On Palm Sunday, April 17, the relics of our dear Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus arrived at our Monastery before the celebration of our Palm Sunday Mass. We welcomed her, singing with all our hearts. Our sisters, with great love, made a beautiful, embroidered table clothed with roses. One of them was an Unpetalled Rose.
We can see how this second visit among us, without our planning it was under the sign of the “Unpetalled Rose”, which Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo explained the next day during the celebration of the solemn mass. This sign was really in harmony with the liturgy of the Holy week which had just begun.
For us, Palm Sunday was a day of simply being with Thérèse. We spent a time of prayer in community with her where we sung her act of offering to the merciful love. We also read some of her letters where she comments on the suffering servant. Those letters provided so much light to the liturgy of Holy week.
On Monday morning, April 18, a few friends of the community helped to carry the relics to our Chapel.
Fr. Flavio Caloi, OCD and Fr. Philippe Hourcade,SCJ were present as well as 60 teachers who had come for a day's retreat in the presence of the relics. The teachers were accompanied by Father Souhail Khoury, Greek- Melquite and Father Nael Helou, Maronite. They began their day of recollection with a time of prayer in the chapel near the relics. After the group left, the Legion of Mary prayed the Rosary. At 11 a.m. the teacher's group had a Mass in the Greek-Melkite Rite which we attended.
In honor of the relics’ visit we had printed four small booklets to help the faithful to be better aquainted with the little Flower. They were: Meditations on the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, Stations of the Cross, a Collection of thoughts on the life of the Holy Family in Nazareth, and a small notebook of Therese’s prayers. These booklets were distributed throughout the Holy Land and enabled the faithful to know Thérèse in a deeper way. We are most grateful and extend our thanks to Mr. Chakib who translated them into Arabic. Through this work of translation he had declared: “we speak of a Little Saint but I discover that she is a great Saint who can significantly help us".
We had a solemn celebration of Holy Mass at 5:30 p.m. and our chapel was filled. Bishop Marcuzzo presided at the Eucharist which was concelebrated by six priests, among whom was our superior Father Flavio Caloi, OCD and our chaplain, Father Philippe Hourcade, SCJ. The songs of celebration were animated by the choirs of the Basilica of the Annunciation and the New Life Community. In regard to the music, Bishop Marcuzzo mentioned that three of songs on Thérèse had been composed in Nazareth, one of which we sang at the beginning of the Eucharist. All the songs during the celebration were very beautiful and prayerful.
In his homily Bishop Marcuzzo recalled the meaning of our contemplative life. First of all he reminded us the “key words” in the life of Saint Thérèse:
"In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be LOVE! . . . Thus I shall be all things. . . and this place, O my God, Thou hast Thyself given to me".
Bishop Marcuzzo further developed this reality lived by Therese for us and he emphasized it with the poetry “An Unpetalled Rose” which shows the true love that animated Thérèse’s Life and which is the heart of our Carmelite Life
An unpetalled rose gives itself unaffectedly
To be no more.
Like it, with joy I abandon myself to you,
FOR you, I must die, Child, Beauty Supreme,
What a blessed fate!
In being unpetalled, I want to prove to you that I love you
O my Treasure!
(Poetry 51 str.3.5)
In losing herself in the All becoming nothing in the All she has fulfilled her dream of losing herself in God and by continuing to pour down her shower of roses and attracting many souls to Jesus.
Bishop Marcuzzo asked that the poem be read first in French and then in Arabic. The poem was read by a young French woman, whose authentic accent enabled us to feel the force of Therese's words in her native language. After each verse, another person translated it into Arabic.
At the moment of the offertory, the children advanced with baskets of rose petals that they threw on the reliquary. Those were moving moments for all faithful present.
At the end of the celebration, all present were allowed to venerate the relics up close. They then received beautiful holy cards which were specially prepared as a remembrance of this visit as well as small candles with rose petals which had been previously touched to the relics.
Our chapel remained opened to allow all the faithful to approach the relics. Father Jacques, OFM with his prayer group held a prayer vigil throughout all night and we united our prayers with theirs during this time. It was a very beautiful night of prayer; people went and came in silence and they were able to spend a good period of time there. Prayer, silence, the use of the sacrament of reconciliation, proximity to God love; all these were clear signs of the shower of roses that Thérèse poured out upon all of us during her pilgrimage in this Land.
Yes, we can thank Thérèse who succeeded so well in her mission and her great desire to attract souls to the Lord! For us, Carmelites, it was a time of grace and renewal which will undoubtedly bring about much fruit!
Carmel of the Holy Family - Nazareth