Lisieux, France

Home of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church

 and

final resting place of Bishop Pierre Cauchon, the judge instrumental in assuring the fiery death of Saint Joan of Arc

Part One: Saint Thérèse's short life

and the basilica built to commemorate her at Lisieux.

A. The Saint, the Basilica, and its setting

Saint Thérèse's life was short, she died in 1897 at age 24 of tuberculosis at the Carmel cloister that she loved.  She was declared a saint in 1925.  Her parents encouraged her choice of vocation and so did her four sisters, the older two of whom also entered the Carmelite order.  Her parents, Zélie and Louis, were declared "Venerable" in 1994 and "beatified" in 2008, so there is also a shrine to them in the Crypt of the Basilica.  They may also be invoked in prayer, just as any saint can be invoked.  

So what did Thérèse do to merit sainthood?  As far as I have been able to puzzle it out it was the message contained in her book (compiled and published post-humously) "Story of a Soul."  The book is evidence of her exemplary life and service, and her inspiration to the faithful was recognized in yet another honor, that of being declared a 'Doctor of the Church' in 1997.

A highlight of her soul's story apparently was her feeling abandoned by God toward the end of her life, a true "dark night of the soul" experience that went on for months and that she fought by picturing her soul's relationship to God as a child in the arms of her mother.  She fought the darkness by focusing on the little things of daily life as being opportunities to express, dispense and share love.

She declares that . . . "perfect charity consists in putting up with faults in others, in not being surprised by their weakness, to edify oneself from the smallest acts of virtue they can carry out."  Loving, and putting love into every activity of life, is what is required by God: "Jesus doesn't look so much at the greatness of our actions nor at their level of difficulty but rather at the love that we have to carry out these actions."  (Citations from brochure "Thérèse - her life, her message," Sanctuaire de Lisieux.)

Pope Pius X declared her "the greatest saint of modern times" which surprised me, did not know you could rank saints, but the basilica built to honor her is certainly one the grander religious edifices I have ever seen:

 

Saint Thérèse is sculpted here in the gardens in front of the basilica, showing her praying with a crucifix in her hand.  At the very back of the basilica she is shown once again, here praising the Lord for the parents she had been given on earth.  The lower signs announce that since the parents have been pronounced "blessed" their remains have been removed from this place and brought into the basilica itself where they can be venerated:

        

So now you have seen the front and the back of the basilica.  It is time you walked around it with me.  So we start where I did, on a wooded raised earthen dike that goes from the front to the back on one side, until it takes you to one of the more elaborate "Stations of the Cross" walk I have encountered, with very vivid portrayals of Christ's life in stone marking the stations.  Prayer and meditation are their purpose, always focused on the journey of Christ to the cross and beyond:

 

Particularly interesting were the last few stations depicting the ascension of Jesus' soul into heaven (in somewhat the same way that some sculpture-decorated bishops' graves I have seen elsewhere depicted their own soul-ascent, angels flanking and holding the holy vessel from which the soul alights):

 

From here, the back of the basilica is an impressive sight.  Its setting above its surrounding village is also impressive:

 

It is time to go inside now.  Please go to the next page.

Part One: Saint Thérèse's short life and the basilica built to commemorate her at Lisieux.

A. The Saint, the Basilica, and its setting YOU ARE HERE NOW

B. Inside the Basilica  THIS IS THE NEXT PAGE

 C. Other city sites important to Saint Thérèse

Part Two:  Saint Peter's Cathedral where Pierre Cauchon's remains remain

A. Walking to Saint Peter's Cathedral from the Basilica

B. The town around the Cathedral

C. The Cathedral

D. Walking out of town for perspective

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