Flea market find becomes heavenly gift for Pope Francis

This image of St. Therese of Lisieux was a gift presented to Pope Francis by French journalist Caroline Pigozzi. Photo courtesy of Caroline Pigozzi.
This image of St. Therese of Lisieux was a gift presented to Pope Francis by French journalist Caroline Pigozzi. Photo courtesy of Caroline Pigozzi.

.- The journalist who won a big smile from Pope Francis after giving him an image of St. Therese of Lisieux on his way to the Philippines said that she found it in a flea market, and gave it as the second in a pair.

“I found (the Virgin of Lujan) at the flea market just before Christmas (and) I also found another medal which was Sister Therese and I thought: Well that’s wonderful, because it would be the perfect pair. We could do one for his birthday and one for Christmas,” Caroline Pigozzi told CNA Jan. 19.

The French author and journalist is the one responsible for giving Pope Francis his personal visit from St. Therese after he prayed for her guidance and intercession ahead of his Jan. 12-19 trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Pope Francis received the gift while speaking with journalists during his Jan. 15 in-flight news conference from Sri Lanka to the Philippines. He said that whenever he asks St. Therese to help with something, he also asks her to send him a rose so that he knows she has taken on the task.

“I asked also for this trip; that she'd take it in hand and that she would send me a rose. But instead of a rose she came herself to greet me,” the Pope said after receiving the gift.

Pigozzi, who works with French newspaper Paris Match, said that she first started to learn about Pope Francis after going to Argentina to meet his friends and fellow priests that work in the slums after his election.

“He has a lot of friends,” she said, and recalled that after spending some time with them, they quickly arranged for her to go to one of the Pope’s Masses at the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.

After meeting the Pope at Mass, Pigozzi noted that she saw him nearly every day during October’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.

On the last day of the gathering, the journalist recalled how she was sitting in the cafeteria of the Saint Martha guesthouse when the Pope came up to her and told her “I’ve seen that you have been here every single day,” and noted that “he likes (to do) this kind of thing.”

She first got the inspiration to give the Pope a birthday gift after finding a silver bas-relief, or carving, of Our Lady of Lujan at the flea market in Paris, where she goes every weekend.

“I bought it immediately and I spent one night polishing it because it was absolutely dirty, from the 30s I think. It wasn’t in bad condition, but it hadn’t been cleaned since the 1930s so I spent the whole night (cleaning it),” Pigozzi explained.

After having it framed she brought it to the Vatican during an interview the day before the Pope’s birthday on Dec. 17.

When she dropped it off at the reception counter in the St. Martha guesthouse, Pigozzi said that she had her doubts that it would make it into the pontiff’s hands.

So once the Pope came to greet journalists on his flight to the Philippines Pigozzi asked whether or not he had received the image of Our Lady of Lujan – to which he responded “No, of course not.”

“If I had a Virgin of Lujan I would have thanked you immediately because for me it’s a very important thing,” he told her, and went to inquire with his staff about what had become of the image.

Once they located it, Pigozzi said that she then wanted to give him the image of St. Therese, which she had also polished by hand.

So when the Pope came to greet her again and thank her personally for the image of Virgin of Lujan, she told him “Santo Padre that was the Virgin of Lujan. Now I have a present for Christmas to make the pair. So, I give you a Sister Therese.”

The Pope, she recalled, was “so happy” when he received the gift “because I think Sister Therese is important for him.”

On the back of the framed bas-relief was a note Pigozzi had written saying that she was presenting him the image “with all my admiration and respect,” as well as her signature.

Pigozzi said that she was so emotional after giving Pope Francis the gift that she didn’t realize how happy he was.

“It was like a child with a toy. I think he was so happy, it was incredible. So I (also) was very happy, because it’s difficult to please a Pope (and) to have such a reaction,” she said.

The journalist said that she always looks for gifts in advance for the people who are important to her, and waits until the right occasion to give them away.

When asked if she would also find her next gift at the flea market, Pigozzi said that “I hope so!”

Tags: Pope Francis, Saint Therese of Lisieux

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