Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
October 8, 2001
Carmelites improvise to get reliquary onto monastery
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
SPRUCE GROVE — Ordinarily at 10 p.m. the Discalced Carmelite Sisters are in their respective cells, except for the nun who has the duty for the hourly visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
Monday night, Oct. 1, was different. Not only was the universal Catholic Church celebrating St. Th‚rese's feast on that day, but she was coming to visit the sisters.
So the whole community was up and eagerly awaiting the arrival of her major reliquary.
One could feel the festive atmosphere in the monastery, where pictures of the revered saint were pasted on the walls. The sisters waited, along with their close friends from the community and Archbishop Thomas Collins.
At about 10:40 p.m., the reliquary arrived. Immediately the sisters gathered in the monastery entrance ready to greet the relics. Although they kept their eyes downcast, one could not fail to notice the energy each of them exuded.
The reception was simple. Collins welcomed the reliquary and presented it to the sisters who led a procession into the chapel while singing a Carmelite hymn.
This was one of the rare occasions that the public could see the sisters as they processed from the entrance of the monastery to the chapel. However, the procession stopped just when the sisters were gathered in front of the altar.
The reliquary wouldn't fit the main public access door to the chapel. The archbishop, who was following the sisters, went to the chapel door to see what was happening.
The chapel door was too small for the 36-inch-wide reliquary to pass through.
"Who would have guessed it would happen," said Bob Northup, one of the people who frequent the monastery and help the sisters with ground maintenance.
Trying not to break the momentum, Mother Teresa discreetly negotiated with the archbishop to use another way.
The reliquary was led into the monastery through the heart of its well-secured cloister. Even there it wouldn't fit the door. The reliquary, however, did manage to make it into the small sacristy of the private part of the chapel.
"St. Thérèse would say, 'Keep it simple, I am already here,'" said Fred Prather, one of the Knights of Columbus who took responsibility for transporting the reliquary.
Without losing their composure, Mother Teresa and the archbishop invited the people to gather around the reliquary in the sacristy.
It was the first time in the brief history of this Carmelite monastery that the public was allowed into the private worship space of the sisters. While the sisters remained calm, the people hesitated to step into the sanctuary.
"Necessity has no law, we have to do what we have to," Mother Teresa told the WCR later.
"Our enclosure is not to make the people stay out; it is for safeguarding contemplative life and it is a Church law."
Mother Teresa and the other 10 sisters agreed that St. Thérèse would say, "I am going inside, I want to be with the people."
Linda Arcand, one of the regular visitors at the monastery, told the WCR the next day, "I felt like it was trespassing."
"It all happened so fast that Mother Teresa had to decide what to do."
Mother Teresa's concern was the people drove all the way from Edmonton and other places to venerate the relics and if that meant letting them in to their private space, making adjustment is necessary.
Northup, meanwhile, stayed at the monastery for 15 hours, praying the rosary and reading the autobiography of St. Thérèse.
"It was very peaceful," he said. "The night went by and I did not feel tired, and I am not a night person."
Before midnight, he and others who stayed figured out how to get the reliquary into the main chapel for Mass the following day.
"We had to remove the main door in the chapel so that the reliquary could get through," Northup said.
Collins called the visit of the relics historic for the archdiocese.
"I hope that the people realize and appreciate that we have in our own archdiocese a convent of Carmelite sisters who day by day live the same life as St. Thérèse," he told the WCR.
"That's why it is beautiful that we are ending this pilgrimage with the relics in the convent of the Carmelites."
St. Thérèse is a great saint, who always led people to God, the archbishop said. "It is important that the title of this pilgrimage is Encountering Jesus with St. Thérèse."
Tuesday morning, Oct. 2., Collins presided at a concelebrated Mass in a solidly packed chapel before the departure of the reliquary to Red Deer and then to Calgary.
"I pray for all of the needs of our people, for all of our families above all," he said.
In a special way he asked the intercession of St. Thérèse that the archdiocese be blessed with more vocations to religious life and the priesthood.
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