“Thérèse, let your roses petals of grace fall on this city and these people who welcome you to their hearts and homes.”
– Archdiocese of Glasgow
For the last three weeks, the Catholic Church in Scotland has been vivified and renewed by the visit of the Relics of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, the ‘Little Flower’.
Social media, in particular, has been consumed by details and images of the visit, each tweet recounting how touched souls have been by having the opportunity to venerate the mortal remains of this young nun who died at the age of 25 in an enclosed Carmelite monastery in France, in 1897.
Everywhere the Relics have gone, Thérèse has drawn souls to her – Churches and Cathedrals have been packed to capacity and beyond, often with people queing for hours at a time to be able to spend a moment in her presence. One couple, in a hotel in Fort Augustus, waited outside with a sign reading “Saint Thérèse of Lisieux” in the hope the hearse carrying the Relics would pass by. It did – and more than this, it stopped for a few moments, so the couple could venerate the Relics, which was indeed a grace, as the couple had not been able to get to any of the designated places where the Relics were visiting.
Watching all of this take place, my heart was most warmed by two visits in particular.
The first was the visit to Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow, a large Victorian prison whcih the traveller passes on the M8 motorway on the approach to the City Centre. Welcomed like a greatly honoured guest, the Relics were borne by Prison Officers in full dress uniform, who carried them into the large Chapel where around 100 of the prison residents awaited her, before Mass was celebrated by the Archbishop of Glasgow. At the end, the prison residents and staff had the opportunity to venerate the Relics as they passed out of the Chapel. I cannot help but think that in the years to come, we will begin to hear the stories of some of these men, who will tell us of the graces they have received as a direct result of this visit. And I very much look foward to hearing those stories.
The second visit was the brief one to the Carmelite monastery in Dysart, where the Sisters had strewn the driveway with roses in preparation for the arrival of their elder French Sister. The film of these nuns welcoming the Relics and venerating them was beautiful to watch – it was like witnessing the meeting of old and dear friends after many years apart.
My personal highlight was the evening Thérèse arrived at Carfin Grotto, the national shrine in honour of Our Blessed Lady. This was also the place where, in September 2017, the nation of Scotland was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Grotto was built by Canon Taylor, a great devotée of Saint Thérèse, long before she was canonised; indeed, he played a leading role in her eventual canonisation and in establishing a solid devotion to her.
That evening, I went along to the Grotto and had the opportunity to venerate the Relics. It was quiet when I arrived, so there was no rush. After this, I was able to remain very close to the Relics throughout the Mass that evening, at which were present many Priests, Deacons and Religious of the Diocese of Motherwell. The Church remained open all through the night and still the pilgrims came.
After a few days in Motherwell, the Relics began their journey around all the Dioceses of Scotland, culminating in the visit to the Archdiocese of Glasgow. This evening, the Relics are spending one final night in Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow, before leaving tomorrow afternoon to return to the Carmel at Lisieux.
Many thousands of souls have come forth to visit Thérèse over these last few weeks. I suppose the number of graces she has obtained during this visit are very probably without number, and most of them, we will never know anything about. But I can’t help but wonder if among them, some are perhaps more notable in scale or significance, and I wonder if we might hear about some of these one day.
Someone said to me that the Faith is alive and well in Scotland – and this is true. The Archdiocese of Glasgow commented in a tweet that “something of a spiritual earthquake (is) happening”, and I think they are right.
Of course, none of this should be happening at all. Thérèse entered the convent and spent the last nine years of her life hidden behind it’s walls, doing – in her view, at least – “nothing very much”, before dying at the age of 25. But this, as we all know, was only the beginning of the story, not it’s end. It was the ‘Story Of A Soul’, as Thérèse herself called it – but oh! what an impact that story and this soul have had on so many here in Scotland over these past three weeks.
Thérèse, thank you so very much for visiting us and for showering us with heavenly favours, falling like rose petals. We will never forget these days. We will never forget you. You are now in our hearts forever.
“There is only one thing to do here below –
to love Jesus, to win souls for Him, so that He may be loved.”
– Saint Thérèse of Lisieux