Relics of ‘Little Flower’ on rare display Oct. 8

By Joe Bollig joe@theleaven.com

 
 

Leawood — You won’t get any closer to St. Therésè of Lisieux — this side of heaven, anyway — than to encounter three items she used to pen her spiritual masterpieces: a writing desk, pen and inkwell.
Catholics in this region will have the rare opportunity to view and venerate these second-class relics of St. Therésè of Lisieux, the Carmelite Sister known as the “Little Flower of Jesus,” on Oct. 8 at the Church of the Nativity, 3800 W. 119th St., Leawood.
Public veneration of the relics will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. There will be a prayer service at 7 p.m. Participants will be able to place a card with their name and prayer request inside a box containing the relics. These will be carried to the Carmelite convent in Lisieux when the relics are returned.
This is the first time that the relics have been allowed to leave the convent in France where St. Therésè of Lisieux lived, said Father Richard Halvorson, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of the United States for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
“The relics are on tour in the United States,” said Father Halvorson. “She is the patroness, along with St. Francis Xavier, of the missions.”
The Carmelite Sisters of Lisieux decided to allow the relics to tour, under the patronage of the Pontifical Mission Society, to encourage Americans to read the saint’s spiritual writings and to promote support for the mission society.
The relics will be taken to 20 dioceses in the United States. Directors of the various diocesan mission societies submitted requests to have the relics visit their diocese, and only a few were granted the privilege.
“In this Year of Faith, we hope to inspire others by the writings of St. Therésè, through which she taught about the faith and supported missionaries in the work of evangelization,” said Father Andrew Small, OMI, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.
The laptop writing desk, or escritoire, was used by St. Therésè almost daily from 1894 until her death on Sept. 30, 1897.  St. Therésè used it to write her spiritual masterpiece “Story of a Soul,” seven plays, 47 poems, 16 prayers and 95 letters.

 

What is a relic?

A relic is a part of the body of a saint, an object used or owned by a saint, or an item associated with the life of Christ, such as his cross.
Relics, which are a kind of sacramental, are preserved in a dignified manner so the faithful may venerate them and ask the saint’s intercession.
Relics are divided into three classes. First-class relics are items associated directly with the life of Christ or the bodily remains of a saint. Second-class relics are any item owned or used by a saint, such as an article of clothing, tool or personal possession. Third-class relics are items touched to a first- or second-class relic.
There are references to God using relics to perform miracles in both the Old Testament and New Testament.
 It is recorded in 2 Kgs 13:20-21 that a man was brought back to life when his body came into contact with the bones of the Prophet Elisha, after the deceased man’s body had been hastily thrown into the tomb during a Moabite raid.
Further, it is recorded in Acts 19:11 that, “So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and evil spirits came out from them.”

 

St. Therésè of Lisieux

St. Therésè of Lisieux lived her whole vocation as a cloistered Carmelite Sister in a convent in Lisieux. She died of tuberculosis at age 25.
Nevertheless, St. Therésè is loved by millions of Catholics, is honored as a saint and a doctor of the church, and is a patron of the missions.
She was born as Therésè Martin in Alençon, France, on Jan. 2, 1873. Both of her parents were very devout and considered religious vocations, but instead married and raised a family. Of the couple’s nine children, only five daughters survived childhood; all of them became nuns.
Therésè grew up to be sensitive and pious but, as she admitted, “far from . . . a perfect little girl.” She wanted to become a contemplative nun like her two older sisters and join them in the convent in Lisieux. Despite her tender years — she was only 15 years old at the time — she became a Discalced Carmelite Sister on April 9, 1888.
Her spirituality and vocation matured in the few short years that followed. She began to support missionaries through prayer and personal sacrifices. In her journey to sanctity, she discovered what she called “the little way” — that is, it is possible to love God and attain holiness by doing little things out of love.
After she died, her autobiographical writings were collected and published as a book entitled “The Story of a Soul,” which became very popular.
St. Therésè of Lisieux was canonized on May 17, 1925, and proclaimed universal patron of the missions, with St. Francis Xavier, on Dec. 14, 1927.