St Therese of Lisieux at Wormwood Scrubs, originally uploaded by Catholic Church (England and Wales).
Wormwood Scrubs – 12 October
Archbishop Vincent Nichols celebrated mass with around 100 inmates of Wormwood Scrubs prison, staff and guests in the presence of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux today.
Following a moving and prayerful mass in the Anglican Chapel, the prisoners were able to venerate the relics before returning to their wings in West London’s Category B prison. Two of the prisoners served on the altar.
Father Anthony Doe preached a homily addressing the relevance of St Therese to those in prison and why she had become such an enduringly popular saint. One of the reasons for her popularity, he said, was because “she went through a dark night of the soul”. “Jesus wanted to be with those who suffer,” he said and it was through St Therese’s illness, pain and suffering that Jesus had revealed himself to her. He urged all to open themselves to the gifts of St Therese through prayer so they could come to know Jesus Christ through suffering and adversity.
Archbishop Nichols later said there had been a remarkable sense of peace in the chapel and during the mass. “It reminds us that everyone, no matter how vulnerable, is a spiritual being and has the capacity for peace and wholeness. This is as true for prisoners here in Wormwood Scrubs as it is for anyone else wherever they may be.
“Today’s mass and veneration in Wormwood Scrubs has been very moving for everyone involved. I am told and have now seen that everywhere the relics of St Therese have been in England and Wales, people from all walks of life are keen to be in her presence. This demonstrates the hunger there is for the spiritual in all of us.”
After the welcome liturgy, Allen Hall seminarians carried the reliquary in procession around the cloisters to the place of veneration. All were welcome to venerate the relics.
Bishop Alan Hopes – Homily
Reception Mass, Carmelite Church in Kensington
Over the past two weeks, the Church has witnessed remarkable scenes across the country of the coming together of tens of thousands of people to welcome and venerate the relics of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus – the Little Flower. Tonight we are preparing to welcome her Relics into the Archdiocese of Westminster.
Some would see this pilgrimage of the Relics as something of a bygone age breaking into the 21st century, something which has little relevance to modern society and its needs. Others would be concerned that the Church is raising the hopes of vulnerable people who come seeking a miracle.
However, many more see this Visit of the Relics as a very important moment in the life of the Church in England and Wales which will bring hope and renewal to the lives of many. For we believe that when someone like Thérèse has lived their life very close to God on earth they become a way in which God can touch the lives of many others with his love. And that continues to be true, even after their death. So, to venerate the relics of such a person brings us very close to them – and then they will always lead us closer to God and challenge us to imitate them in their love for Him. So when we welcome her relics into this church after Mass, we shall find ourselves very close to St Thérèse; we will be aware of her prayers for us; she will lead us to rediscover God’s love for us; and she will challenge us to renew our love for Him in the way we live our lives.
St. Thérèse is one of the most well-loved saints of the Church. What is her secret? What will she teach us during her Visit.
She was born in 1873 of wonderfully devoted and loving parents. After her mother’s death the family moved to Lisieux. Here Thérèse found her vocation to offer her life to God as a Carmelite nun. Entering the Carmel at the age of 15 she struggled along the road towards holiness until she died at the age of 24.
This was at a time when the Church in France was still strongly influenced by a philosophy which taught that all human beings are corrupt and depraved, that God is deeply displeased with us and in order to placate the anger of God we must do penance.
St Thérèse’s way of loving and following Jesus decisively corrected this thinking. She points us, not towards the anger of God, but towards his immense love for us all. Her Little Way, is the way of love and it comes out of her own experience of God. Through patience and perseverance, through prayer and absorbing the Gospel, she experiences an intense love for Jesus. She sees how her whole life is a great love affair with God and then understands how every action becomes an offering of love. She suddenly finds her true vocation, not to be a missionary or a martyr, but to be nothing else than love at the heart of Mother Church.
She teaches us that if we are to experience God’s immense love within our lives and to truly love him, then we must become like little children all over again. Like them in their relationship with their parents, we have to trust in God’s love and depend on him completely. We have to rediscover our littleness – we are, writes Thérèse, to recognise our nothingness, and expect everything from God as a little child expects everything from its father.
