Stronger than Steel: Soldiers of the Great War Write to Thérèse of Lisieux
174 Pages | Paperback | Angelico Press, 2021
In the seventeen years between her death in 1897 and the outbreak of World War I, the fame of Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face had spread widely, especially in France and its colonies: her autobiography The Story of a Soul was hugely popular, and soldiers carried around holy cards, medals, and relics. This remarkable collection of letters from (mostly French) soldiers fighting in the Great War and enduring its abysmal horrors are astonishing and moving testimonies of how Thérèse appeared to them or spoke to them when invoked—how she miraculously protected them from “showers of iron and fire,” delivered them from precipitous danger, healed them when doctors despaired, and encouraged them in the trials of battle. After all, this Carmelite—who once dressed in armor as St Joan of Arc for a convent recreational play—tells us: “Sanctity! It must be won at the point of a sword,” and, during her final illness, “I will die with my weapons in my hands!”
Shedding new light on the enduring mission of this beloved saint, Stronger than Steel will rekindle the reader’s devotion to “the greatest saint of modern times” (in the words of her devotee, Pope Pius X). It reminds us that we are all called to the “Great War”—the spiritual war—where we are not alone against the enemy but aided by the mighty intercession of the friends of God.
Praise for Stronger than Steel
“Make no mistake: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, is indeed much stronger than steel. France entered WWI in 1914. Although St. Thérèse had passed away 17 years before, she was vividly there in battle in the midst of the French troops. After the war, soldiers flooded the Carmel in Lisieux with letters about how this once-cloistered nun protected them, renewed their faith, saved them, even appeared to them, taking some by the hand amid the bullets and bloodshed. Each letter is a treasure, a true account of God’s presence in the darkness. If there is any book that will bring you hope in these unsettling times and a quiet joy burrowing to the depths of your soul, look no further.”
—SISTER MARY NORBERT, of the Norbertine Canonesses of the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph
“In the years after the death of the young nun Thérèse Martin an avalanche of letters from around the world descended on the convent in Lisieux recounting the miracles and answers to prayer given by the saint. This collection of letters from soldiers fighting in the First World War is truly astonishing, moving, and inspiring. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to renew your faith in Christ, your devotion to the saints, and your conviction that God answers prayer and works miracles in the world today.”
—DAN BURKE, President, Avila Foundation
“Saint Thérèse is very well known by her fruits, but we don’t know the half of them. For those who think of her as limiting herself to the religious life, this book will be a revelation. It shows her weakness in mortal life translated into glorious power on the battlefield, her illness translated into miraculous healing, and her death translated into protection from death. Multiple soldiers present to her their Croix de Guerre for she was there for them on the battlefield: appearing to them in the sky, kneeling in compassion before them, leading them to safety. All of this is told with the innocent directness of the young warriors themselves. These letters are a testimony to the truth of the promise of the Lord Jesus that the one who abided in Him would bear much fruit. Thérèse did both, and we are still learning how much.”
—FR. LUKE BELL, author of Staying Tender: Contemplation, Pathway to Compassion
“St Thérèse is often wrongly presented as a dainty, sentimental saint, not the sort to appeal to fighting men facing imminent violent death. But these touching letters from French soldiers show how much affection they had for Thérèse and, if their reports are to be believed, just how much affection she lavished on them in return from Heaven. This fascinating collection of letters amounts to a practical exposition of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. It will surely instill readers with even more confidence in the intercessory power of the saint of Lisieux.”
—PATRICK KENNY, editor of To Raise the Fallen: The War Letters, Prayers, and Spiritual Writings of Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J.
“These letters from the Front will convince all but the most skeptical that the Little Flower was present in the mud, blood, and chaos of the trenches; not only bringing spiritual consolation to the soldiers, but protecting many of them from shells and bullets. This a book to deepen your faith in supernatural realities.”
—MAOLSHEACHLANN Ó CEALLAIGH, author of Inspiration from the Saints: Stories from the Lives of Catholic Holy Men and Women