St. Thérèse of Lisieux lived through a pandemic and left us her testimony
Aleteia – 03/12/2021
The saint of the « Little Way » shows us how to face sickness and death.
The life of St. Therese of Lisieux contains a testimony of how to face a pandemic, which she briefly recorded in her book, TheStory of A Soul. In her case, she suffered through the flu pandemic of 1890, which was also called “Russian flu.”
One million deaths
That flu pandemic was first detected in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1890 and spread rapidly through Europe. Within four months it was present all over the world.
It’s estimated that it affected 25 million people and caused one million deaths. The contagion ended nine years later, in 1899.
Influenza sweeps through Lisieux
The pandemic had its waves, and one of them took place in 1892. In that year the influenza virus spread throughout France and entered the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites of Lisieux, where a young Therese of Lisieux, then 19 years old, was living. She had entered the monastery 4 years earlier, on April 9, 1888.
All the Carmelite nuns fell ill, except Therese and two other young nuns. They took on all the work of the monastery and took care of those who were in bed, attending to each of them in their own cell.
Influenza soon caused the death of 4 nuns, and St. Therese had to prepare their funerals.