A simple and humble ordinary girl
WHILE the tour of St Therese of Lisieux may have been cancelled, the popular saint spent precious time with those who know and love her most, the Carmelite nuns in Canberra.
The four sisters were delighted to care for the relics of the “Little Flower” and her parents, Saints Louis and Zelie, at their convent in Red Hill.
Archbishop Christopher visited the relics last week, describing it as a mini-pilgrimage on behalf of his Archdiocesan family adapting to a pandemic-dictated life.
The French girl born in 1873 who beseeched the Pope to allow her to enter the convent at age 15 and died less than 10 years later is hugely popular because of her “Little Way” of living humbly in service and love.
Parents Louis, a watchmaker, and Zelie, a lace maker, were the first married couple to be canonised, in October 2015.
“We don’t pray to relics, we pray with relics,” the Archbishop said before entering the convent chapel to pray.
“It is like having a photo of someone you love and when you hold that you feel closer to them. So with relics we feel closer to the person and even in their death they bring us to Jesus.
“This is a pilgrimage moment where I come on behalf of the Archdiocese so people can place before Jesus and the relics of these three Saints all that concerns them in this terrible time of pandemic.”
The Carmelite nuns were unsure whether the relics would make it to Canberra at all.
“It was up in the air at one stage so we feel extremely privileged she could visit us at this very difficult time,”Sr Monica said.
“For many of us she has always been a very special part of our vocation. My vocation was due to her intercession on my behalf.”
Sr Bernadette said the community felt that St Therese was “coming home to her Carmelite family in Canberra”.
“She has so many graces to share with all the families in the Archdiocese who are struggling with all sorts of fears and worries and concerns,” Sr Bernadette said.
“Her presence among us is to give us more courage and hope that the Lord and she and her parents are looking after us.”
Therese’s message of small acts of love and kindness resonated with people struggling to feel connected, Sr Monica said.
“I know with my own brothers and sisters, they are starting to think maybe we are called to a deeper prayer life and they are wondering how do you live this monastic life when we have to be more or less self-isolating,” she said.
Sr Monica shared that her 101-year-old mother is in an aged care home in Brisbane.
“The family visits have meant so much to her and now that’s restricted or not happening at all,” she said. “We wonder how we can connect with a wonderful 101 year old who is so dependent on that family contact.
“We have to call on the grace of the Lord to find ways. He may be calling her very shortly to himself but it’s all in his hands and we can only trust his ways.”
Sr Bernadette attributed Therese’s popularity to the fact she was a simple and humble ordinary girl.
“Therese tried to make love the big focus of her life,” she said. “She lived in a community where some of the personalities were not so easy to get along with.
“It’s the same in our families and communities and workplaces. But Therese was able to bring love.
“Her mother Zelie died of breast cancer when she was very young so Louis had to raise the children. They had many challenges as we all do in our lives.
“They were very much a normal family with normal struggles, and families are struggling particularly at the moment, financially and being together.
“I think the message is to stay together and really to turn to God. We would like to assure the people of the Archdiocese our very sincere prayers for each of you in these really troubling times.”