St Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897), also called “the Little Flower”, was a French Carmelite nun, mostly known for her “Little Way” which involved finding the spiritual in not just in the grand things of life, but also in the little things of life.
However, there are some quotes from St Therese that show that she is a good patron Saint in our fight against euthanasia and what is now being called “right to die” because of her struggle with suicidal thoughts as she died.
There is a video currently circulating of a man dying with brain cancer. No doubt it is heart-wrenching and painful to watch him suffer. This video is being used to garner support for euthanasia.
The argument goes something like this:
- Dying hurts.
- One suffers terribly as one dies.
- One should not have to suffer.
Of course, we as Catholics, know that our Lord said we should take up our cross. We also know that suffering has been, and is, a most efficacious path to holiness.
Even Saints Like St Therese Had Suicidal Thoughts
It is comforting to know that St Therese not only suffered horribly in her last days with tuberculosis, but that quotes from her last days showed she understood the temptation to commit suicide, as a way to avoid suffering.
During her final days, St Therese went through an incredible amount of pain. Whereas some Saints bore the suffering quietly, without complaint, St Therese kept it real. She complained about how painful it was, and also the temptations and self-doubt she experienced.
What a consolation to know that one can have suicidal thoughts and still overcome them.
St Therese’s Faith Was Vital in Her Fight Against Suicidal Thoughts
According to the testimony of a nurse who was by her side in her last days:
“Three days before she died, I saw her in such pain that I was heartbroken. When I drew near to her bed, she tried to smile, and, in a strangled sort of voice, she said: ‘If I didn’t have faith, I could never bear such suffering. I am surprised that there aren’t more suicides among atheists.St. Therese of Lisieux by Those Who Knew Her (Testimonies from the Process of Beatification
Euthanasia supporters are right about how painful dying can be. They are wrong about the solution.
The solution is to cling to our faith in God.
This is the time when we are at out weakest and when the devil attacks us with all his strength.
This is the time when we need holy people by our side who will pray for us and not allow us to fall into temptation.
In the quote below, St Therese indirectly lets her Mother Superior know to watch her so that she does not, in one moment of anguish, commit a horrible sin.
St Therese Reaches Out to Her Mother Superior for Help
In St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations, St Therese says:
“Watch carefully, Mother, when you will have patients a prey to violent pains; don’t leave near them any medicines that are poisonous. I assure you, it needs only a second when one suffers intensely to lose one’s reason. Then one would easily poison oneself….”
Many suicide survivors state that when they pulled the trigger, or when they took the pill or jumped off the cliff, in that last second, they regretted it.
In that last second, their reason returned.
Unfortunately our society has normalized this type of despair and turned it into a process, where, with much encouragement, one can make plans to die.
On the contrary the suffering some of us experience at the time of death is a cleansing balm. Painful yes, but on the other side, is our reunion with our maker.
The more we suffer while alive, the less time we’ll spend in purgatory.
St Therese understands the pain and fear of those who are dying.
In our fight against euthanasia, may we always turn to St Therese for her intercession.
- St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations
- Trusting God with St Therese
- The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux (Tan Classics)
- Words of Love: Revelations of Our Lord to Three Victim Souls in the 20th Century
- St. Therese of Lisieux by Those Who Knew Her (Testimonies from the Process of Beatification
- Prayer to St Dymphna for Nervous Disorders & Mental Illness
- Traditional Catholic Prayer Against Depression by St Ignatius of Loyola
Recommended Podcast Episode
If you’re currently going through a trial, you might find this podcast on suffering encouraging.
This post was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2020.