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St. Thérèse and Stars in the Sky

September 16, 2015 | posted by

St. Thérèse and Stars in the Sky

By Theresa Doyle-Nelson
For Today’s Catholic

As a child, I cherished a Little Golden Book about the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. One story shared in this picture book was of a young St. Thérèse strolling outside with her father in the evening with many stars shining brightly. She looked up at the sky and noticed a cluster of stars that seemed to form the letter T. This delighted the young to-be-saint, and she declared to her father that her name was written in heaven; Thérèse then asked her kind father to guide her so that she could walk safely while gazing upwards, contemplating the star-studded sky. That story really stuck with me. Having the same first name (with a slight spelling variation), I have from time to time searched the night skies, looking for a starred T.

As a young college student, while studying in France for a semester, I visited Lisieux and was completely won over by my patron saint. While there, I began reading her book, Story of a Soul, and it was a fun moment to come across the same vignette I remembered from the Little Golden Book about the T-shaped grouping of stars — but explained in Thérèse’s own words. Many years later, when my family settled within the Archdiocese of San Antonio, it was a delight to see this event of St. Thérèse’s childhood depicted within a stained glass window at the Basilica of the Little Flower.

Orion’s Belt? Maybe, maybe not. There is a popular belief that St. Thérèse was seeing the arrangement of stars called Orion’s Belt. When her sister Pauline (Mother Agnes of Jesus) edited Story of a Soul after Thérèse’s death, she changed the wording of the original manuscript to read that the stars Thérèse saw were Orion’s Belt. However, if you find an edition of Story of a Soul prepared after 1956, free of Pauline’s editing, and more attuned to Thérèse’s actual wording, the explanation goes more like this:

There was especially one cluster of golden pearls that attracted my attention and gave me great joy because they were in the form of a –T –. (Story of a Soul, Chapter II)

It is certainly possible that Thérèse once verbally shared with her sister the story of the T-shaped stars, and included a reference to Orion’s Belt; however, her actual written words don’t show that. So, we really don’t know exactly which stars Thérèse’s eyes beheld. However, the story beautifully illustrates the Little Flower’s awe with God’s creation; how He has strewn gifts about for all to enjoy and better grasp His divine omnipotence and love.

By the LORD’S word the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth all their host (stars). -Psalm 33:6