La Croix: What will happen during the holiday week in Lisieux?
Emmanuel Schwab : On Sundays October 1st and 8th, the great procession of Thérèse’s relics will take place. Most of her relics are kept at the Carmel of Lisieux, under the recumbent figure of the saint. The box which contains them will be inserted in a shrine and carried to the basilica. On Sunday, they will go from the basilica to the cathedral, where Thérèse was going to mass with the family. They will then be brought back to the basilica discreetly to stay there all week. The following Sunday, they will return from the basilica to the Carmel, in a large procession. The entire city of Lisieux will be affected by this event.
During the week, we will offer a jubilee approach by inviting you to take a spiritual journey through the places where Thérèse lived. Conferences this year will deal with what happened between the death of this little unknown Norman Carmelite, in 1897, and the beatification twenty-six years later of a world-famous nun. And then there will be times of prayer, vespers at the Carmel, a time of adoration at the cathedral (1)…
You have been rector of the sanctuary since September 1, after having held several ministries in Paris. Why did you choose Lisieux?
E. S. : I have been quite attached to Thérèse since the seminary where I followed teaching on her subject, in the early 1980s, from Father Guy Gaucher, a specialist in the spirituality of the young saint. I read Thérèse, her writings spoke to me and nourished me. In Paris, I was parish priest of Saint-Ferdinand-des-Ternes, in the 17th arrondissement, whose crypt is dedicated to him. I increased Thérèse’s patronage there. So she was not a stranger to me.
However, when a bishop friend of mine told me about the post of rector that was becoming available in Lisieux, I was taken by surprise, not very convinced at the time. And yet, in two hours, I felt a spiritual joy rising within me, in a sort of evidence, the same joy that I had already experienced when deciding to enter the seminary. In less than two weeks, I was appointed to Lisieux.
In your opinion, what touches pilgrims about Thérèse? Why is she so loved?
E. S. : Thérèse touches people because she says that holiness is possible for everyone. Possible not with excessive effort, but with the help of the Lord. About three months before her death, she wrote: “I would like (…) to find an elevator to raise me to Jesus, because I am too small to climb the rough staircase of perfection. (…) The elevator that must lift me to Heaven is your arms, O Jesus! » (Manuscript C). She explains that one can achieve holiness by allowing oneself to be done by the Lord. And that it is in the very little things of daily life that the whole of spiritual life is at stake.
Thérèse received the title of Doctor of the Church in 1997. She had great spiritual intelligence, thanks to which God was able to make her hear things that had never been heard in this way. His spirituality is quite close to that of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, for example. But both express it in very different ways. Thérèse received the grace to speak of something very ancient in a new way, which did good to the Church of her time and which still does us good today. Our time needs to hear this desire that it had to be holy. “I will bring glory to you by becoming a great saint,” she said to her father. Thérèse ardently invites us to want to be saints too, and she shows us how.