Happy feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux! I hope you celebrated her today with some flowers (roses were her fave) or a French treat :)
As I've been reflecting more on my time at World Youth Day, I've been able to recognize how St. Thérèse (and St. Anthony) interceeded and looked out for us during the trip.
I never really understood the concept of "saint friends" until college when I heard from others the roles that certain saints were playing in their lives at certain moments. They described it sometimes (jokingly) as if it felt like a saint was stalking them, coming up in something they were reading or seeing a picture of them in the most random places. I became more attentive and soon recognized saints knocking at the door of my own heart. All of the saints desire to be our friends if we just let them in :) I had always prayed to St. Anthony asking for help to find something I had lost and the St. Michael prayer during difficult times. But, viewing a saint as someone you can relate to is such a powerful thing. I highly recommend reading books by saints or about their lives because it has truly transformed my prayer life.
Anyways, back to Thérèse, I wanted to share about the day we visited one of her relics in Lisbon. There were tons of relics and exhibitions all over the city during World Youth Day, TONS and TONS. It was so hard deciding what we were going to do each day because I didn't want to miss out on anything. It took an act of entrusting each day to the Lord, not knowing what to expect, but knowing He would lead us well and He always did!
Especially this day which started out so ordinary (with breakfast at our favorite neighborhood coffee shop) and ended up being so memorable. While we were at breakfast we ran into some people from the Schoenstatt shrine in Austin! It was so special to be reunited and to see each other in a new place. Soon after we heard that Pope Francis had landed in Lisbon and was going to be driving through that same neighborhood. We quickly walked to the street corner, gathering with other pilgrims hoping for a glimpse at the Pope, and just a few minutes went by before we saw his police escorts and his white Toyota pass right in front of us! I will never forget the smile on his face as he waved to us and the immeasurable joy we felt. We were so lucky to have experienced such a personal encounter with Papa Francisco (PAPA!!) before he would be speaking to millions of people. It was a beautiful reminder of the many gifts God wants to give us in every little moment and our openness to receive them.
Later that day, after taking our daily round of trains and buses packed to the brim with people, we made it to the church where St. Thérèse's relics were held. We were all looking forward to having some quiet time for prayer since that was harder to come by during the trip. The church was tucked away in a part of the city that usually probably didn't see much foot traffic but that welcomed millions of people during this week. The area surrounding the church had lots of French influence, with French restaurants and people, it was like Thérèse was showing us her home. The relics they had in the church were so ornate and we had the chance to write prayer intentions which would be brought back to the Carmelite sisters in Lisieux. It was so beautiful to see everyone squeeze into this tiny church to see her, God's little flower who has such a big impact on people's lives. Although the church was full of people, it was so quiet and reverent. I could have stayed there all day despite the lack of air conditioning in the church. A great sense of peace washed over me as I was reminded of my littleness in the eyes of God.
Also on that day some friends and I took a tour around Lisbon in a small cab called a tuk tuk. It's amazing how those vehicles can zip around so easily even up and down the steep hills and cobblestone paths. We had so much fun exploring the city and being driven around was a blessing after all the walking we had done on the trip so far. As we gazed with childlike wonder at the magnificent view from the highest point of the city, I knew St. Therese was right beside us teaching us her little way. <3