Patroness of the Missions
to grace England and Wales


The Holy Father before the casket
containing the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux


Father Joseph Chalmers OCarm,
Sub-Prior and Director of Novices
at The Friars, Aylesford, looks forward
to the visit of the relics of St. Thérèse


The relics of St. Thérèse will be coming to England and Wales from 16th September to 15th October this year and they will be in the diocese at The Friars, Aylesford from 9th-11th October. Her relics have gone to a number of countries over the years and their presence has always been met with great interest and devotion. We have been created with bodies and so the material world has a great importance for us. The relics bring us into contact with the person and remind us of her great love for God. The people who have been in the presence of the relics speak of being with St. Thérèse. Before a visit of the relics, the idea is often greeted with scepticism and a distinct lack of interest but as the arrival draws near so the interest grows. We often talk of secularism and apathy concerning the things of God. Even though there might be a decline in the numbers attending church, there is still a huge interest in spirituality. People like St. Thérèse hold a fascination for many people. Others will be drawn to find out what all the fuss is about. We know that Jesus was followed by large crowds and surely many of these people had mixed motives but Jesus seized the opportunity to speak to them of the Kingdom of God. We too have a great opportunity with the visit of the relics of St. Thérèse to proclaim the Good News.

Who is St. Thérèse and why are so many people draw to her? St. Thérèse lived in France towards the end of the 19th century. She died when she was 24 years old and the last nine years of her life were spent as a Carmelite nun in the enclosed monastery at Lisieux. She did not do anything outstanding while she was alive. However shortly after her death, her fame spread because of what she had written about her childhood and her life as a nun. These simple stories show how one can follow Christ in and through the ordinary events of life. She now is one of the most popular saints of all. She was declared Patroness of the Missions, because she had a great desire to be a missionary and realised that the way she could do this was to be love in the heart of the Church. Through her prayer she gave courage to missionaries to preach the Gospel even when the situation was not very encouraging.

St. Thérèse opened her heart to God and so allowed God to work powerfully in and through her. She wanted to be a saint because she believed that was what God was asking of her but she realised that she could not accomplish this desire no matter how many good deeds she performed and no matter how many prayers she said. She realised that only God could make her a saint and so she trusted God totally. This way of trust became the “Little Way”, which has been the guide for so many people in their own following of Christ. We do not have to do great things but simply open ourselves to the love of God and trust that God will make our lives fruitful.

At the age of 15 she joined the enclosed monastery of Carmelite nuns in Lisieux and lived there until her early death at the age of 24. Yet, through her prayer and simple life of dedication to God, her heart expanded to cover the ends of the earth. Despite never leaving the monastery, her heart was missionary and she offered herself as a victim to the Merciful Love of God, convinced that God did not look for sinners to punish but instead sought people who would allow His love to enter their hearts and transform them. St. Thérèse responded totally to God’s call and teaches all of us that we too can respond to God’s call to us in the ordinary everyday events of our lives. We do not have to be extraordinary. We must simply allow the love of God to take hold of us and transform us.

Jesus often met with lack of faith and rejection. The political and religious leaders rejected him and laughed at what he had to say. He understood that somehow the plan of the Father was working itself out in the events of his life. One day he exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children!” (Mt. 11, 25) The only way to enter God’s Kingdom is to become like a little child, willing to learn and open to the wonderful ways of God. St. Thérèse teaches in her little way that we do not have to do great things; we simply must seek to respond to God’s grace at every moment of the day.

During the visit of the relics, the traditional blessing of the roses will take place. The rose has always been the symbol of St. Thérèse. She said that she would spend her heaven doing good on earth and that she would send a shower of roses, which she understood to symbolise God’s grace. Let us ask her to pray for all of us that it might be a real moment of grace for the diocese and the whole country.

 

 


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