"Jesus willed to have His mercy shine out in me" (St Therese)
Account of the visit of the Relics of St. Therese 21-22 April, 2001
Therese couldn't have timed it better for her visit to Kilmacud Carmel. Saturday April 21st (2001) was our Sr. Mary Noeleen's Silver Jubilee and Therese was coming to us from St. Mary's Cathedral, Kilkenny, where Noeleen had been baptised! It was also the eve of Low Sunday, Feast of Mercy, so appropriate for the Dublin debut of this little apostle of Merciful Love.
The preparations of the weeks beforehand, the planning and hard work of our enthusiastic and generous Parish Committee, the pooling of initiatives and expertise - everything just fell into place in that 'soft' Irish afternoon as our bells rang out in welcome and our gate swung open to receive the Sacred Relics of St. Therese of Lisieux. Our hearts were throbbing and full. She was here! She was ours for the next 22 hours. Mind you, for such a 'little one' she was very heavy! Neither could she pass through the 'narrow' front door, but had to make a 'back' entrance! Yet how picturesque it was to see the rows of little Cubs and Beavers form a guard of honour as the young Venture Scouts bore her aloft through our radiant springtime garden, led by a single piper - Therese, the springtime Flower of flowers.
We had to remove a door and a half in our conservatory to get her into our Choir! In more senses than one Therese opened the doors of all our hearts and drew us into the heart of it all - God's overflowing unconditional Merciful Love to which she had offered herself unreservedly. She was only his little channel - and so they streamed to her, one by one, until by the time we bad her farewell on Sunday 22nd, over 18,000 had passed through our conservatory and in through our flower bedecked choir. Many remarked how doubly special it was to venerate her in a Carmel, and thanked us for opening up our home to them. Each one came to touch, to be in touch with this font of healing mercy. The personal encounter was everything. All defences came down before such tangible holiness. What was it that 'magnetised' us all? Her utter simplicity that awakened the child within each one... the fire, the burning love of one utterly given, broken and shared for all her brothers and sisters. There was such a powerful sense of her presence and we just didn't want to leave her.
The Gospels came alive as we witnessed so many sick being tenderly carried and wheeled towards her with expectant faith. Unforgettable was a group of elderly people, each one blind, deaf and dumb. Their carers made signs into the palms of their hands... then to see their faces light up with joy as they repeatedly caressed the glass dome of the Reliquary with such shining faith - the whole thronged Chapel stood and watched them with emotion!
What a heartening experience it was to keep vigil with so many of our young people who responded to our invitation to come and be with the young Therese - our young Friends of Calcutta, Youth 2000, University students, Fr. Aidan Carroll's Prayer Group, Vincie the one-time "Rocker"... Everyone remarked on their reverence and deep prayerfulness. They put their whole hearts into their soft music... On their lips it was as if we heard Therese herself read from her 'Story of a Soul' and her poems. Miriam's graceful 'liturgy of love' as she strewed the Reliquary with rose petals moved us deeply. They led us in the soothing rhythms of the Rosary, and as we moved into the Feast of Mercy the hushed Chapel took up the refrain of the Mercy chaplet: "Jesus, have mercy on us and on the whole world". Indeed we felt that rivers of mercy were flowing out bringing healing to the ends of the earth... There were long periods too of pregnant silence, as each one just rested in the grace of it all and entered into deep personal communion with Therese. We were struck by the contemplative gaze of young Bean Garda Celine Therese from Kerry at the back of the Choir. It was a night they will never forget... Certainly Evan, the handsome young Garda will always remember where he turned 21 years!!
Their spiritual directors came with the young people - Fr. Pat Costello (Bl. Sacrament Chapel), Fr. Adrian Crowley (St. Aughrim's), Fr. Aidan Carroll (University Church) and Fr. Kieran McDermott (UCD) taking it in turns to hear Confessions throughout the night. This unique night of watching reached its climax when Fr. Kieran joined Fr. Philip Brennan O.Carm, for the beautiful dawn Mass at 6 a.m. The heavy rain that persisted throughout the night in no way deterred the eager venerators... only for about half and hour had there been a lull, 3.30 - 4am. We felt so indebted to our tireless Gardai, stewards and the ladies who served them refreshments, for supervising things so efficiently.
The timelessness and peace of the vigil gave way to a sense of urgency. Fresh crowds pressed in for the final hours of veneration before the concelebrated Mass and farewell ceremony with Bishop Martin Drennan, Fr. Michael Loftus, our devoted Parish Priest, Carmelite brothers and priest friends. Once again we were packed to capacity but loudspeakers relayed the Mass to hundreds who waited patiently outside. Throughout this beautiful liturgy the poignant cries of a little disabled boy of about nine pierced our hearts. He was right up beside the Reliquary and those nearby were touched to see how his small sister stayed by his side and kept gently stroking his hand to comfort him. Isn't Therese like that little sister with us, close by, hearing the cries of our hearts and soothing us with her reassuring message that we are infinitely loved and cherished in all our brokeness?
And so it was time for the Community to gather round Therese for our 'goodbye' - and yet it wasn't 'goodbye'. We would go with her in spirit on her Pilgrimage of Grace. Besides, she had come to stay in the venue of our hearts and with her we go forward humbly resolving to set out afresh on the 'Little Way'.
Words cannot express our immense gratitude to Frs. Linus, Eugene, all the Steering Committee and our magnificent people of Kilmacud Parish. May the bonds Therese has forged between us ever deepen. May the love within her heart set fire to all of us with its flame!
© 2011 Carmelite Sisters, Kilmacud