Sunday, 18 October 2009

Spiritual Mothers' Thanksgiving Novena Day 5: The Visit of St. Therese's relics to England and Wales

Opening Prayer ending "We thank you that Your Providence arranged for England and Wales to be blessed by the visit of Saint Therese's relics."

This report has been sent in by Clare, who received it from two of her friends who travelled together to Portsmouth Cathedral and Aylesford. They also brought to Clare, who had been unable to travel with them because of her broken ankle, a white rose which had been blessed and touched to the relics.


It was as if there had never been a Reformation in England; the huge crowds which converged on the ancient village gave an almost medieval feel to the pilgrimage. All the elements were there: people of all classes intent on venerating the holy relics, overcast weather with mud from the night's rain, souvenirs everywhere on sale and a huge assembly of cheap food stalls. Above all was the gentle pervading sense of true piety, for here were reall relics and people had travelled great distances to be present.

If the expected figure of 25,000 was slightly down, it was no doubt due to the weather, inadequate transport facilities and the congestion on the roads. A major access road from the motorway was closed, causing tailbacks and confusion among those who did not know the area ad did not hav 'satnav'. There must have been people who set out and returned home without ever reaching Aylesford. Squadrons of great coaches make their toruous way along narrow streets, each coach full of pilgrims - there was talk of people arriving at the coach stops only to be turned away, antoher explanation for the slightly reduced numbers of those who actually made it. Parking was in a field and there was quite a lot of walking involved; not the best place to be a disabled visitor.

Aylesford has a collection of chapels as well as a friary, a guest house and refectory. Like all good pilgrimages it offered opportunities to buy religious souvenirs and the great field where Mass would take place was entirely surrounded by ice-cream vans and mobile burger stalls. Nevertheless, the chapels were all open and the feeling of being surrounded by prayer was intense, almost tangible.

Everywhere people were praying and there was a feeling of friendliness and solidarity. The wheelchairs in evidence reminded one of Lourdes though this occcasion had greater intimacy. That being said, it wasn't always easy to pray as there was just so much going on and it's hard to pray and queue at the same time but simply being in this place brought many graces and consolations; a great reminder of what has been lost in the centuries since Henry VIII parted from Rome. Aylesford Priory was built in 1242 by the Carmelites and it is (elieved that is was) here that St. Simon Stock received his vision of Our Lady of the Brown Scapular. The buildings were sold off in 1538 at the Dissolution of the Monasteries and only returned to Carmelite hands in 1949. Thanks be to God this holy place once again is a place for prayer and the Mass!

The dull weather cleared just as Mass was about to start - another sign of God's grace through Therese's intercession - and the huge crowd of 20,000 soulsassembled for a reliminary rehearsal, which may have diminished the prayerfulness somewhat, but led to the most wonderful Liturgical celebration. There was a great procession of priests followed by the bishop of Southwark and an Auxiliary. The music was splendid with a choir and orchestra, and the hymns were traditional, such as ' Soul of my Saviour'. Taking the Offertory collection were African women resplendent in clothing printed with images of the Little Flower.There was a powerful sense of God's presence throughout as everyone united in prayer. The wonderful homily on 'Surrendering to God's Love' in the spirit of Therese, was preached by Fr John Keating O Carm and it can (and should) be viewed online.As the Mass ended the participans waved white roses in the air = 20,000 0f them -and the people and the people and the roses were blessed. Therese had promised a shower of roses after her death and was true to her word.

The experience at Aylesford had a very different feel to the visit of the relics to Portsmouth Cathedral and was in many ways more satisfying. This week the relics will make a stop at Wormwood Scrubs prison - many different venues, but always the same spirit. Glory be to God!

(Relevant links including the one to Fr. Keating's homily will appear tomorrow.)

Dear Lord Jesus, we thank you that through the visit of the relics of St. Therese you have enabled your faithful remnant in England and Wales to be revivified in the love of Your Most Sacred Heart and in the sight of your Most Holy Face.

Holy Mary, Mother of Christ, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Mirror of Justice, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Cause of our Joy, pray for us.

Sant Luke, pray for us.
Saints Bernadette, Clare and Therese pray for our priests and seminarians and for us their spiritual mothers.

Final prayer to the Holy Spirit, "Come O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful........."

Deo gratias

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't get to Aylesford until the afternoon, but for me too, it really was that good, it was moving, uplifting, fabulous, and an experience to really treasure :D