I updated my About page as well as my Life List. Well, if you have noticed, I updated the entire site! Hence, the MIA on my part lately. Feel free to browse around. The site should be fully functional at this point, but if you come across any broken link, let me know! Now, let’s continue with this party, shall we?
I love the morning after a thunderstorm, not because of the damp air and the rain puddles, but because of the smell it brings. It elicits this sense of contentment, almost as if the sky is relieved it had poured all the rain it holds over a city. Such was the morning we decided to get out of Paris to make a pilgrimage to Lisieux, a small, quaint French town, 2 hours north of the city, and is said to be the second largest pilgrimage site in France after Lourdes.
Have you heard of Lisieux? I only knew it because it is a part of the name of my high school. Up until a few years ago, I knew nothing about the saint who made this town a famous pilgrimage site despite the fact that she is my high school’s patron saint. I certainly knew none of her highly-regarded teachings on love, said to be comparable to those of the Church’s great teachers, despite her only being in her early-twenties when she formulated her understanding. The saint? She is St. Theresa of Lisieux or the Little Flower as she came to be affectionately called by those devoted to her.
That morning we rushed through Gare du Nord to get to our platform on time, barely making it as the train started to move as soon as we found seats to plop ourselves down. As it moved, I stared longingly outside the window to a small stall with stash of buttery croissants and pain au chocolats. Not that I was hungry or that I haven’t had my breakfast yet – I have – it’s just difficult to say ‘Non‘ to French pastries and to miss an opportunity of stuffing myself with them. Am I right?
The ride itself was nothing out of the ordinary – a chatter here, a discussion there, fits of giggles every now and then, and lulls of silence filled the next 2 hours as we made our way across rolling green fields and cloudy sky.
There is really only a couple of things to see in Lisieux: the Basilica and Carmel, the convent where St. Theresa spent her life, died in, and was buried at.
The Basilica of St. Theresa of Lisieux
Standing majestically on a hill, the basilica is the one thing we noticed as soon as we stepped off the train.
Heck, I don’t think we asked for directions to make our way over. We just kept our eyes on the dome and followed the roads towards it.
Built with the purpose to honor its namesake saint, the Basilica attracts some 700,000 pilgrims each year and has been awarded with the title of the “biggest church built in France in the 20th century”.
The Convent: Carmel
The order Theresa joined as a nun was a cloistered Carmelite Order, which means once you’re in, you are no longer allowed to come out. Family members come and see you through a window, much like you would in a prison. As such, Theresa never ventured out of the grounds of the convent. It was here that she practiced what she preached and perfected her Little Ways. Today, the Chapel contains her relics and the “Room of Relics” showcases things she used in her daily life.
See, my high school was named after St. Theresa of Lisieux and at the end of every month, the office would give out a bunch of “Lions of the Month” award, in recognition of students doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways. I never understood it and I always thought it was silly (even though I’ve received several of these throughout my high school years). What I failed to understand was how profound yet glaringly simple her teaching was. St. Theresa taught that love doesn’t necessarily have to be shown through grandeur and heroic sacrifices. If your actions, as little and as insignificant they may be, are motivated by love, then you have loved. She wrote:
Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.
THAT, my friends, is why Blessed Pope John Paul II declared her as one of the Doctors of the Universal Church in 1997… Girlfriend knows what she’s talking about!