Following in the Footsteps of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

During the Fall Semester break (October 26-31, 2019) ITI students, faculty and staff made the third pilgrimage to Lisieux, France in the history of the Institute. It is fitting for those who have, over the years, experienced the consistent, loving protection and ceaseless intercession of ITI’s Patroness Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D., to have the opportunity to honor her in the places of her birth and life. Under the spiritual leadership of ITI Student Chaplain Rev. Fr. Juraj Terek, as well as two ITI Professors Rev. Dr. Jean-Yves Brachet OP and Rev. Dr. Martin Mayerhofer, the pilgrims were immersed anew into the theological teaching of the youngest of all the “Doctors of the Church”. Getting to know St. Thérèse’s spiritual journey in a deeper way helped students to see how mature she was in her faith and to be inspired to follow her “little way” by seeking holiness in daily life. One of the pilgrims, Karina Bates, MMF student, recalls about the trip:

Over half the student body of the ITI was blessed this fall with the opportunity go on a pilgrimage to Lisieux. Along the way we were able to visit Prague, Rouen, the beach of Touville-Sur-Mer, Alençon, Mont Saint Michel, and Paris. Our main destination was Lisieux, the place where Saint Thérèse spent most of her life. We wanted to understand why this little saint, who never attended a university or studied philosophy or theology, is our school’s patroness.

            Our trip can best be documented by the Masses we had, each day in a special place. Fr. Liju and Fr. Martin said Mass in the Church of Our Lady Victorious, the Shrine of the Infant of Prague, marking the first day of the pilgrimage and retreat. It was very fitting to begin there since Thérèse had a deep devotion to the Child Jesus throughout her life. We had time after Mass to catch a few more iconic sights around the beautiful city, and then we boarded the bus for France.

            After an overnight on the bus we arrived in Rouen just in time for Sunday Mass in the Cathedral Notre Dame de Rouen. After a beautiful Mass and an impromptu song from our choir, we visited the site where Saint Joan of Arc was martyred. By the early afternoon we were back on the bus headed to our next destination.

            Before reaching Lisieux, we were overjoyed to stretch our legs for a bit at the beach in Touville-Sur-Mer. Chilly waters did not stop most of us from getting our feet wet.  Refreshed and exhilarated, we arrived in Lisieux on Sunday evening in time for dinner and a meditation from Fr. Brachet on the Charity of St. Thérèse.

On Monday, we went to the Carmelite convent where Thérèse and her sisters lived as nuns. Our tour guide took us through the museum where we caught a glimpse of her daily life in the convent. Then, we were able to visit her tomb and attend Mass in the adjoining chapel. Right after Mass, we had a tour of Thérèse’s family home at Les Buissonnets in Lisieux. The whole place felt holy and peaceful, but the room where the Virgin Mary smiled at Thérèse and the garden where she played as a child felt especially peaceful.

            We then had a tour of the Cathedral where the Martin family attended daily mass. The last stop for the day was the Basilica of Saint Thérèse. Our guide explained the history of the basilica and many of the mosaics within it. Then we had as much time as we liked in the basilica, praying before the reliquary of Saint Thérèse and the tomb of Sts. Zeliè and Louis Martin. The evening concluded with another meditation from Fr. Brachet on the theology of St. Thérèse.

The next day we had Mass in Alençon in the house where Thérèse was born and where her family lived until her mother died. Fr. Brachet celebrated mass in a small chapel with a side view into the bedroom of Zeliè and Louis Martin. During Mass we remembered in a special way the intentions of those anonymous benefactors whose generosity made this pilgrimage possible for many of the students.

            After grabbing a hasty bite to eat, in true ITI fashion we made a spontaneous trip to visit Mont Saint Michel. The silhouette of the island abbey rising out of the mists was magnificent. We explored the abbey and town before returning for our last night in Lisieux.

            The last morning of our pilgrimage most of us woke up early to squeeze in one last prayer at the tomb of St. Thérèse before driving to Paris.  We were blessed to end our trip with Mass in the Sacré Cœur Basilica. With a last few songs that surprised the unsuspecting tourists with heartfelt jubilation and love for Our Lady, we ended the official part of our pilgrimage.

            After enjoying Paris’ most iconic sights, we finally clambered one last time into the bus late Wednesday night for the long ride back. Home always looks more beautiful after a long journey, and we’ve brought a greater love for each other and our patroness back with us to make it even more beautiful. We’re all so grateful!