We began our final day of pilgrimage with anticipation to see what the Lord would do through the intercession of St. Therese in these last hours. We were not disappointed, for our "little" Saint interceded very powerfully on our behalf.
On our way to Lisieux we again enjoyed the gift of hearing more testimonies from those who had not spoken in the days before. Again, it was very moving to here everyone proclaim the glories of the Lord in their lives, and in a special way on this trip.
We arrived in Lisieux early in the afternoon and needed her intercession immediately as we did not have a Mass scheduled. We entered asking about the possibility and were immediately granted a chapel where we could have Mass. T our great joy, our dear Saint spoke volumes to our hearts by allowing us to end where we began....
On our first day in Lourdes, before we entered into the baths, we knelt before Our Lady in the grotto and prayed the prayer to Our Lady of the Smile that asked for the healing of our hearts, lives, and souls through the miraculous baths. It was the first significant moment in our trip. Much to our great joy, the name of the chapel today, in which we were to celebrate our final Mass was named none other than "Our Lady of the Smile!" We were very moved to see how St. Therese and Our Lady were again coming to seal the graces in our hearts that we had received throughout these days, and to bring about another grace of healing that we all so need.
Mass was very sober and powerful, containing a profound grace that we could all sense but could not put into words. Fr. Adam in his homily spoke about our call to be a sign of contradiction for the world - just as St. Therese and St. Louis of France, whose feast we celebrated today. After Mass Sr. Silvia spoke to everyone very movingly about the Lord's desire to fill us; about how He really is our only peace and anything else that proposes to be our happiness is only a lie; about how "commitment is our freedom." Are we willing to truly give it all to Him? To trust that He can satisfy? To trust that He has a plan that is the best and most fulfilling? Are we willing? After taking some time of silence to answer this question in the depths of our hearts, we came before the image of Our Lady of the Smile and prayed again the prayer to her, asking her to heal our hearts of all that prevents us fully from being loved and loving. It was a very special moment and a fitting end to the whole of our trip.
After lunch, we then proceeded to visit les Bouissonnets, the house in which St. Therese spent most of her life. Then we visited the Carmel Convent, in which St. Therese spent all of the nine years of her religious life. Finally, we ended our day in Lisieux with our visit to the Basilica built in her honor about 30 years after her death. The grand Basilica is certainly an apt and beautiful tribute to her truly grand life. There we were able to have some time to pray, meditate, and walk around the beautiful grounds.
We then departed back to Paris. We finished with out testimonies and also shared more stories - some funny, some serious - of events that had occurred during our time here. Upon arriving many of us went out for a final meal together here in Europe.
Our time here now comes to an end.....it is bittersweet. It has been a time filled with truly a multitude of graces and gifts from the Lord - both seen and unseen. It has been a time of great fraternity, in which we have truly grown to become a family. It has been a time of falling in love...with the Lord, his Mother, his Vicar the Pope, and his bride the Church. He brought us first to the Heart of Mary to prepare our hearts for an encounter with Peter, his Church and his Sacred Heart. Hopefully, we are now "more firm in the faith, planted and built up in Jesus Christ," willing to give our lives over, in love, to Him and his Church. The path has ended, but only to continue in some form for all our lives.
Each one of us holds a deep gratitude to the Lord for how He called us here, how He brought us here, what He has done in us, and what He will continue to due into the future. May He be praised forever and ever. Amen.