The 4½ year-old boy stood in front of one the posters of St Therese in Salford’s Cathedral of St John the Evangelist. “She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen!”
His younger brother, who is almost 4, on seeing the long line of people waiting to venerate the relics had his own thoughts on the matter. “If I have to wait to touch her”, he declared, “I’m going home. If she’s dead she’s already in Heaven so I’ll just pray to her instead.”
The two children, unknowingly, voiced the thoughts of the 20,000 people who had venerated the relics of St Therese in her first 24 hours in the Cathedral. Perhaps they didn’t decide just to abandon their efforts as did the younger of the two boys, but they were certainly prepared to Therese as one who is already in Heaven. A couple who had just emerged from the body of the church in search of a welcome cup of coffee, offered their own reflection. “We drove down from Glasgow early this morning and will drive back there this evening. Yes, it’s a long way to come, but we love St Therese and decided that we can’t yet go to Lisieux, but we could come to see her while she’s here in England, so we just climbed into the car and drove.”
As with other venues, the overwhelming impression at Salford Cathedral is people: thousands of them! Not only was it crowded for Mass with even standing room at a premium, the crowd continued along the road outside and around the corner, at least 1,000 of them speaking quietly and happily during their lengthy wait.
“I can’t believe that so many people have come”, remarked one of the priests based at the Cathedral.
“St Therese has given Catholics an excuse to come together and say to the world, ‘I’m a Catholic!’ She has been a catalyst for people to declare their faith publicly. As Northerners, we are not demonstrative. We don’t wear our hearts on our sleeves, but our faith is very deep and real up here in the North. Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire… up in the North we lived and died for our faith. That’s why we have so many martyrs in this part of the country, four of them in my own family.” Thus spoke one of the many Religious Sisters present.
“I have seen that faith is part of the DNA of people in this part of the country”, added a Sister who has travelled from Lisieux to accompany the relics.
Fr Simon Firth, one of the priests of the Salford Diocese, based at Cathedral House, opened his heart as he addressed the young people at Saturday evening’s youth event. “As a 10 year-old boy, I visited Lisieux and stood before the picture of the 15 year-old Therese and fell in love with her. I looked at her beautiful hair and thought that she must have really loved God to have given up that beautiful hair and wondered if I could love God as much…. Therese showed us that the whole of life is about love and that it is worth loving God completely!”