.- As many as 100,000 pilgrims are expected to visit Westminster Cathedral to view and venerate the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux during their month-long tour of England and Wales.
Agence France Presse reports that the cathedral has ordered 100,000 candles and 50,000 pink roses to meet the demand. The cathedral expects 2,000 pilgrims every hour until Thursday.
St. Therese became a Carmelite nun at the age of 15 and died in 1897 at the age of 24. Known as the “Little Flower of Jesus,” her autobiography “The Story of a Soul” attracted worldwide attention. She was canonized in 1925.
The saint’s relics, portions of her thigh and foot bones, are contained in a heavy jacaranda wood casket and are transported in a specially designed hearse. They arrived via the Eurotunnel on September 15 and have visited cathedrals, convents and the Wormwood Scrubs prison in London.
Eight people, including a filmmaker and a vowed religious, have accompanied her relics around England and Wales, according to the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
On Monday her relics were blessed on the steps of Westminster Cathedral by John Arnold, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster.
According to the AFP, Westminster Cathedral administrator Canon Christopher Tuckwell called St. Therese “a great inspiration to us all.” He hoped that her relics’ visit will deepen faith and renew peoples’ commitment to the Church.
The relics will be available for veneration around the clock until they leave the cathedral at 4:30 pm on Thursday.
Pope Benedict XVI has granted a plenary indulgence to the faithful who devoutly visit the cathedral on pilgrimage for the relics. They must fulfill the usual conditions of an indulgence: sacramental confession, the reception of Holy Communion and prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions. They must also conclude their prayers with the Our Father, the Creed, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Therese.
The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols discussed St. Therese in his first pastoral letter since his appointment to Westminster, the head Catholic see in England.
He said the saint teaches us that prayer can truly be part of our daily routine and “knitted into the regular tasks of the day.
“Through her own prayer she came to understand that her vocation was to love,” the archbishop explained.
Archbishop Nichols wrote that many people in the presence of the saint’s relics find their faith is strengthened and their prayer is deepened.
He “most earnestly” encouraged the faithful to visit her relics and he also noted the plenary indulgence. His letter quoted from St. Therese’s “The Story of a Soul,” in which she wrote: “I had discovered where it is that I belong in the Church, the niche God has appointed for me. To be nothing else than love, deep down in the heart of Mother Church.”
“Her direct, wholehearted love of the Lord has meant that the hidden life of St Therese has become a gift to people all over the world,” Archbishop Nichols wrote. “Everyone who seeks to know God in their own heart can draw inspiration from her example. True love such as hers is always creative.”
The relics of St. Therese have toured 46 countries since 1997.