Therese's spiritual children are a varied bunch and the lives of five of them are given particular attention, including Edith Piaf, Dorothy Day, and the saint's own sister, the awkward and problem-filled Leonie Martin. Not all of Therese's spiritual children became saints or even good Catholics, but there is reason to believe that her care and intercession brought them into the kingdom, sometimes like those labourers in the parable who came to the vineyard at the close of day.
Therese embraced Love so wholly that she desired to become Love itself, in union with her divine Father. When Pope John Paul II made Therese a Doctor of the Church he referred to her 'divine filiation', whereby she entered fully into divine childhood through Jesus, the Son, who is our Saviour and Brother. Therese, in fully experiencing what it is to be a child of God, putting on littleness and humility, united herself entirely with the Father. The fruit of this was to experience Love in its other manifestations as spouse and mother.
Mrs Caldecott's little book includes spiritual children from Therese's own lifetime and beyond. As with Saint Padre Pio, the number of her spiritual children today must be enormous.
Therese's early concern for the condemned murderer Henri Pranzini began her journey as a spiritual mother. She had read about this man who was seemingly to go to the gallows unrepentent. She prayed and sacrificed for him intensely and his, literally, last minute conversion encouraged her to continue in this ministry. As is widely known, Therese desired to enter into all the Christian vocations - priest, apostle, missionary, martyr, and prayed with and for all these. Her prayers for Pranzini show her already as a 'missionary'.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta tells us that 'God doesn't call us to be succussful, he calls us to be faithful', reminding us that those in most need of prayer are those closest to falling. Pope John Paul II says in his document on Therese, as earthly mothers endure suffering to give birth, so spiritual mothers embrace suffering to bring their spiritual children into the Kingdom of God.
An example of this role of suffering is the story of the highly strung White Father Maurice Belliere, who, with a mind ravaged by black fever, abandoned his missionary post, facing censure and an early death He cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a success, nevertheless Threse prayed fervently for him throughout his life from seminary onwards, and one feels he found peace at the last. A more recemt spiritual child of Therese, Marcel Van, a Vietnamese mystic denounced to the communist authorities, is scarcely known to western readers, but his life and death make inspiring reading.
'The Spiritual Children of Therese', Leonie Caldecott, CTS 2009, CTS code B725 ISBN 978 1 86082 6146
'Praying for Priests with St. Therese of Lisieux', Maureen O'Riordan, CTS code D715 ISBN 978 1 86082 6191
CTS online with many other booklets and resources about Therese. http://www.cts-online.org.uk/