Tuesday, November 1, 2011



All Saint's Day, November 1st, is a Solemnity in the Catholic Church--it's an opportunity to recognize and celebrate all of the many, many saints who intercede and pray for us in heaven. There are over 6,500 saints canonized by the Church, but there are millions and millions and millions of people who have gone before us who are also in heaven, and whose intercession we can ask for as well!

Today is also a national holiday in France--historically a VERY Catholic country. Schools have been on a 2 week vacation, and all other institutions, public and private, are closed today in observance. It is a holiday for families to spend together going to Mass and typically visiting the grave sites of loved ones. This morning, I went to Mass at the Cathedral with the Bishop and sang in the choir :) It was a beautiful Mass!!!

Basilica of St. Thérèse

After Mass, 2 of my French friends and I left on a mini-pilgrimage to celebrate the holiday. Evreux is about an hour away from Lisieux, which is the town that St. Thérèse grew up and lived in! It is such a blessing to live so close to Lisieux, and this was the first time that I had visited this holy place. St. Thérèse is one of my favorite saints, and I definitely think that it is no coincidence that I live so close to her home.

As one of the first little miracles of the day, the morning rain and gray skies slowly disappeared as we drove closer to Lisieux. By the time we arrived, the weather was beautiful! Lisieux is very similar to Evreux; it's a small town tucked into the hills and trees of Normandy. This was my first view of what has become the legacy of St. Thérèse--an enormous basilica built in her honor. We parked, enjoyed a very French picnic lunch, then spent time visiting the Basilica and Crypt. The Basilica was built in the first half of the 20th century, and though the exterior architecture is rather traditional, the interior is decorated with modern mosaics and murals. There are altars dedicated from countries around the world--devotion to St. Thérèse has spread to the farthest corners of our world! The Crypt is much more intimate, and contains side altars devoted to saints that St. Thérèse venerated particularly as well as the remains of her parents Louis and Zélie Martin, who are both beatified.

the Carmel of Lisieux

From the Basilica, we walked about 10 minutes further into town to visit the Carmel where St. Thérèse was a Carmelite nun for almost 10 years before she died. It was amazing to be in this Carmel, and to pray both in front of the remains of St. Thérèse as well as in the chapel that she prayed in every day. It was so peaceful and fruitful--definitely my favorite part of my pilgrimage :)

After our little tour/pilgrimage of Lisieux, we had another treat for the day! One of my friends has a friend whose family owns a beautiful organic farm just outside of Lisieux that we visited :) Her family raises cows for meat and also grows apples for cider! We got a tour of the vast, gorgeous farm, including the distillery and the farmhouse that is hundreds of years old! Then we had a little tasting of the family's personal cider :) We had a great time at the farm, then made it back into Lisieux in time for Vespers with the Carmelites! The perfect ending to a wonderful, holy day!

pax christi.