A Great Joy to the Carmelites
We had the great joy of receiving the relics of St. Therese and her parents, Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin on Sunday 28 October until the afternoon of Monday, October 29. Father Gabriel, OP was in charge of the relic pilgrimage through Finland stopping at Oulu, Turku, Helsinki and ending at our monastery. It was a heavenly experience to see the relics of St. Therese and her parents carried into our chapel to be put in front of the altar. She has had a tremendous influence in the vocations of each of us to Carmel, and it was truly like welcoming a dearly beloved sister and “family” member. There were definitely tears of joy and emotion watching the relics enter the monastery doors.
We had adoration for an hour after the relics arrived for visitors who could not make it the next day. We felt it was important to emphasize adoration, so people could see we adore Christ but only venerate relics, but with a love and honor due to them. The atmosphere was profoundly silent and prayerful. A few friends came to keep watch with the relics through the night and in the morning. We had Mass at 9.00 a.m. with Fr. Gabriel celebrating, and a very large congregation of faithful friends of St. Therese. Fr. Gabriel’s homily was truly inspired as he spoke about the parents of St. Therese, and how vocations are born from faithful families. Sts. Louis and Zelie were the ones who prepared the “seed ground” of holiness in St. Therese and her sisters. Though he is a Dominican, he spoke with the love and enthusiasm of a Carmelite Father about St. Therese and her love of our Merciful Father. “My vocation is Love…I will be love in the heart of my mother the Church.”
We were very moved by the presence of St. Therese and her parents in our monastery, and the joy has remained with us. One friend was in tears as he helped carry the relics of St. Therese back to the car before she left here. St. Therese does make her presence felt wherever she goes. “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.” And “I will come down.” In her Autobiography, she said ”I don’t know if I already told you how much I love snow? When I was small its whiteness filled me with delight and one of the greatest pleasures I had was a walk under the light snow flakes…I had always wished that on the day I received the religious Habit, nature would be adorned in white just like me…At the termination of the ceremony…I entered the cloister once more…my glance was drawn to the snow, the monastery garden was white like me! What thoughtfulness on the part of Jesus.”
After the relics were taken from the chapel and placed in the van where they waited until the drivers arrived, the car was right at our monastery front door. All of a sudden from nowhere, snow began to fall on the car and covered the ground beautifully everywhere. We were thinking St. Therese likes being here, she is sending us the snow she loved!!! We were really amazed and delighted. It seemed like a special gift from her making her presence felt, since the snow only lasted for that day and melted before the next day!
We did not have many extraordinary experiences, as that was not the Little Way of St. Therese, but there was a special grace felt by one Sister. She was going to blow out the candles late in the evening and walked past the reliquary of St. Therese a bit unaware of her relics there. She said she suddenly felt a spiritual jolt and was a bit shaken by the power of St. Therese’s presence. She left the chapel trembling but joyfully and gratefully and not out of fear. A few friends told us they felt St. Therese was almost speaking to them when they asked for her intercession.
Those are the main impressions of the visit of the relics at our monastery. And we also felt blessed meeting the Brothers of St. John the Evangelist and the others who brought the relics. Many thanks to them and all who made this special event possible for us and for the Church in the Nordic countries. We greatly appreciated the beautiful booklet Pyhiinvaelluskirjanen, prepared by the conference of Nordic Bishops.
The Carmelite sisters in Espoo