Posted by: catholicrelics | September 24, 2009

St Thérèse brought to the people of Liverpool

St Thérèse has arrived in Liverpool. The reliquary was carried into the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King where Bishop Vincent Malone preached this homily at Evening Prayer on Thursday 24 September 2009, the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham:

Before we proceed with our Evening Prayer, may I offer these few words:

First a word of welcome to all who have come here to give thanks to God for the life of St Thérèse of Lisieux, to learn from her example, and to ask her prayers.

Secondly: Today in England we keep the only specifically English feast of Our Lady in the Church’s calendar – the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, so the prayers and antiphons of our Evening Prayer are in honour of our Blessed Lady.

English prayers to our Lady always include the intercession that this country, once famed for its devotion to our Blessed Lady, will one day be again visibly united in its Christian faith.

St Thérèse, as Patroness of all Missionaries, will, I am sure, gladly join us in that prayer.

Homily

St Thérèse of Lisieux was canonised just a few years before I was born; in my childhood I thought it quite remarkable that a canonised saint had lived during the lifetime of my parents.

Perhaps it doesn’t seem so remarkable now; perhaps I’ve outgrown the notion that Saints are very rare human beings that have statues made of them and Holy pictures, and books written about them. And St Thérèse has helped me to realise that saints aren’t wildly exceptional – in fact they should be the norm.

Of course it’s true that only a very small proportion of the human race will be declared canonised by the Church, and proposed for universal imitation, but the holiness that makes a saint doesn’t lie in being extraordinary; it lies in being ordinary, extraordinarily well.

That, I would claim, is the lesson of what St Thérèse called her ‘Little Way’ – a simple way, not in the sense of being easy but in the sense of being uncomplicated. Holiness for St Therese is doing everything lovingly – simple, but far from easy, because loving takes me out of myself, and I am always wanting to turn back.

If that is St Thérèse ‘s message, what’s the point of these relics? There is a well-known picture of St Thérèse – you’ll see it on some of the literature in the cathedral today. I hope it’s a good likeness. I fear it may have been touched up a little in a way we now take for granted, but would not have been so common in the early days of photography. But if we could have the real picture of the real saint in real colour, I think we’d happily put it in the best frame we could make and feel that somehow it brought us close to her – especially if there was only one copy and no one was allowed to reproduce it.

We have here today not primarily such a picture of St Thérèse but some physical remains of the actual body God gave her, in which she served him. No one may make a copy of them; they are unique. They are housed in the best reliquary we can make, because, as something that makes us feel very close to the person we honour, they are irreplaceably precious.

Do such material things matter in the end? Not absolutely. But in our time on this earth we all operate in material bodies and recognise one another in our bodies: that’s the way we are – frail vessels each housing an indestructible spirit.

So today we honour what was a temple of a God-given spirit, a temple of the Holy Spirit, who gives us through St Thérèse such lessons of uncomplicated but demanding holiness that the Church honours her as a supreme teacher of the faith – a Doctor of the Church – brought to that perfection in 24 short years. What a challenge is that to those of us who have taken so much longer to make so much less progress!

We honour her memory, we listen to her words, we reflect on her example, we hold ourselves open to the work of the same Holy Spirit in us, individually and collectively.

May St Thérèse of Lisieux and our Lady of Walsingham pray for us all.

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Responses

  1. Thank you St. Theresa for the graces you have given to me, also for the roses I prayed for, on the day after I prayed over a dead rose plant, I received three pots of roses from Canada, the rose I had prayed for was suddenly full of buds which blossomed over the summer and still has one rose on it


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