Praying to Saints and Folk Magic: Santa Teresa Piccolo Fiore

Santa Teresa Piccolo Fiore [Little Flower] was also known as "St. Therese, the Little Flower of Jesus," "Saint Therese de Lisieux" or "Sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus et de la Sainte Face" (Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face). In Italian, these titles are Santa Teresa di Lisieaux or Santa Teresa di Gesù Bambino del Volto Santo. She was a French girl who in 1888 entered a Roman Catholic Carmelite monastery at Lisieux at age fifteen in order to become a Carmelite nun--like her sisters. Her birth name was Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin. She died age 24 in 1897. She was canonized as a saint in 1925 and is recognized as a Doctor of the Church for her writings. St.Therese is known for her "Little Way." In her quest for sanctity, she realized that it was not necessary to accomplish "great deeds" in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. She wrote:"The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love." She also used this "Little Way" in her approach to spirituality. Her feast day was celebrated on October 3 until the calendar revision of 1970, when it was moved to October 1. Thérèse of Lisieux, as an appealing young girl, remains the focus of much popular Catholic devotion, including Italy and Scilly. She is, among other things, the patron saint of florists, illness, tuberculosis, and missions. In Scilly, this young celebate nun is often prayed to in order to bring romanic love into one's life.

Famous quotes from St.Therese include: "After my death I will let fall a shower of roses." and "I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth." Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul (published posthumously), has inspired many people, including the Italian writer Maria Valtorta.

Here is the "Short Novena to St.Therese" which is one of the well known Catholic prayers petitioning this saint for asitance. The description hightlights the sorts of Catholic prayers that must be recited with a novena to a saint.

"St. Therese, the little flower, pick me a rose from the heavenly garden and send it to me with a message of love. Ask God to grant the favor I implore and tell him I will love him each day more and more. Amen." (state your petition) "Saint Therese, help me to always believe as you did, in God's great love for me, so that I might imitate your "Little Way" each day. Amen." Recite this prayer for five days along with (5) Our Fathers, (5) Hail Marys and (5) Glory Be's before 11 AM. On the 5th day say this sequence plus an additional (5) Our Fathers, (5) Hail Marys and (5) Glory Be's.
If a petitioner who recites this prayer sees a rose within five days of finishing the novena, the prayer has been answered, because it is believed St Therese will send this sign to whoever she helps.

In Italian this novena is:

Santa Teresa piccolo fiore, ti prego di raccogliermi una rosa dal giardino del cielo e di mandarmela con un messaggio d'amore. Chiedi a Dio di concedermi la grazia che ti imploro e digli che lo amerò ogni giorno sempre di più. Amen.
This prayer often accompanies the above novena:
Santissima Trinità, Padre, Figlio e Spirito Santo, io vi ringrazio per tutti i favori e le grazie di cui avete arricchito l'anima della vostra serva Santa Teresa di Gesù Bambino del Volto Santo, Dottore della Chiesa, durante i suoi ventiquattro anni trascorsi su questa terra e, per i meriti di questa vostra Santa Serva, concedetemi la grazia che ardentemente desidero (state petition for the grace) se è conforme alla vostra santa volontà e per il bene della mia anima. Aiutate la mia fede e la mia speranza, o Santa Teresa di Gesù Bambino del Volto Santo; realizzate ancora una volta la vostra promessa di passare il vostro cielo a fare del bene sulla terra, permettendo che io riceva una rosa come segno della grazia che desidero ottenere. Amen.

Many Catholics state that such prayers are simply loving devtion. Some might call the expectation of a gift of roses a traditional example of magico-religious practice--particularly combined with a love bath with rose petals. It does serve as an example of just how fine the line between religious devotion and magical practice can be.

Myth Woodling, 2007

Love Bath

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