Dec. 16, 2004
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Movie on Life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux Opens in Syracuse

Thérèse, an inspirational movie produced and distributed by Luke films, opened in 32 theaters throughout the U.S. on Oct. 1. On Friday, Dec. 10, it opened at Regal Cinemas at Carousel Mall in Syracuse. The production of Thérèse was funded entirely by individual donations and was created by devotees of the saint who wished to see a positive Christian message on the large screen.

Wanting to incorporate the simplicity of St. Thérèse, director Leonardo Defilippis chose to portray the saint with honest simplicity contrary to popular filmmaking techniques and glamour often found in today’s movies. The movie was very well done and according to several audience members, it accurately portrayed Thérèse’s pampered life and her subsequent conversion, which she described as a “night of grace.”

Born in Normandy, France in 1873, Thérèse Martin, played by actress Lindsay Younce, was one of five remaining children of Louis Martin (played by Defilippis) and Zelie Marie Guerin. After her mother’s death, when Thérèse was four years old, she and her four sisters were raised by their father, Louis –– a successful watchmaker. The children were raised in a very religious atmosphere, which was characterized by an unquestioning obedience and loyalty to the Church and a strict ethical code.

Both parents had tried unsuccessfully to enter religious life and both longed for their children be dedicated to God in religious life. All five daughters eventually entered the convent –– four entering the Carmel Order and one entering the Order of Poor Clare. The movie begins with the story of young Thérèse’s life –– including her social struggles in school and her sadness over her mother’s death and eventually, her sister Pauline’s entrance into the convent. “Pauline is lost to me,” said St. Thérèse. “When she left, my life was nothing but suffering. My mind became sick.”

While still a young girl, St. Thérèse suffered two weeks of fever and deliriousness and is not expected to live. Her father and sisters continuously prayed the rosary at her bedside. During her deliriousness, St. Thérèse sat up in bed and called out to the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her health was immediately and miraculously restored. This is one of the few miracles that are alluded to in the movie –– a fact that did not go unnoticed by moviegoers. Norma Kilpatrick, a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Liverpool attended the film with her two sisters. “I was hoping to see more miracles,” said Kilpatrick. Her sisters agreed. The trio who came to see how well the movie was done and were not disappointed. “It was lovely,” they said. “Her (Younce) acting was wonderful.” Madeline Nolan and her husband Bob are parishioners at St. Patrick’s Church in Jordan. Nolan is very well versed in the life of St. Thérèse. “I’ve read her book so many times,” said Nolan. “My mother gave me the book when I was 14 and inscribed it, ‘I hope you find this book helpful in your life.’” Nolan feels that Luke Productions did a marvelous job portraying St. Thérèse’s life. “They did a superb job. I’m so in awe of seeing it. I wish more people had come to see it. They would have been so moved.

The movie was moderately attended the first weekend with 90 people attending on opening day and 15 people attending the 7 p.m. Saturday evening showing. Bob Nolan, who was not familiar with St. Thérèse’s life, was very impressed with the movie. “It was well done,” he said. “It told a long story in a short amount of time.” The movie ran close to two hours in length and ended with St. Thérèse’s death at the age of 24.

In the book entitled, St. Thérèse: Doctor of the Little Way, published by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Bedford, Mass., it is reported that seven years after her death, so many miracles and apparitions of the Little Flower were reported to so many people in so many languages and places, that the bishop of Lisieux had to open the “ordinary” process, the first step toward her canonization. Of the multitude of cures attributed to St. Thérèse, two were scrutinized and accepted for her beatification. The first was the cure of a seminarian dying of tuberculosis. The second was a cure of a nun dying of a stomach ulcer. St. Thérèse (named the Little Flower for her promise to shower roses (favors) from Heaven to those seeking her help), appeared to the nun and said, “Be generous with God. I promise you will soon be cured.” A famous Parisian surgeon wrote a paper to prove the supernatural character of her cure. St. Thérèse was canonized a saint in 1925.

“They showed at the end of her life how hard it was. She suffered so much,” said Madeline Kilpatrick as she played with the St. Thérèse sacrifice beads attached to her purse. “St Thérèse’s sister taught her how to make sacrifice beads to keep count of the sacrifices she made throughout the day,” explained Madeline. Madeline uses her beads for the same purpose. “I’m just so happy we came to see it,” she said as she and her husband were swallowed up in to the holiday crowd at the mall.

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