In the joy of this holy season we come to wish you a most blessed Easter!
You were in our midst in a most special way on Wednesday, February 10, when we had the joy and privilege of welcoming into our monastic home the reliquary of St. Therese of Lisieux on its tour around the world. Many of our faithful friends had brought exquisite white, red and pink roses to decorate the chapel for the event. Right in front of the altar we layed out a richly colored Persian carpet for the reliquary, placing it so that it would be visible both to the faithful in the public chapel as well as to us in our Mass chapel.
I was walking down the hall toward the choir to prepare for the arrival of the relic shrine when a breathless portress came and whispered, "She’s here!" I wouldn’t exactly say we panicked, but it was just going on 10:00 p.m. and the last word we had had from the nearby St. Joris was that she would not be brought here until about 10:30. The bearers for the reliquary were not yet here. These were young men whom our portress had recruited. They had come one day to the door just to see what kind of a place this was. I doubt if they had been inside a church since their baptism. But for Sister Estrellita, everyone is just wonderful and sweet. (You see, she is a real Christian.) And they responded to her trust and faith by being honored to carry the relics. Only they were not expected until 10:15. I cannot tell you what the sacristan went through trying to find able-bodied men in the chapel to don surplice and substitute for them in carrying the relics from the van into the chapel. I cannot tell you what the portress went through when the actual relic bearers arrived a few minutes later and said, "Those guys are wearing our gowns." Nor can I even quite picture to myself how Sister Sacristan managed to get the right men into the surplices without hurting any feelings. All I know is that, as the organist was softly playing, I and the rest of the community stood by the communion grille watching and waiting, book in hand, ready to sing the Church’s ancient hymn of praise, the Te Deum, at the first sign of the entrance procession. As soon as we saw the front door of the chapel open and the reliquary being carried through, our teary-eyed faces turned to the organist and nodded. The big bell pealed, the small hand-bells (as many as we could find) chimed along, the organist played at full volume and we sang as loud as we could, without even hearing one another over organ and bell peal.
We had holy Mass that evening, then prayed Matins and spent the rest of the night in vigil by the reliquary. In the chapel there were several people also that stayed the whole night through until the holy mass the following morning. There was what we could only define as a Holy Thursday atmosphere, when you only wanted to be there where grace awaited you: before the Blessed Sacrament and the reliquary of St. Therese. And there was silence, a silence that bespoke an outpouring of prayer and intercession, of gratitude and wonder, of thanksgiving that we too are called to pour out on lives for Jesus and holy Mother Church.
At noon we locked the chapel doors so that we could go out while no one was present to kneel and pray by the reliquary. Then at 2:00 we had Vespers and benediction. It began lightly to snow for the little Therese, for her who so loved the delicate white beauty of a snowfall. The chapel was totally full; fuller than I’ve ever seen it. And then at 4:00 it was time for her departure. The driver asked the portress if we were going to sing again as she left, but the portress had to tell him, "We’ve been singing all day. There’s no juice left." But we did ring our bells again as we stood watching her being carried out of our chapel. She was here. She remains here.
Blessed rejoicing in the Light of the Risen One!
Mother Bernard Marie