Saturday, 10 October 2009

St Therese at Aylesford (3)

Photo credit:; taken at Aylesford, Friday afternoon 9th October 2009

I think I have already commented on how St Therese fascinates - she draws people of all ages and backgrounds, and all states of life! During a visit to the relics some prefer to hold back and spend a length of time in prayer, while others find it more important to approach the reliquary and spend time in a more visible, physical contact with it. The freedom for different styles in prayer is quite interesting to see, and the arrangements at the visit venues seem to have been designed to make provision for this.

There is a combination of an intense privacy (I suspect that each person's visit is quite unique to them) and a very powerful evangelising witness that is open and public (I doubt that anyone has sensed that they were "alone" during a visit and I, for one, really appreciated those around me during my visit). I wonder whether this profound balance between the personal and the public in what is a devotional act of the Church has something to teach us about the same balance in the more strictly Liturgical life? How do we put into practice the boundaries that protect rightful privacy and yet enable an appropriate public participation?

During my visit, I loved:

the Traveller families, especially the girl who knelt on her heels for minutes on end beside the relics, before coming and going

the children of two or three families who came and went, and returned, and wandered around the chapel

the Sisters who sat just behind me, praying the Rosary, and who were still there when I left

those who, as it got later and there were fewer visitors coming and going, knelt on their own beside the casket to make their visit, in full view of everyone else

a silence that was not literal (the occasional exchange of a few words, the sound of feet coming and going) but was nevertheless very real, and quite spontaneous

the natural discretion of those taking photographs - no fuss, no complaints, no posing beside the casket, and space around the casket for it to be done discretely, it being in some way a part of the freedom of a style of prayer in a technological age when people return again to the photographs on their mobile phones, care taken to make it non-intrusive

The Knights of St Columba who combined supervising the visitors with standing as a kind of guard of honour at the casket, especially when they enouraged hesitant visitors to approach the casket

[I think some venues have discouraged photographs at the reliquary or in the Church, and there is something to be said for this. The situations of different venues might well be making photographs less appropriate in some places than in others. Aylesford appeared to be neither encouraging nor discouraging them, and there can be no doubt that the photographs on the catholicrelics blog are a wonderful aspect of the evangelising impact of the visit.]

I think it would be very easy to underestimate the extent to which those visiting the relics have evangelised each other during their visits, through the profound balance of privacy and publicity in their visits, as well as contributed to an evangelisation "ad extra" to the Church.


alban said...

There is something incredibly beautiful about the photograph of the young, pierced, woman who is smiling as she is framed by the two nuns; it shows just how widely loved is the Little Flower. My one deep disappointment is that the relics were not brought north of the border; was this an oversight or were they not invited?

Joe said...

As soon as I saw that photo on the flickr site, I knew I just had to use it ...