Wednesday 30 September 2009

The visit in pictures

The events of the last three days have been extraordinary, and it will take some time before anyone will understand the lasting effects of the visit of St Thérèse. Already the stories of individual pilgrims are emerging - the reasons people came, the lengths some people went to in order to get here, and the prayers which have already been answered. It seems like a long time since the relics were carried into the Cathedral on Monday afternoon (pictured above), and a lot has happened in that time.

The blog will likely be featuring the visit for some time, along with coverage of the Cathedral's 150th anniversary and other events. We would welcome your help: if you have photographs of the visit which you could share with us, or perhaps a story about something that happened to you here, please let us know. We may not be able to feature everything that comes in, but the stories and the pictures will form a wonderful archive for future generations to look at.

Everyone who came to Lancaster had their own reasons for being here: some seeking help or an answer to prayer, some just wanting to be close to a great saint, some simply curious. One thing is clear: everyone who came wanted to be close to the relics. Huge numbers of people simply came, visited St Thérèse, and left. Their purpose for being here had been fulfilled.

It is very difficult to work out how many people passed through the doors, but we are estimating that something like 6500 pilgrims came to the Cathedral during the 43-hour visit.

There were also major liturgies, many of which were packed full of people. Yesterday, for example, there were about 800 at the lunchtime Mass and 750 at the evening Mass; 500 attended Vespers and 300 were at Compline. The Little Flower can certainly draw people to prayer, just as she always desired to do in her lifetime.

Amongst the many visitors were around 500 children from over 20 schools. Most of them were able to take part in a special programme for schools, which included the chance to talk to someone playing the role of a Carmelite nun who knew Thérèse. We will feature more about the school visits on the blog soon.

The relics were taken out of the Cathedral at 11am, carried by six members of the Cenacolo Community near Kendal. These six men, who also carried the relics in at the arrival, are recovering drug addicts. The mission of Cenacolo - which is a worldwide movement brought into our Diocese by Bishop O'Donoghue - is to help people overcome their addiction and then use their experience to help others. In doing so they also give great witness to their faith, and are an inspiration to the many people who have come into contact with them.

There was applause this morning outside the Cathedral at the short convoy carrying the relics began to move. About now the reliquary is due to arrive at St Andrew's Church, Worswick Street, Newcastle, before making its way down the eastern side of England towards Westminster, where the journey ends on 16th October. Please do send us your pictures and stories of the visit to Lancaster. We will feature much more on the blog, and would welcome your contributions. The final two photographs in this post are from; all the others were taken by local photographer George Coupe, who was covering the visit on behalf of the Cathedral.