ARTICLESINFORMATION ON THE RELIQUARY AND RELICS
Ref. No. 99082887 Information Sheet No. 1. March, 2000
For security reasons, the Reliquary is permanently fixed to a wooden base and is entirely covered by a dome of plexiglas (perspex). The Lisieux Authorities are adamant that this cover may not be removed for any reason.
The wooden base is 3¹/10 inches thick. For handling purposes, it has eight handles three on each side and one at each end.
Overall length 1.50 metres (4ft. 11inches).
Overall width 0.95 metres (3ft. 1½ inches).
Overall height 0.85 metres (2ft. 9½ inches)
(including the plexiglas cover)
Total weight 132 kilos, or 291 lbs.
A photograph of the actual Reliquary on the shoulders of Russian soldiers in Moscow - February 99 - can be seen on the back cover of The Great Jubilee AD 2000 by Fr. J. Linus Ryan, O. Carm.
When the death of St. Thérèse occurred in 1897, she was buried in the towns Public Cemetery on October 4, in a plot bought for the Carmelites by her maternal uncle, Isidore Guerin. The anti religious laws, then in vogue in France, forbade burial in monastery cemeteries.
With the passing of time and in view of the events after her death, we can see that this new law was providential, because for 26 years it allowed hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to visit her grave, who could never have done so if St. Thérèse had been buried in the Convent Cemetery. Her Remains stayed there until the 26th March 1923, approximately one month before her Beatification, when they were transferred to the Carmel Chapel, where they have remained all those years.
When we speak of the Relics of St. Thérèse, its always necessary to refer back to the origin of their Veneration in the town Cemetery at her Tomb. God, who had received so many signs of love through her humanity, was pleased in turn to manifest His love through the remains of her humanity.
When she was dying, St. Thérèse had said "After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses". On the 10th September 1912, the Holy See delivered the Decree, approving the Writings of Thérèse, while she, at the same time, appeared to a seminarian to confirm that she was going to make "a shower of roses" rain down upon the earth. Seven large volumes, recording thousands of the greatest favours and miracles received, have been given the title of "A Shower of Roses" Many of the favours were received during
those 26 years as people prayed by her graveside and the favours have continued to this day. The Carmelites in Cordoba, Spain, testify to a major and instantaneous cure of a paralysed man through
St. Thérèses intercession, on the day she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Universal Church (Mission Sunday October 1997).
People often ask about the nature of the Relics. The official record in the Lisieux Carmelite archives of the first canonical exhumation declared the state of the body thus. "Only the skeleton remained and had been kept together by the huge homespun Carmelite robe. The material had kept its colour, but lost its consistency.
The little wooden cross, which had been placed in the hands of Thérèse after her death, remained intact and in the same position. It was offered to the Bishop. A natural palm, which had been placed in her hand before the coffin was closed, was found in a state of perfect preservation".
Her sister, Pauline (Mother Agnes), commented in her Carmel records, "Sr. Thérèse showed herself as a truly humble soul. How many times during her illness had she said to me that it was her wish that she would be reduced to a heap of bones? It was thus that she was found yesterday, but the ceremony had more important connotations".
The same idea can be found in a document published as an appendix to the life of the Servant of God, which quotes the response of Thérèse to a novice, who had said to her "You have loved God so much that He will work miracles for you. We will find your body incorrupt ". "Oh no!" replied Thérèse "not this honour. In order to retain my humility it is necessary that no one should envy me". That was the situation on the 6th September 1910, when the precious bones were placed in a new oak and lead coffin and reburied in a separate grave, but within the same Carmelite plot.
Mons. Laveille, in his Biography "St. Thérèse de LEnfant Jesus" observes "In her Remains, as in her life itself, nothing extraordinary appeared; but the bones exhaled a sweet perfume (noticed by several witnesses); the very earth that had touched the coffin remained for months impregnated with heavenly fragrance. This was but the prelude of other wonders".
Seven years later, on the 9th and 10th of August, 1917, the second canonical exhumation took place in the presence of the Bishop of Lisieux and the Ecclesiastical Tribunal he had set up. This was for the purpose
of an anatomical study of the bones, carried out by the doctors under oath. When the coffin was opened it was noted that the garments spread over Thérèses body seven years before, had, like those earlier, disintegrated. The only item remaining intact was a white silk ribbon on which was written: "I intend to spend my heaven doing good on earth. After my death, I shall make a shower of roses rain down". Two Sisters from the Carmel (one of them Thérèses sister, Céline (Sr. Genevieve)), had been given permission by the Bishop to be present. The two nuns were entrusted with the task of cleansing the bones of the soil which clung to them and wrapping them in fine linen. The Remains were finally laid to rest in a casket of carved oak and this placed inside a coffin of lead, which, in its turn, was interred in a rosewood sarcophagus, which the bearers deposited in a brick grave.
