April 18 - Lisieux

Day 1: Lisieux

This first day persistently reminded me to slow down.  After landing at the Paris airport we spent about an hour and a half in line waiting to have our passports stamped: a twenty second process.  Actually, I spent the whole day decompressing.  From the late morning stop and go Paris perimeter freeways to the walks through small town streets, I could feel myself rushing.  I kept telling myself, “Breathe.  Slow down.  Appreciate where you are.” 

Today was Lisieux: St Therese’ home town.  Half exhausted from lack of sleep, we wandered her childhood home’s gardens full of flowers of all kinds. We climbed the stairs she climbed, looked at her toys, her bed, even her hair her father collected as she entered the Carmelites.  The rooms are so small compared to modern homes’.  How many people have preceded me, trying to get a glimpse of her life?  Outside her home is the standard statue of St Therese.  At its base are hundreds of plaques left by other seekers marking their visit, thanking her for her intercessions, leaving something of themselves behind.

We visited The Carmelite convent where she spent her final years, still functioning even in these modern days.  We prayed in the convent church.  We gazed at her reliquary adorned by a statue depicting her lying abed. It was surrounded by candles marking the prayers of others.  I listened as a teacher explained to elementary students the story of St Therese.

Fr Maurice celebrated Mass with us in the crypt below the Basilica built to honor St Therese (on right).  This large concrete building constructed on the hill overseeing Lisieux is filled with beautiful mosaics.  Here we found another shrine for the Little Flower, surrounded by candles, overseen by a beautiful crucifix with Jesus almost leaping off the cross: resurrected.  This basilica symbolizes for me St Therese herself.  On the outside she is rather plain colored.  On the inside there is such richness, beauty, a true temple of God.  I pray that someday I, too, will look like this.  For now, I sense I am under construction. 

We are a group of 18 mostly from Immaculate and St Therese, but also a few others who join us from Gig Harbor and Charlotte.  I appreciate this day those who don’t move as quickly as others.  They have encouraged me by their very presence, their peacefulness, their attentiveness to where their footing, to slow down, to relax, to breathe.

May the presence of beauty in your day encourage you to breathe in in awe.

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