St Therese of the Child Jesus – Basilica of Lisieux, France

Basilica of Saint Thérèse, Avenue Jean XXIII, Lisieux, Francija

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St Therese of the Child Jesus

In order to be also a missionary, Thérèse felt called to the Carmelite Convent to follow in the footsteps of her “Mother”, Saint Theresa of Avila, through the gift of her life and through prayer which goes beyond all boundaries.

Like her Spanish Mother, St Therese of the Child Jesus wished to give one thousand lives in order to save one soul. See other Catholic sites in France.

Every year, on the last weekend in September, a solemn procession carries the remains of Saint Thérèse through the town of Lisieux.

When she entered the Carmelite Convent, she declared:

“I have come to save souls and above all to pray for priests. To love Jesus and to make him loved” became more and more the goal of her entire life.”

Her desire to be a missionary further intensified as she lay on her bed and she looked forward to being an even greater missionary after her death :

“I do not intend to remain inactive in Heaven, my desire is to continue working for the Church and for souls. It is what I ask of God and I am certain he will grant it.” (LT 254)

Basilica of St Therese of the Child Jesus, Lisieux

The largest church built in France in the course of the 20th century, this enormous domed edifice stands out on the hillside above town.

The interiors, visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year, are dazzlingly ornate, decorated in neo-Byzantine style. There are sections on the saint’s life and on the Carmelite Order.

St Therese: Story of a soul of the Child Jesus was beatified in 1923 and canonized in 1925. It was decided to build a large basilica dedicated to her in the city where she lived and died.

The project was launched by the Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, Bishop Thomas-Paul-Henri Lemonnier, and received the full support of Pope Pius XI who had placed his pontificate under the sign of St Therese of the Child Jesus.

Construction started in 1929 and finished in 1954. The basilica is located on a hill at the edge of the city.

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It was funded entirely by donations and special contributions from several countries from around the world, based on strong devotions to St Therese of the Child Jesus.

St Therese of the Child Jesus basilica in Lisieux, France

The basilica thus contains 18 minor altars offered by different nations to St Therese of the Child Jesus.

The basilica was blessed on 11 July 1937 by the papal legate Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII). Works stopped for some time due to the Second World War, but then resumed and the basilica was completed in 1954.

The basic structure, which was completed before the war, suffered little damage during the bombing, which destroyed two-thirds of Lisieux.

On 11 July 1951, the basilica was consecrated by Most Reverend, the Archbishop of Rouen Joseph-Marie Martin, with the Papal Legate, Maurice Cardinal Feltin. See Top 15 Catholic shrines around the world.

Les Buissonnets, Thérèse’s childhood home

The Martin family set up home in Les Buissonnets in November 1877, a house found for them by Uncle Isidore Guérin, a chemist in Lisieux. Thérèse lived there from the age of 4½ years until she entered Carmel at the age of 15.

Although Mr. Martin felt uprooted by this change of town, the same could not be said of Thérèse who felt “no sadness at leaving Alençon, children like change and I was pleased to come to Lisieux”.

The property is attractive and spacious. The ground floor has a dining room with oak paneling, a kitchen with a red-brick fireplace, a small office, and a cellar. On the first floor, there are two toilets and four bedrooms, with the ones at the rear opening out to the garden.

The second floor has a gazebo which the family’s father used for spending time alone and for reading, as well as three small attic rooms. Next, to the house, there is a pavilion where water was pumped from the well.

The garden gate opens out to a small narrow street which Mr. Martin called the “Chemin du Paradis”.

Carmel museum and Chapel

The Carmel chapel contains the tomb of St Thérèse, Lisieux. She is represented there lying on her deathbed wearing the habit of the Carmelite order.

St Therese of the Child Jesus basilica in Lisieux, France

Pilgrims are offered a spiritual tour, combining modern means and numerous authentic objects, to enable them to rediscover and explore the message of St Thérèse, Lisieux. The Carmel Museum, open from 9 am to 6 pm, closed in January. Free admission.

In 1835, the Mother Superior of Pont-Audemer Carmel submitted the idea of establishing a monastery in Lisieux. She suggested that two candidates, the Gosselin sisters, devote their fortune to the Carmel Foundation.

Thus, in March 1838, three novices and two professed sisters arrived in Lisieux.

When Mother Elisabeth of Saint Louis died four years later, Sister Geneviève of St Thérèse, Lisieux was in charge of the Priory almost continuously from 1842 to 1886. Thus, she is seen as being the true mother and founder of Lisieux Carmel.

About forty years were needed to build the monastery which presents a series of geometrical brick constructions. The conventual square comprises the chapel, the nun’s choir, and a cloister. In the wings of the cloister, there are about twenty cells and the main living quarters. At the rear, a small garden is lined with an attractive short alley of chestnut trees.

The Carmelite day follows an almost intangible rhythm: priority is given to prayer (about six and a half hours a day, two of which in silent prayer and four and a half in mass and choral service).

The five and a half hours of work a day is conducted alone in the cell or in the room reserved for this purpose. This involved manual work which left the spirit free to think about God. Community life also included two hours of recreation and meals taken in the refectory.

The missionary spirit found great motivation at Lisieux Carmel. In 1861, four nuns left to found the first Carmel in the Far East, in Saigon and, from there, other Carmelites traveled throughout Asia.

The Carmel today

In the side chapel, there is the shrine with the marble recumbent figure of St Thérèse, Lisieux dressed as a Carmelite. Below, some of her remains are held in a reliquary.

The Carmel known by Thérèse has undergone a series of changes. The most recent ones in 2008 have enabled the restoration of the chapel and the creation of a large visitors’ area. An exhibition of objects and films provide a better understanding of the life of Carmelites at the time of St Thérèse, Lisieux and today.

Every year, on the last weekend in September, a solemn procession carries the remains of Saint Thérèse through the town.

Let us remain close in the same prayer! May the Lord bless you abundantly!

St. Thérèse of the Infant Jesus

When she was 9 years old, Thérèse entrusted to the Carmel prioress her desire to become a Carmelite, the same as her sister Pauline. In 1888, at the age of 15, she entered Carmel and took the name of Thérèse of the Infant Jesus, in memory of Teresita de Jésus, the niece of Thérèse d’Avila, who entered the cloister at the age of 9 years. She took the veil in January 1889. During her nine years of religious life, Thérèse was assigned to a number of different duties: laundry, refectory, sacristy, painting workshop, pottery. She was in charge of writing poems, canticles, prayers and pious recreational activities.

In 1893, Pauline (Mother Agnès of Jesus) was appointed prioress of the community. Céline also entered Carmel, after taking care of Mr. Martin, who suffered from mental illness and paralysis, until his death. Thus, the four sisters: Pauline, Marie, Thérèse, and Céline were reunited. In 1895, Pauline asked Thérèse to write her childhood memoirs which she completed one year later. In 1897, while suffering from tuberculosis, she wrote about her spiritual life. She died on 30 September 1897. The local newspaper announced almost anonymously: the “death of Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin, 24 years 9 months, a nun at Carmel, rue de Livarot”. Since the publication of her memoirs, Thérèse has been known and loved throughout the world and people come from far and wide to pay tribute to her at Lisieux.

Let us remain close in the same prayer! May the Lord bless you abundantly!

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