As her Cause for Canonisation progressed, on the 25th November 1920, a French priest, Fr. Rubillon, who was working in Brazil, in anticipation of the Beatification of Thérèse, launched a National Campaign to provide a suitable Reliquary for the Mortal Remains of Thérèse. The Reliquary was beautifully executed in Paris by H. Brunet and became known as the "Brazilian Reliquary". It has been a familiar sight to Lisieux pilgrims all down the years, when carried in procession through Lisieux for her Feast Day.
On the 26th March 1923, the Relics were transferred from the cemetery to the Carmel Chapel. At no period in its history had Lisieux witnessed a greater celebration. On the morning, 50,000 pilgrims arrived in the town. The entire place resounded with the sound of prayer. A little, half paralysed, girl by the graveside, in the hands of her praying godmother, was cured. Scarcely had the slabs placed over the coffin been loosened than a distinct perfume of roses came from the tomb to the astonishment of all. The procession stretched for a few kms. And as it entered the Carmel Chapel the eyes of a young blind girl were opened to behold with rapture the holy Relics arrive at the Carmel threshold.
In the Chapel her glorified Relics were divided. The Postulator of the Cause, Rev. Fr. Rodrigo O.D.C., Delegate of the Pope, took a portion of them to bring to the Holy Father. The breast bone was placed in the tinted reclining figure representing Thérèse in her last sleep. All the rest were placed in the beautiful Brazilian Reliquary. Later, Pope Pius XI, who both Beatified and Canonised Thérèse calling her the star of his Pontificate, donated another beautiful Reliquary to the newly built Lisieux Basilica, requesting that the right arm and hand, which had written Story of a Soul, one of the greatest spiritual classics of all time, be permanently venerated there.
In November 1997, the centenary year of her death, in view of the planned journeys of St. Thérèses Relics around the world, beginning with Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia and then to Brazil, where they were to remain for a whole year before visiting the other Continents, it seemed sensible to the religious authorities that pilgrims to Lisieux and to the Carmel there, should not be deprived of all of St. Thérèses Relics for a period of several years. So, the Bishop of Lisieux decided to divide the Relics into two parts and established a special Church Tribunal to effect this. A priest arrived from the Vatican, representing the Holy Father, and together with the Prioress of the Lisieux Carmel, the Rector of the Basilica (Pére Raymond Zambelli), a Canon Lawyer, and a Forensic Scientist, they undertook the special task, in the presence of the Carmelite Community. The Forensic Scientist made an inventory of all the fragments of bone and checked their state of preservation. Next, in the presence of the Tribunal, the precious contents of the Brazilian Reliquary were divided into two parts. One part, was left in that Brazilian Reliquary of enamel and silver, to continue to remain permanently in Lisieux, the other part was placed in the new one of identical design, made from precious tropical scented jacaranda hardwood from South America, to be known as the Centenary Reliquary . Inserted into this, to hold the Relics, is a solid silver case, dipped in gold all a present from the people of Brazil. This Centenary Reliquary, is now travelling the world. Recently February, March, April and May 1999 the Reliquary has travelled all over Russia (including Siberia). In the light of the most savage religious persecution which had continued since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, one of the most astounding photographs of the century surely has to be the sight of six uniformed Russian Soldiers of the elite Kremlin Guard carrying the Reliquary of St. Thérèse, in front of the old K.G.B. Building, in snow clad Moscow (February 1999). It, surely, would have warmed the heart of the late Pope Pius XI, who grieved so much for the sufferings of the beloved Russian people and who named St. Thérèse Protectress of Russia and established The Russicum in 1931, a special Russian Seminary in Rome, for the education of future Russian priests.
The Steering Committee for the visit of the Relics is striving to build the visit around the Cathedral Churches and the Carmelite Churches and Oratories throughout all of Ireland and sincerely hopes that the occasion will be a blessed opportunity for a renewal of Catholic life in Ireland. St. Thérèse said (Story of a Soul Man."B" P.193) "I would want to preach the Gospel on all the five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years only, but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages. But above all, O my beloved Saviour, I would shed my blood for You, even to the very last drop". All nine Popes of this century, beginning with Leo XIII and Pope St. Pius X, have seen the Writings of St. Thérèse as a burning invitation for the renewal of Gospel life, the renewal of Society, and a workable and attractive blueprint for the establishment of true love of God and our neighbour. That great Thérèsian devotee, Bishop Patrick Ahern of New York, sums it all up when he says "The Way of St. Thérèse holds the answer to the great question of life: how can I, in the banal everydayness of my seemingly ordinary life, learn to love God as He wants me to love Him." Keeping this ideal for the visit before us, we can be absolutely certain of the fullest support of St. Thérèse herself.
The Veneration of Relics' by Fr. Christopher ODonnell. O. Carm., or,
The Cult of the Relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Pére Raymond Zambelli, Rector of Lisieux Basilica.
Copies of which can be had from the address below:
Fr. J. Linus Ryan, O. Carm.,
St. Thérèse Office,
Carmelite Community, Terenure College,
Dublin 6W, Ireland.
(Mobile) Phone No.: 087-2430920
Fr. Ryan can be contacted on the above mobile number at any time day or night.
Fax No.: 353-1-4900190
New e-mail: email@example.com
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