The Catholic Community of England and Wales has begun to make preparations for the arrival of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux next year. It is anticipated that thousands of pilgrims will flock to the twenty two different locations across England and Wales to venerate 'The Little Flower's Relics'.
At the request of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, St Thérèse's relics will visit both countries from 16 September until 16 October 2009. Portsmouth Cathedral will be the first to host the casket containing the earthly remains of the saint, and subsequent venues, amongst others, include Aylesford Priory in Kent, the National Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham, York Minster, concluding at Westminster Cathedral in London. Some Carmelite convents will also briefly welcome the relics as the casket makes its way to the larger venues which can more easily accommodate the anticipated crowds.
Mgr Keith Barltrop, the National Coordinator of the visit said: "We've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for this initiative and since the initial announcement in February, we have had to extend the dates to try to accommodate the sheer number of people and parishes who want to support it. We've worked hard to ensure that the visit includes a good geographical spread so that as many people as possible can participate."
St. Thérèse is 'Patroness of the Missions' of the Catholic Church and a 'Doctor of the Church'. Born in Alençon, Normandy in 1873, she entered the Carmelite convent of Lisieux at an early age. Known to many as 'The Little Flower', partly because she famously said before her death that she would "spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses," she was declared a saint in 1925 and is most famed for the spirituality that she lived by, which is called the 'Little Way'. Over the last 15 years her relics have visited 40 countries in all five continents, and millions of people have prayed beside them and experienced many graces of healing, conversion and vocation.
Bishop Malcolm McMahon (Nottingham) is a bishop patron of the visit, together with Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds; Bishop McMahon said: "As 'Patroness of the Missions' St. Thérèse of Lisieux reminds us that it is up to all of us to go and teach the Gospel as Our Lord commanded us to. Her life and writings emphasise that whatever our state in life, even if we're unable to make big gestures, we can be bearers of God's love and mercy if we surrender all that we are to Jesus Christ. I encourage the baptised to use this evangelistic opportunity to proclaim in their daily lives the reality of God's love and mercy. If you are not a Catholic, come and see. A warm welcome awaits you."
Meanwhile, Dr Patricia O'Brien, a parishioner from the Parish of Sacred Heart and St Teresa of the Child Jesus in Coleshill, Birmingham, which is one of the participating venues, said: "Our parish sees it as an immense privilege to be welcoming the relics and expected pilgrims. We will be spending a lot of time during the next twelve months praying and working in preparation for the visit. Everyone will be made very welcome. We have expectant faith that many graces will be received through the intercession of 'The Little Flower'."
Every parish in England and Wales has been sent an introductory letter about the visit to invite and encourage them to support the initiative. It's hoped that local groups will organise transport to the venues so as to enable Catholics, those of other Christian denominations and faiths, and those of no faith, to share in this unique experience, which has as its focus Christ-centred prayer.
For more information see: www.catholicrelics.co.uk or contact your local venue a list can be found on this website. The visit is being funded by donations; cheques to help defray the costs are welcome and should be made payable to 'CATEW', marked 'Relics Visit' on the back and sent to: Mgr Keith Barltrop, The National Coordinator, Relics Visit, 39 Eccleston Square, London. SW1V 1BX.