Monday, October 15, 2012

Lisieux // Walking Where Saints Trod

Early morning walk to the train station.

This weekend was another Globe trotting adventure, but to do it justice I have decided not to include everything in one blog post. It would be too overwhelming for you to read and not enjoyable for me to upload =] So here is part 1.

This weekend 3 girls and myself went to Lisieux, France where St. Therese of Lisieux lived most of her life. I had started reading "Story of a Soul," a sort of autobiography by St. Therese before I left for Italy and I finished it on the train to Lisieux. First, travelling to Lisieux we had to take a train to Pisa, fly to Beauvais, Paris, walk to the train station and then take another 3 hour train to Lisieux. It was a complex puzzle but we figured it out with the intercession of St. Therese and the help of a few (unexpectedly) nice French folk.

This trip was no ordinary touristy trip for me. I wanted to make it a sort of pilgrimage. Learning about St. Therese's life I have realized what an amazing woman she was and a powerful intercessor she is. In the past I had asked for her intercession with making decisions and she had never failed me, so this was a great time to 1) thank her for her example and intercession, and 2) reflect and pray on how God is calling me to love as she loved.

We arrived in Beauvais and spent the night there. We started the next morning by getting up around 5 a.m. to walk to the train station and catch the earliest train to Lisieux. We wanted to get the maximum time in Lisieux possible. It was early morning when we arrived, and the sun was just starting to break the cloud cover. The whole scene was magical. It felt like a holy place when we were climbing the hill to the basilica. I can't describe the feeling but I knew that it would be a beautiful, grace-filled day.

The beautiful day God made for us!

When we got to the basilica there were very few people and it was very quiet. The basilica was beautiful with lots of art and beautiful flowers everywhere. Of course, the Little Flower's Basilica would smell of roses =]

 Me and St. Therese =]


After the initial orientation to Lisieux we went our hermitage and tried to communicate with the sisters. Let me tell you, after learning Italian for 2 months and then going into a country that only speaks French my head was all kinds of confused! But we managed to communicate! The hermitage itself was a very peaceful, large and beautiful complex used strictly pilgrims. The sisters there are so kind and generous.

We decided to explore the town a little after making our plan for the day and ended up getting some delicious French bread (Note: French bread is way better in France than anywhere else!) and finding the Cathedral that St. Therese's family were parishioners at. It was amazing! After reading "Story of a Soul" it was great to be able to see all the places she spoke of. These included: the chapel that she went to daily mass at and prayed for the conversion of the convict, Pranzini; the confessional where she received her first communion; the high altar her father donated to the Cathedral; the chapel her family attended Sunday mass at. It was an amazing, almost unreal experience walking and praying in the very places she had been a few hundred years before.

Walking around Lisieux in itself was amazing. It is a small French town. There are flower shops on every corner and almost as many bakeries. It is a totally different feel than any Italian town I have been in thus far. I really enjoyed it. The drivers were so pedestrian friendly! Very unlike Italy!

After our stroll around town we saw the place where St. Therese's body lay. It is so beautiful how many people bring flowers to her tomb in thanks for her powerful intercession. In a small museum connected to the chapel there were tons of testimonies to the powerful intercession of this littlest of nuns who was a powerful intercessor. It's no wonder she is the patron of missionaries, because her intercession and love of God has changed so many hearts around the world and spread the Gospel to so many people by her "little way" of love.

The visit didn't end there. We also were able to have a tour of her childhood home and see the place she grew up in and had her major conversion as relayed in the book. It was amazing to be in the place that was so dear to her heart, where she spent so many beautiful days with her father and sisters.

After our visit we walked up the hill again to the basilica and were able to go to mass in the crypt. It was so beautiful, but I am really starting to feel the strain of listening to a homily in a foreign language and not understanding any of it. I will be so happy to hear the mass in English again! I will never take it for granted! No matter how long or boring the homily might be, at least I'll understand it!

We spent the rest of the evening walking around Lisieux, eating French bread, and receiving third class relics of St. Therese from the Carmelite sisters! SO Cool! I got to keep a rose petal that was under her tomb when her body was exhumed. I feel very blessed.

After such an eventful day I slept quite soundly. We had another early morning train ride the next day to get to Paris so sleep was much needed. Overall it was an amazingly blessed day! God was so present with us
all day. Getting to see all the places that St. Therese slept, ate, walked, prayed (just living her life!) allowed me to realize the reality that she was a normal person just like you and me who had an extraordinary love of God that transformed her life as well as the lives of those around her. It really inspires me to live out my "vocation of love" just as she did and to let God transform even the smallest events in daily life.


St. Therese, pray for us that we may turn our hearts and minds towards God. Pray for us that we would live simply and love boldly. That we would be missionaries of God's love to everyone we meet and turn even the littlest suffering into a beautiful gift for the glory of God. Amen.

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