St. Therese of Lisieux, Pray for Us!
THE visit of the Pilgrim Relics of St. Therese of Lisieux or of the Child Jesus to the Diocese of Kalookan in a very short period of time proved that thousands of parishioners are devotees of St. Therese. Many more became her devotees, including this author. I realized that it is not how long St. Therese stayed, what matters is how her stay changed the life of the persons she touched.
As soon as I learned about the visit, I felt the excitement of seeing again the relics. The first and last time I had touched the relics was several years ago at the Manila Cathedral, together with my mother and my brother. As one of the Media Group of the Diocese, I was contented to cover the Arrival and Welcome Rites of the relics at San Jose de Navotas Church. However, the day before the arrival, Fr. James Anthony Del Rosario, the priest in-charge of the pilgrim relics’ visit, told me that I will be one of those who will fetch the relics from St. Francis of Assisi in Meycauayan City and will ride in the same van which will carry the pilgrim. I got goose pimples, wow, this is a rare opportunity.
So, early in the morning on Day 1, we went to St. Francis of Assisi, joined its parishioners in the Farewell Mass, queued the long lines to venerate the relics, touched the fiber-glass encasing the reliquary which contains the pilgrim relics and said a little prayer. I considered myself truly blessed because I rode with the relics from Meycauayan City to Navotas City, and got the rare opportunity to again touch for a long time the fiber-glass encasement during our trip. I also got the chance to meet Msgr. Albert Songco of the Military Ordinariate and Executive Director of St. Therese Pilgrim Center.
I thought it would be enough for me, but no. Upon arrival at San Jose de Navotas Church, after the Welcome and Arrival Rites, I cannot help myself but still venerated, touched, kissed and prayed by the relics. I found myself telling people all about the relics and about the life of St. Therese, encouraging them to bring out their hankies and religious articles, press them on the glass encasement of the reliquary of the first class relics, which will make those articles third class relics. I also took their pictures with the relics.
From San Jose Church, we transferred the relics to San Bartolome Church in Malabon City via motorcade and welcome by the drum and lyre band and “caracol” dances by the parish youth. After the welcome rites, there were catechesis and Eucharistic Celebration by the Vicariate Clergy and Taize by the Diocesan youth. As in Navotas, thousands of people queued up to midnight to venerate the relics.
On Day 2, after the Farewell Mass, the relics were transferred to San Roque Cathedral via a motorcade and procession. The Welcome Rites was led by the Diocese’s Vicar General Fr. Jerome Cruz, Fr. Ricky Omol and Fr. Tony Nopasa. The Knights of Columbus honor guards saluted the relics with their swords. The Eucharistic Celebration was led by Most Rev. Pablo Virgilio S. David, Bishop of Kalookan, and the Kalookan Clergy. Again, thousands of worshippers attended the Mass, afterwards, they form an orderly queue, touched or kissed the fiber-glass encasement, said a prayer in the presence of the mortal remains of St. Therese, believed to be the patron saint of aviators, florists, aids sufferers and missionaries. A military crew secured the safety of the relics. This author venerated, touched and prayed by the side of the relics and stayed up to the wee hours of the morning, knowing that the relics will leave the Diocese early in the morning.
On Day 3, after the early morning Farewell Mass at San Roque Cathedral, the relics were ready to be transferred to Good Shepherds Cathedral, Diocese of Novaliches. This author, touched and prayed by the relics, took her car and, together with other Diocesan Media volunteers, joined the motorcade to Novaliches, renewed acquaintance with its Parish Priest, Fr. Mario Sanchez, formerly assigned at Christ the King Parish, Filinvest II, attended the Welcome Rites, said their good bye to the relics, hoping to have another encounter with St. Therese.
The pilgrim relics of St. Therese consist of her right leg, a thigh bone and a bit of a foot sealed inside a 21 stone silver container in a huge jacaranda casket called a reliquary. It requires 8 to 10 policemen to carry her up to the altar. The policemen from the three cities carried he relics to the Altar.
Research reveals that Most of St. Therese’s body is in the Basilica in Lisieux, while her head is in the neighboring Carmelite Convent, one foot is on permanent tour in France, a vertebra is also housed in another travelling reliquary and the rest of her bones are on international duty. There is also a small bone fragment somewhere in outer space. In 2008, a U.S. astronaut took a tiny relic with him on the Discovery space shuttle and left it up there, making St Therese the first saint to orbit the earth.
The world came to know St. Therese through her autobiography, “Story of a Soul”. She wrote “What matters in life is not great deeds, but great love. I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.” Millions have been touched by her intercession and imitate her “little way.” She has been acclaimed “the greatest saint of modern times.” There were always showers of rose petals during her visit to the Diocese of Kalookan.
Happy Birthday to Fr. Rufino Yabut, Fr. Romy Tuazon, Fr. Tim Guarin, Fr. Dennis Salise, Marie Masangkay, Bea Lim, Tess Lara of the Diocese of Kalookan and my niece Resi Imperial.