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Visit to Aylesford to venerate the relics of St Therese

Maria Whitehouse recalls a notable Parish pilgrimage,

"St Therese’s Little Way of spiritual childhood shone through our day at Aylesford with the relics of St Therese. Her autobiography “The Story of a Soul” teaches us the importance of recognising the immense love of God for us and getting closer to him by prayer and small acts of kindness to others, perhaps unknown to anyone but God.

After a couple of months of not very careful planning 39 parishioners and friends aged from 12 to 89 set off from St Richards at 9 a.m. on Sunday 11 October by Woods Coaches. On schedule, just before 11 a.m., we arrived at Aylesford Priory in Kent to join some 3,000 other pilgrims of all ages and cultural backgrounds – it was a real cross section of the Catholic Church.

Feelings of anticipation and some apprehension gave way to peace and joy during the gathering service and especially when the casket was placed beside the altar. The music was excellent and helped to create a very reverent atmosphere.

Mass was celebrated by the Prior General of the Carmelite Order, Most Rev. Fernando Millan. He preached of St Therese’s Little Way and the hope that the visit of her relics would bear fruit in our communities. We sang “The love I have for you, my Lord, is only a shadow of your love for me” and the roses people had with them were blessed. The Mass finished with singing the Carmelite prayer “Flos Carmeli” and the hymn “Praise, my soul, the King of heaven”

The queue to venerate the relics individually was more like a procession than a queue with a prayerful, expectant attitude. Praying in the presence of the relics was powerful experience.

We found a quiet garden for our lunch stop, supplemented in due course with cheeseburgers, coke and tea from the refreshment tents. Meanwhile the pyramid of roses was on the move

However the high point for many was the farewell service. People gradually returned to the benches before the altar and were led by a friar into silence and contemplation before singing hymns and Taize chants such as “You alone are my strength and shield” and “In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful”.

The readings encapsulated 'The Little Way of St Therese'. The first reading was from Philippians chapter 4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The gospel passage was from Mark chapter 10 “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

“Wet roses” fell during the farewell service and the casket was carried to the waiting car by the Knights of St Columba. Aylesford that day was truly a “thin place” where the love of God could be keenly felt."

We were privileged to experience the day and would like to thank Fr Kieron and Fr Royston for their support for the pilgrimage.


Maria Whitehouse