Thérèse teaches us that out of such dependence grows confidence – because as we become aware of our weaknesses so we will become aware of God’s merciful love. For wherever we may find ourselves or whatever we may have done, God’s love still continues to stretch out towards us. In the words of St. Thérèse: I am certain that even if I had on my conscience every imaginable sin, I should lose nothing of my confidence, but would throw myself heart broken with sorrow into the arms of my Saviour. I know too well what to believe concerning his mercy and his love.
The Little Way of Thérèse gives great confidence to all sinners, both great and small alike.
This confidence leads us away from irrational fear of God and the future.
St Thérèse teaches us to live only for today – and that the real way to live is to think that today is the only day that we have to love God. If we learn to live for today only, our pain becomes that much easier to bear, our temptations lose their strength. Love is the key to it all.
What response can we make to this immense love of God?
St. Thérèse writes :
How shall I show my love ….no other means have I of proving my love than to strew flowers – to let no sacrifice escape me, not a look, not a word, to make use of the very least actions and do them all for love.
Our lives are made up of many ordinary things – but in experiencing God’s love we begin to understand that every circumstance of life in which we find ourselves is to be used as an expression of our love for God – every humiliation, every difficulty, every sorrow, every disappointment, every joy, every duty, everything. We carry out everything as an offering of love for our heavenly Father.
Thérèse also reminds us that we must love our neighbour because we must look for and find Jesus hidden in the depths of their soul.
And finally, St. Thérèse who underwent excruciating pain through tuberculosis teaches us to find our Christian vocation to love God and each other even in suffering. With trust and confidence we bring our pain to God and we find support and strength and understanding in his love. Uniting her pain with that of Jesus on the Cross helped her to understand that it could become redemptive and that grace could flow into the lives of others.
Thérèse points us to the way of love.
St Thérèse died at the age of 24. Since her death, through her Little Way, she has become the guide for so many into the way of holiness. She has been a companion on the way praying for us and helping us towards God.
She reminds us that despite all our struggles, temptations and doubts, it is possible for us too to start on the road to holiness. Her Visit calls us to find this Way, to become aware of God’s love for us, to come closer to Him and to live for Him alone. She will pray for us in heaven as we venerate her mortal remains here on earth – and she will teach us how to love and follow Jesus and to become love at the heart of the Church.
Click to watch the video.
‘As we welcome the mortal remains of St Therese of Lisieux to this Carmelite Church, we think of St Therese in heaven because she said that I will spend my heaven doing good on earth and that is what she is doing here now. It is her prayers; her intercession, the memory of her life which influences all of us because she teaches us about prayer and about the love of God for us…
Church is full to overspilling…crowds wait outside.
Bishop Alan Hopes
‘Over the last two or three weeks, the Church has witnessed remarkable scenes across the country.
‘Tonight we welcome her relics to the Archdiocese of Westminster.’
Originally uploaded by Catholic Church (England and Wales).
Most Reverend Fernando Millán (Prior General – Order of Carmelites): Homily
Farewell Mass at the Friars, Aylesford
When I visit a country, a Carmelite community some where, one of our schools or parishes around the world, I use to begin my talk or my homily saying that it is a great pleasure, a privilege and a great honour to be here – and most of the time that is true. It always nice to visit our brothers or sisters (friars, nuns, lay Carmelite groups) and to share with them the word of God on a special occasion. Many times that has happened here in Aylesford over the past two years, in such a special place for the Carmelites. It is always an honour and a privilege to be in the place where, according to the tradition, Our Lady of Mount Carmel gave Saint Simon Stock the holy Scapular, a tender loving sign of protection and help. This place is very special especially for us Carmelites.
But, to be here today is not just a privilege and an honour, it is a real grace. The relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux are visiting Britain after being in so many other countries. During the last few days we have seen thousands of people visiting them, venerating them, accompanying them in processions or just praying in front of them, in silence and in a spirit of recollection.
Joyfully we can say that the visit has been a great success and I congratulate the Church here in England and Wales, the Carmelites, the organizers and every one who has been involved in this visit.
