Spiritual superstar

The recent arrival in Jerusalem of the relics of St. Thérèse has been likened in importance to "a pontifical visit."

Remains of St. Thérèse 521 (photo credit: Courtesy Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
Remains of St. Thérèse 521
(photo credit: Courtesy Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
Fresh from a visit to South Africa last year in conjunction with the 2010 World Cup, a tour of England and Wales in 2009, and a flight into outer space aboard the Discovery space shuttle in 2008, the relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux arrived at Ben- Gurion Airport March 14 on a jet from Brussels for a 10-week stay in the Holy Land.
A senior delegation of Roman Catholic officials from Israel and the West Bank led by Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Franco, Bishop Marcuzzo, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar of Nazareth, and Bishop William Shomali, the Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, were on the tarmac to greet the canonized Carmelite nun’s remains and escort her bejeweled reliquary to Franco’s residence in Jerusalem.
There the famed mystic’s relics went on display for one day at the Latin Patriarchate in the Old City’s Christian Quarter before being transported to Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation. The reliquary will be on display for veneration until May 31 at various Arabic-speaking Christian congregations in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip, becoming in effect “a bridge of peace,” said Bishop Shomali.
For Catholics, the veneration of holy relics is a spiritual exercise in seeking an intercessor.
“On the church level, it’s very important,” the monsignor said of the Holy Land tour of the saint’s remains. “Part of our faith is that saints have intercession – mediation between us and God.
This is done by praying to them, honoring them, but first and foremost imitating them,” he said of the saints.
The relics will be flown to Spain at the end of May.
Director of the Christian Department at the Interior Ministry Cesare Marjieh called the event “nearly unprecedented,” and compared its importance to that of a pontifical visit.
As a young girl growing up in France’s Basse-Normandie region, Thérèse Martin (1873–1897) was passionately in love with Jesus and became a Discalced Carmelite nun at age 15. She died of tuberculosis at age 24 in a nunnery in her hometown of Lisieux.
A cult quickly grew up around the nun, called “St. Thérèse, the Little Flower,” and her memoir, Story of a Soul, became one of biggest religious best-sellers of the 20th century.
In 1944, pope Pius XII elevated her to the status of copatroness of France alongside St. Joan of Arc. St. Thérèse and her unfinished shrine – undamaged by the post D-Day battles that ravaged Normandy – became a symbol of French resistance to the Nazi occupation and of postwar faith.
Today this spiritual superstar is the patron saint of people with AIDS, as well as of aviators and florists. She was canonized in 1925, and in 1997 pope John Paul II declared St. Thérèse a doctor of the Church, a rare honorary title bestowed upon those whose writings have greatly contributed to Christianity. Only 33 members of the Catholic Church, to date, have received the honor, and just three of them are women.