The film, "Thérèse," was screened for the Roman Curia on May 8.
For a closer look at this highly anticipated film, ZENIT spoke with Lindsay Younce, the young actress who plays St. Thérèse, about portraying a saint and how St. Thérèse can inspire viewers through the film.
Younce is a graduate of George Fox University in Oregon and a recent convert to Catholicism from the Society of Friends (Quakers).
Q: What first drew you to the film?
Younce: I found out about St. Thérèse when I first came across her relics as they traveled through Vancouver. After that, I read excerpts from her "Story of a Soul" and I was struck by her wisdom and age. She had such a deep understanding of the love of God, yet was so young.
I had initially wanted to be an extra in the film. However, after I read for the part of Celine, Thérèse's sister, I got called back to read for the part of Thérèse.
I think we all feel like we've been chosen. We've been involved in something far greater than we knew. We're all such little people. This project is really grassroots and unexpected.
Q: Was portraying a saint rather intimidating at first? What did you find most challenging?
Younce: Oh yeah. I think anytime you portray someone who is really good or really evil, it is a challenge to portray their humanity because you want the audience to connect with them, especially someone like Thérèse.
Her whole message was that you don't have to be a famous or great person to be a saint, you can just be an average person. I wanted to make sure that she was portrayed as human as possible.
Q: How did you prepare for the role? Did you read the writings of St. Thérèse?
Younce: I read and re-read "Story of a Soul" and her "Last Conversations" as well as the canonization documents and her letters. Basically, I read anything I could get my hands on.
Q: How has portraying St. Thérèse affected your faith?
Younce: I started the process of becoming Catholic right before I began the film, however, I had to wait until after the film to complete the process.
I think getting to know Thérèse introduced me to many aspects of the Catholic faith that I had not been familiar with, especially the joy that comes from suffering when you offer it as a gift to God. You ask for it, you rejoice in it and it can be the little things you offer up every day.
Thérèse's relationship with Sister Augustine, the nun she had difficulty loving, has really impacted me, especially in my own life with people I have a hard time loving. I try to recall how she treated Sister Augustine and how she made special efforts to show her love even though it was difficult for her.
Q: What about St. Thérèse did you find most intriguing or surprising? What is most misunderstood about her?
Younce: I think what is surprising about her most was her youth, that she was young all of her life.
We often think of saints as these immaculate people all of their lives, but Thérèse had to go through a transformation, and one at a young age. She was always spoiled, getting her own way, people were always catering to her and she was favored, especially by her father She had to learn how to get out of that mindset. She was a very brave and courageous girl.
We often forget that one of the main things she wanted people to understand was that we are imperfect and you have to accept your imperfections. Thérèse was imperfect and she was discouraged and left with no consolation for much of her life. We are often without consolation, and it is important to understand that even a great saint like Thérèse went through a period without hope and joy. We see her as so sweet, but she went through so much.
I think we can see from her that to be a saint is within our grasp.
Q: What message does Thérèse have for young women today?
Younce: I think her understanding of divine love and her romance with Jesus Christ can touch women's lives. Whatever you discover your vocation to be -- wife, mother, religious -- in each of those vocations there are desserts and joys, but your main vocation is to love. If you can learn to sacrifice your own will for another, whether it's for your spouse, religious sisters, children, anyone in your life, you learn how to love and serve God.
Today, women are told they must look and act a certain way that is pleasing to the eye, and not necessarily pleasing to the spirit. I think Thérèse's message and example is the age-old line that "beauty comes from within."