Garry O'Sullivan reports on a relic pilgrimage that could change a nation
THE VISIT of St Therese of Lisieux's relics to Ireland will be bigger than the Pope's historic pilgrimage to the country in 1979, it was claimed last week.
The claim was made by Fr Linus Ryan 0.Cartn, chief organiser of the visit, which begins this Sunday and will last until June 28. Fr Ryan said that the relics, which will visit 74 different locations, will draw more people overall than than the Pope's landmark visit.
The relics are scheduled to arrive in Rosslare Harbour, Co Wexford on Easter Sunday. They will then begin a 10-week tour, which will include all 26 diocesan cathe drals of Ireland, all Carmelite churches and oratories and the nation's major shrines.
Fr Ryan said: "The main reason we are bringing the relics to Ireland is in the hope that individuals and groups will grasp the life and teachings of the Little Flower's and renew their own journeys."
He said that St Therese — the world patroness of missions and a Doctor of the Church — was a marvellous wonder worker and an important saint for the third millennium.
"She promised a shower of roses and it has to be that God is pointing the finger that this woman is a role model for us, that's the importance of Therese," he said.
Although younger Irish Catholics might be less familiar with the saint, Fr Linus said: "There is hardly a church in Ireland that wouldn't have a statue of this little Carmelite nun. She's got everything to appeal to the imagination — like being young, enthusiastic, love and harmony with a total focus."
St Therese's relics will be brought to Ireland from Cherbourg, France by the Irish Ferries' ship MV Normandy. The 4001b reliquary will be carried ashore by a ceremonial unit of the Irish Army. It will then be transferred by "Theresemobile" — a brandnew Mercedes Sprinter — to St Aidan's Cathedral, Enniscorthy, where it will be received by Bishop Brendan Comiskey of Ferns.
Bishop Comiskey, chairman of the relics visit organising committee, said he hoped the visit would transform the spiritual life of Ireland.
He said: "On Easter Sunday, the remains of a saint with a soul of a child arrive in Ireland. What has she to teach us? What have we to learn from her? She has much to teach us, but whether we learn anything depends on whether we possess anything of the 'luxury of a child's soul'. How many of us will approach her visit 'amazingly liberated' from an attitude of bias and prejudice?
"Wherever the relics travel, hundreds of thousands come and reach out to touch the reliquary. whether it be in Russia or much of western Europe, Argentina or Brazil, the United States or Canada, the Philippines. Why? Because God wishes to teach us how much he loves us, not in spite of, but because we are mortal and breakable, that suffering is a grace and pain a lived pearl.
"Hundreds of thousands of 'failures' reach out to touch the relics of a saint who was regarded by her sisters-inreligion as so ordinary, such a failure, that they wondered aloud in her hearing how the superior of the community could possibly find enough to fill the requisite one-page entry into the community's list of the dead."
St Therese's world-famous autobiography, The Story of a Sou/ has been translated into Irish. For further information on the pilgrimage, visit the
official website, www.sttherese.com