Today I left with Molly and Mary Elise to go to Lisieux, France to visit the basilica constructed in the honor of Saint Thérèse, patron saint of Russia and missions. Saint Thérèse was born Thérèse Martin on January 2, 1873 in Alencon, France. She was the youngest child of Louis and Zeile Martin. When she was only 4 1/2 years old, her mother died, and her father moved the family to the little town of Lisieux.

I have waffled with several reasons to make her remarkable but have settled on the fact that she had a profound childlike faith, and that is why people are drawn to her. She is recorded as saying about prayer, “I quite simply tell God what I want to say to Him, without making beautiful sentences, and He always understands me…”

To honor the life of the saint, the construction of a basilica was begun. The Basilica of St. Thérèse of Lisieux was begun in 1929 and was completed in 1954 with work stopped during the war years. Remarkably, the basilica was largely untouched by the extensive bombing that the rest of Lisieux suffered during World War II.  Three archetects supervised the construction of the basilica. Louis-Marie Cordonnier, and his son Louis-Stanislas Cordonnier and his grandson Louis Cordonnier were all responsible for the beautiful structure today. It was funded entirely by donations, and almost every inch of the ceiling is covered in mosaic tiles which glitter spectacularly because of the perfect placement of the windows. Because there are no columns, on occasions that the church is full to capacity, every one of the 4,000 pilgrims or parishioners can have an unobstructed view.

A view of the inside of the Basilica. You can see the Mosaics on the ceiling.

Basilique de Lisieux

Molly is a spiritual soul, one who has a great big heart and a hug for anyone in need. She has a very sweet and deep tie to Saint Thérèse for reasons she will have to explain to you herself. It was with childlike joy and rapture Molly greeted the basilica. Mary Elise and I were blessed by her excitement and sheer happiness.

Molly, very excited to get to Lisieux!

Later in the day, we walked around Lisieux and made our way to Les Buissonnets, the house in which Saint Thérèse grew up before entering the Carmelite Cloister in 1888. It’s a beautiful little house situated in the middle of a garden. The people inside who give the tours year-round are nuns, and this is where I found the most fantastic thing I’d seen all day.

It’s true: my favorite part of the day was meeting a tiny, wrinkly nun in Saint Thérèse’s house. She was one of the cutest and most precious individuals I had ever beheld, and this, you remember, was after regarding one of the most beautiful basilicas ever built. I listened very closely to the short tour, trying to decipher the Catholic religion, the French language and the cultural differences. But this tiny woman with two hearing aids, snow-white hair and her uniform Habit was the sweetest, kindest person I think I may have ever seen. She listened to my French and told me sweetly that I spoke very well. I almost hugged her.It was a fantastic day.

“He doesn’t need our great deeds, but only our love.”–St. Thérèse

To learn more about the life of Saint Thérèse, her beatification and canonization, click here.

Click here for beautiful pictures and more information on the Basilica of Lisieux.

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