BY Peter Diamond | August 23 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

4-RELICS

Lessons for Scotland from the relics tour of St Thérèse to England and Wales a decade ago

Two organisers of the 2009 visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux to England and Wales have spoken of the legacy of the visit and how it managed to bring people back to the Church.

Speaking ahead of the relics’ arrival in Scotland next week, Canon John Udris, who was involved in the planning committee of the visit in September 2009, said the visit of the relics ‘paved the way for the papal visit the following year.’

Canon Udris, who is a spiritual director at Oscott Seminary, Birmingham, said that he is interested in seeing how how the relics are received by the Scottish secular media, as the reaction from the secular press south of the border in 2009 was ‘curious rather than cynical.’

Positive reaction

Canon Udris said: “We were all very pleasantly surprised I think by the enthusiasm which the relics received when they came in 2009.

“I honestly didn’t know what to expect but as we turned the corner at Portsmouth to the piazza of the cathedral on day one of the visit I was stunned to see in front of me the steps were full of press, politely curious press.

“We were positively relieved that was the case even in the secular media. The press were curious rather than cynical so it will be interesting to see how the relics are received in Scotland.”

Interest

Canon Udris also revealed that Scotland had initially expressed an interest in the visit 10 years ago but ‘backed out.’

“There was an excellent turnout and numbers exceeded our expectations over the duration of the visit, which lasted one month,” Canon Udris said.

“Every venue was packed. I think the visit to England and Wales was meant to include Scotland but for some reason the Scottish bishops backed out.”

Legacy

He said the visit of the relics of St Thérèse was like a ‘John the Baptist’ moment.

“The most obvious legacy of the visit was the fact that it was such a positive experience and I think it really paved the way for the papal visit the following year in 2010, certainly in terms of media coverage,” Canon Udris said.

“The highlights, the moments that stand out personally, were the visit to the Anglican York Minster Cathedral.

“First, for the relics to even be invited to visit there was quite something. Second, for it to then happen and third, for everyone to burst into spontaneous applause upon the relics entering the building was a special moment.”

Bringing people together

Mgr Keith Baltrop, coordinator for the visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux to England and Wales, said his highlight of the 2009 relics tour were the all-night vigils which ‘brought people together.’

Mgr Baltrop, parish priest of St Mary of the Angels Church, Notting Hill, Westminster Archdiocese, said: “I particularly admired the way that churches and venues hosting the relics often stayed open throughout the entire night.

“People spoke about spontaneous meetings of people whom they hadn’t seen at church for years because of busy or working lives and who may have not made it to receive the Eucharist for a time.

“It gave parishes and their people a chance to reconnect and it brought people together.”

Saint’s message

Mgr Baltrop’s role was to collect the relics in Lisieux, take them around the venues and provide parishes with resources and catechesis materials.

Mgr Baltrop added: “We were very happy with the way the relics visit went. I don’t think Scots Catholics will need any encouragement to attend when the tour happens.

“I think it’s important not just to take part in the devotional aspect of the relics visit but also listen to St Thérèse’s message of hope that she brings, her message of vocation, of family life and of the little way.

“People I spoke with said that she provided great comfort to them and that people’s prayers had been answered by her. I think one of the interesting things is that there are lots of saints relics now touring Europe and that can only be healthy for the Church.”

Spiritual impact

Mgr Baltrop added: “The visit ten years ago had a big impact, we know this because people turned out in their thousands, but it is hard to measure spiritual impact.

“In some cases we actually had difficulty getting in and out of venues because of the sheer numbers of people.

“I think just the huge numbers and queues of people waiting to see and touch the relics and casket was a testimony to the impact of St Thérèse of Lisieux.”

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