolence and tenderness, but what penetrated to the very depths of my soul was the ravishing smile of the Blessed Virgin."

"At that instant, all my pain disappeared, and two large tears glistened on my eyelashes, and flowed down my cheeks silently, but they were tears of complete joy. Oh! I thought, the Blessed Virgin smiled at me, how happy I am, but I will never tell anyone, for my happiness would then disappear. 

"Without any effort I lowered my eyes, and I saw Marie who was looking at me lovingly; she seemed moved and appeared to know the favor the Blessed Virgin had given me. Oh! it was really to her--to her touching prayers that I owed the grace of the Queen of heaven’s smile. Seeing my gaze once again fixed on the Blessed Virgin, she cried out: “Thérèse is cured!”

Therese was in fact completely restored; the "Little Flower" was in bloom once again! For the mysterious illness was entirely gone, never to return for the rest of her life.

Was her mysterious illness caused by the Devil?
For her part, Therese definitely attributed her mysterious illness to the Devil, writing:
"I can’t describe this strange sickness, but I’m now convinced it was the work of the devil." and elsewhere she wrote:
 "The sickness which overtook me certainly came from the demon; infuriated by your [her sister Pauline] entrance into Carmel, he wanted to take revenge on me for the wrong our family was to do him in the future. But he did not know that the sweet Queen of heaven was watching over her fragile little flower, that she was smiling on her from her throne in heaven and was preparing to stop the storm the moment her flower was to break without any hope of recovery."

"She is more Mother than Queen" -St Therese
Her older sister Marie also thought likewise. In her written testimony for the process of Therese's Beatification, Marie writes:
"Around the age of ten, the Servant of God was stricken by strange illness that certainly came from the devil, as she said herself in her manuscript, who had gained an exterior influence over her. She said during this illness, that she never lost use of her reason for even an instant. Indeed, I never heard her say a word that didn’t make sense and she never had an instant of delirium. But she had terrifying visions that chilled those who heard her screams of distress. Certain nails attached to the bedroom walls suddenly took on the form of big charred fingers and she cried out, “I’m afraid, I’m afraid.” Her eyes, so calm and so sweet, had an expression of dread that was impossible to describe. 

"Another time, my father came to sit next to her bed; he was holding his hat in hand. Thérèse looked at it without saying a single word as she spoke very little during this illness. Then, as usual, in the blink of an eye, her expression changed. Her eyes stared at the hat and she let out a mournful cry: “Oh! The big black beast!” Her cries had something supernatural about them. One had to have heard them to have an idea. 

"One day the doctor was present during one of these attacks. He said to my father: “Science is helpless when faced with these phenomenons; there is nothing to do about them.” I can say that the devil even tried to kill our little sister. Her bed was placed in a big alcove and at the head and the foot there was empty space she tried to throw herself into. This happened to her several times and I wondered how she didn’t crack her head on the stone tile but she didn’t even have a scratch."

"...Several times a week she had attacks of such extraordinary terror that a learned doctor, Monsieur Notta, now deceased, said he had never seen such a case. I heard him admit to my father his helplessness. He even said these words: “Let them call this what they will, but for me it’s not hysteria.” 

Our Lady of the Smile statue in Therese's bedroom at Les Buissonnets 
For this writer, having studied the lives of many Saints and mystics of the Church, I personally would not be in the least bit surprised if the origin of Therese's mysterious illness was in fact demonic, for we often see in the lives of the Saints how the devil, seeing their heroic virtues and foreseeing the future examples of holiness that they will likely give to others, tries in a variety of ways to thwart the plans of heaven for such individuals.

For example we have the devil trying to burn St John Vianney's bed while he was lying in it, or physically beating St Padre Pio while he was praying in his cell, or incessantly tormenting Job in a variety of ways, as we read in the old Testament. Whatever the cause of Therese's illness, one thing was for sure: Her cure through the "Virgin of the Smile" was sudden, inexplicable and permanent.

-“Love can supply for length of years. Jesus, because He is Eternal, regards not the time but only the love.” 
-"I will spend my heaven doing good upon the earth. I will let fall a shower of roses" -Sayings of St Therese of Lisieux
St Therese of the Child Jesus "Little Flower" relic locket
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Paul, Melbourne, Australia said...

Beautiful account, Glenn

Unknown said...

It is beautiful and very inspiring. Thank you...

Unknown said...

I need to know....why did my comment disappear?

Unknown said...

Oops! There it is!