I was in my late teens when I first read the life of Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), a gift book from a devoted aunt who sought to encourage vocations in all her nephews and nieces. It is hard to explain my subsequent fascination with this French nun who died of consumption at age 24 without revealing my own emerging sensitivities to things spiritual at a crucial time in my adolescence.
Thérèse offered an almost embarrassing intimacy to readers in her autobiography, which began as a personal memoir she wrote at the request of her older sister and never intended for publication. It was treasured by her community after her death. Like many readers, I found in her a spiritual friend, passionate, tragic and perfectly sublimated.