But we must ask ourselves: when we say that the visit has been a great success… what does it mean? What is “success” for us? If we speak in terms of numbers of people, crowds and so on, there can be no doubt that it was successful. If we talk in terms of organization there is no doubt either. But there are two ways to understand this expression “great success” that I consider very important and that I want to share with you:
– The first one is that many people have found during this visit and in these wonderful celebrations a good occasion to renew, to re-find, or even to discover their faith. Little Therese, a young and humble cloister nun who lived in the North of France at the end of the Nineteenth Century, didn’t write long volumes of theology, and she died quite young after two years of suffering… Little Therese has something special. She inspires us with the freshness of the Gospel; she teaches us how to live it more profoundly, in a committed, beautiful and honest way.
This is the real success of this visit. I have been very touched during these days when someone comes to me and says “Father, I went to confession after 20 or 30 years”, or “I got the grace to forgive somebody or to ask someone’s forgiveness”.
This is the real “shower of roses”, the shower of grace that Therese spoke about. This is not (or it shouldn’t be) superstition, or idolatry, or religious folklore, or sentimentality, or something of the kind. Therese points very clearly to the very heart of the Gospel, that is: to love, to respect, to forgiveness, to tenderness, to compassion, to be more understanding of the needs of the people around us… to be day-by-day more human.
In the first reading today we have heard to talk about real wisdom that is more important that silver or gold, more than health or beauty. Therese received that wisdom reserved to the poor ones, to the humble ones, to the simple ones.
– The second success is no less important. Many have underlined the ecumenical importance of this visit. Not only Catholics, but also Anglicans, Methodists, Buddhists, and people without religious affiliation… came to visit the relics. There is something so basic, so fundamental, so essential in the message of Therese that many people, no matter what their religious confession, feel she has something to say to them.
Perhaps (among many other elements of her spiritual teaching) we find with Therese that God is not a God of fear, a God of implacable Justice, a God before whom we feel afraid. When Therese listened to talk of the justice of God, instead of being sad and fearful… she was quite happy: “God knows how weak we are!” When Therese was writing this, in France there was still a very strong influence from Jansenism. That was a religious group or movement, with very good people and very committed Christians, who were worried about the level and the quality of religious life in France. They were asking for a greater seriousness, more commitment, and they were always stressing the justice of God and the gravity of sin. That is fine and there is nothing wrong with it. But, Jansenism forgotten the key point, the essential element, the basis of the Gospel and Christian life is not rules, justice, norms for punishment… but that it is about grace, love, mercy and freedom. That is the secret of Therese; that is perhaps also the secret of her success.
It is something more than fulfil the law, it is a love story. It is about loving God, and especially about feeling loved by Him. The young man in the Gospel was a quite good religious person. He fulfilled the law and the religious rules, and he wanted to be good. But he didn’t put God at the very centre of his heart.
That is why, when we look at the life of Therese, when we listen to her message, we get the impression that she is directing us to the very heart of the Gospel.
If, after this visit we are a little bit closer to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ; if we have been able to forgive somebody; if we have decided to remove form our hearts hatred and prejudice; if we trust more in God, even when we are suffering; if we are ready to feel the love of God in our lives… if only one person has received that message and is willing to live it… the visit has been a great, great success, and we can say that it was worthy to bring the relics of this Carmelite to this country. I am sure that not only one person, but a lot of people today are a little bit closer to God, and so a bit closer to others around them. I am sure that we all have grown these days in faith, in humanity, in tenderness in solidarity…
THANK YOU, LITTLE THERESE, FOR BEING WITH US. YOU SAID THAT YOU WOULDN’T BE PASSIVE IN HEAVEN, BUT VERY ACTIVE. PLEASE, INTERCEDE FOR US, FOR OUR FAMILIES, FOR OUR COUNTRIES, FOR PEACE AROUND THE WORLD. INTERCEDE ESPECIALLY FOR ALL THOSE WHO SUFFER, ALL THOSE WHO ARE SICK AND LONELY, ALL THOSE WHO NEED MORE OF OUR LOVE AND OUR PRAYER… AMEN