The travelling relics of the Carmelite nun Saint Thérèse of Lisieux have arrived in Scotland for their first tour of the country.
Saint Thérèse is arguably the most popular saint of modern times. Born in France in 1873, whilst still young she entered the Discalced Carmel (monastery of nuns) in Lisieux. There she lived - as Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face - in the greatest humility, with evangelical simplicity, and confidence in God. By word and example Thérèse taught the novices these same virtues.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
Thérèse wrote an autobiography, Story of a Soul, which described her deep relationship with God and set out her spirituality of 'The Little Way of Spiritual Childhood'. By this 'Little Way' Thérèse taught the value of even small acts of love, and the importance of remaining simple and trusting before God who is a loving parent to us. Thérèse died in 1897, was canonised in 1925, and declared a 'Doctor of the Church' in 1997.
Since the 1990s some of Thérèse's mortal remains have travelled the world in a reliquary casket, bringing knowledge of her 'Little Way' and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to millions of people.
In the autumn of 2009 the Relics of Saint Thérèse toured England and Wales, drawing thousands of pilgrims to special events.
The Catholic Church in Scotland is organised independently from that in England and Wales, and a decade later the relics of Saint Thérèse have arrived north of the border. The Bishop of Aberdeen, Rt. Rev. Hugh Gilbert, O.S.B., commented: "When we venerate relics we venerate a person, one who lived holiness in a bodily life and will rise from the dead embodied again. The coming of a saint's relics is an opportunity to meet them. It is St. Thérèse herself who will be visiting Scotland."
On 29th August the Scottish tour organisers collected the travelling reliquary of Saint Thérèse from her basilica in Lisieux.
The first unofficial stopping point on the Scottish tour of St. Thérèse's relics was St. Teresa's Church in Newarthill, a village in North Lanarkshire roughly three miles from the town of Motherwell. Arriving around midnight on Thursday 29th August, the relics were the focus for a prayer service held in the church. During the service, devotees and pilgrims expressed their faith in God and hope in St. Thérèse's intercession by pressing roses to the reliquary, the traditional symbol of the Carmelite saint nicknamed 'The Little Flower'.
The relics being received at St. Teresa's Church in Newarthill.
Pilgrims praying before the relics of St. Thérèse.
Pilgrims laying roses in front of the relics of God's 'Little Flower'.
On Friday 30th August the official schedule of the relics visit began with a procession from Newarthill to St. Francis Xavier's Church in neighbouring Carfin. The procession was led by North Lanarkshire School Pipe Band, and watched by thousands of people lining the streets.
Young men carrying the relics of Saint Thérèse from St. Teresa's Church to the hearse used to transport the reliquary long distances.
St. Thérèse's relics adorned with the Scottish national flag known as the Saltire or Saint Andrew's Cross.
Pilgrims processing to Carfin.
A specially-commissioned icon of St. Thérèse and marching pipers leading the procession.
Procession with the relics of St. Thérèse: click on the button to start the video.
The choice of Carfin for the first full day of the relics visit is highly significant. The parish of St. Francis Xavier contains the Carfin Grotto, Scotland's National Marian Shrine (dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes). It is one of Scotland's primary pilgrimage sites, receiving over 70,000 pilgrims a year. The shrine was opened in 1922, the brainchild of Monsignor Thomas Canon Taylor. Under his direction, over forty chapels, shrines and statues were erected at Carfin Grotto.
Father Taylor had a particular devotion to Saint Thérèse, asking the Carmelite nuns in Lisieux for a relic of the 'Little Flower' to include in the All Saints' Reliquary Chapel, one of the largest collections of relics outside the Vatican. Taylor became a close friends of Thérèse's three blood sisters in the Carmel at Lisieux, and when the cause for her canonisation was opened in 1911 he was called as one of the principal witnesses to the widespread devotion to the 'Little Flower' in the English-speaking world. Monsignor Taylor's translation of Thérèse's autobiography from French into English was widely read. In 1925 Taylor attended Thérèse's canonisation in Rome.
For a number of years in the 1990s Carfin Grotto was entrusted to the pastoral care of the British Province of Carmelites.
At Carfin the relics of St. Thérèse were greeted by the Bishop of Motherwell, Rt. Rev. Joseph Toal.
Bishop Joseph Toal receiving the reliquary at Carfin.
Bishop Joseph preaching about St. Thérèse as model of holiness and intercessor with God.
A wide variety of activities is taking place whilst the relics are at Carfin. On Friday morning Bishop Joseph celebrated Mass for the Primary and Secondary Schools of Motherwell Diocese, reflecting St. Thérèse's great appeal to young people. In the afternoon Mass with the Sacrament of the Sick was celebrated, followed by opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the evening another Mass was followed by a Torchlight Procession to the Grotto Shrine of Saint Thérèse. After celebrating Night Prayer of the Church (Compline), pilgrims were able to spend the night in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, with the Rosary being recited each house until 7am Saturday morning. Devotions are scheduled to continue throughout Saturday and into Sunday, when a Solemn Mass for the National Pilgrimage in honour of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux will take place with all the Bishops of Scotland.
From Motherwell the relics will be taken to the other seven Catholic dioceses in Scotland, with the National Pilgrimage concluding on 20th September. For the full schedule of events visit https://www.littleflowerinscotland.co.uk/
The visit has been coordinated by Fr. Jim Grant, General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, who told the Scottish Catholic Media Office: "People today are fascinated by the idea of pilgrimage, of travelling to a holy place or site associated with a holy person. This once in a lifetime visit of the relics of Saint Thérèse to Scotland is a pilgrimage in reverse, where a holy person comes to us. We can expect many graces from this visit including healing, conversion, and discovery of true vocation to God."
The visit of Saint Thérèse's relics will be particularly significant for the Carmelite Family in Scotland, which includes a Lay Carmelite Community in Glasgow, and three monasteries of Discalced Carmelite Nuns.
Text: Dr. Johan Bergström-Allen, T.O.C.