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Dunkeld Relics of St Therese 038

The miracle of St Thérèse’s visit to Scotland brought me comfort, solace and peace of mind

Broadcaster Jim Spence reflects on the visit of the relics of St Thérèse to Dunkeld Diocese

The arrival of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Dundee was an ­emotional, teary, and throat-catching affair.

I raced breathlessly down the Perth Road, late for my own funeral as my old mum would have said, for the start of the solemn sung Mass, not knowing whether there would be five dozen or five hundred inside the city centre cathedral waiting to ­venerate the Little Flower.

I arrived as nine sombrely suited men from the Knights of St Columba, wearing their sashes of office, waited to carry the casket reverentially to be blessed on entry to the cathedral.

I was directed to the balcony area upstairs where the choir were ­present for the sung Mass: a sure sign that St Andrew’s was already bursting at the seams inside with those wishing to witness this historic Scottish ­occasion.

Sitting close to the 40-strong choir which sang magnificently through the two-hour Mass, surrounded by all ages and nationalities, was a deeply moving occasion.

A young woman behind me sobbed in a hush and softly wiped tears from her face, as the beauty of the occasion resonated, and who knows like me and the hundreds of others there, let her mind wander, perhaps to treasured ­memories of loved ones lost and departed, and the Faith that they had gifted her.

With priests and parishioners from all over Dunkeld Diocese ­participating in the Mass, there was a tremendous and deep sense of ­community spirit present.

The Mass was sung beautifully and the emotional impact was clear all around me with folk lost in their own personal reveries.

Bishop Stephen Robson, who ­celebrated the Mass, put it very ­succinctly and spoke eloquently to many Catholics like me and others I know, who over the years have drifted and then returned, drawn ­irresistibly back to the Faith like moths to the flame, which has imbued us with the values and ­principles we carry daily.

He said: “A lot of people who might be on the margins will come to something like this. It might just bring them back in again, so she’s got a great opportunity to evangelise during her visit: so I’m absolutely delighted to have her here.”

That resonated profoundly with me. I saw faces I’ve known for years, some of whom are Sunday regulars, some of whom are ­occasional, and some of whom haven’t been to Mass in many a long year.

There was a deeply spiritual feel to the visit and the Mass was a ­wonderful reminder of a very earthly thing too: that we should never be ashamed as Catholics of the unique magnificence and splendour of the solemn sung Mass and its beauty.

Such grandness and eloquence experienced at St Andrew’s and ­elsewhere as we venerated St Thérèse are surely to be celebrated and enjoyed for the happiness and relief they bring us, amid our ­everyday mortal concerns and ­tribulations.

It wasn’t just a joyous celebration though, but a reflective one too, where everyone present could ­contemplate in their own personal way the life of a young woman who can inspire us to live better and ­hopefully treat each other with more ­kindness and compassion.

Like everyone else I touched the casket and asked on this once in a lifetime occasion for her intercession for a close relative who is unwell.

Will my hopes and prayers be answered? I hope so, but when we believe in the divine will as Catholics, then we put our Faith and trust in something far greater than ourselves, so what will be, will be.

Many years ago like others losing their moorings from the Faith, I might have scoffed at doing such a thing.

This time it brought me, and I’m sure everyone else who did the same thing, comfort and solace and quiet peace of mind.

At a ceremony I attended recently I asked a minister if she thought Faith was dying. She said she wasn’t sure but that she still thought that people were seeking spirituality.

At St Andrew’s Cathedral as a thronging crowd, old and young, able bodied and infirm, and of all nationalities, made their way reverentially to touch the casket and ask for intercession or just pay their respects, I sensed that our Faith was far from dying, and indeed was being revitalised and re-energised right in front of me.

As the long queue with their roses clutched carefully in their hands eased gently forward, there seemed to me to be a profound quietly held ­longing to share the love and ­charity and goodness, which the ­Little Flower ­herself showed through her short life.

That was the miracle of Marie Francoise-Thérèse Martin: St Thérèse of Lisieux, in front of our very eyes on a September night in Dundee.

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