I have been to the National Shrine of St. Thérèse in Darien, Ill., several times, and each time there is always something new to see and learn about the Little Flower.
Relics of her life are on prominent display — everything from furniture and clothing to toys (a little teacup) and schoolwork (a well-drawn map of North America), as well as lovely handwritten notes in French. Her first Communion preparation book is also there for the faithful to see.
And now, there is a new addition: Visitors can see a replica of her convent room. The room, dedicated in June, includes originals from Lisieux’s Carmelite convent, including the tiles outside Thérèse’s door where she walked each day, the door frame and door from her room, plus the window from the chapter room where she professed her vows. The window in her room is also original: She looked out at the Carmel garden through this window more than 100 years ago.
This room was where she wrote her autobiography, Story of a Soul. A small stool with a copy of the manuscript illustrates this point. I was struck by its simplicity when I saw it recently. The space is simple and prayerful — just like its former occupant.
Daily Mass at the shrine is a lovely oasis in the midst of a busy work week; Mass on Thérèse’s feast day, Oct. 1, is crowded with faithful coming to honor her.
I especially love the roses etched into the glass doors and rose-adorned windows in the shrine’s chapel. They are a beautiful reminder of the saint’s dying promise: "I feel that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making others love God as I love him, my mission of teaching my little way to souls. If God answers my requests, my heaven will be spent on earth up until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth."
Thérèse lived in 19th-century France, but her wisdom is so needed in 21st-century America. Serving God in her "little way," doing ordinary things with extraordinary love, is exactly what this world needs more of.
St. Thérèse is the epitome of a life lived out of love for others. She befriended a fellow nun who was often unkind to her because she recognized Christ in that woman. She always did even the littlest things with great love, an example we should all strive to follow. She was a beautiful witness of faith to her family and Carmelite sisters while she was alive, and, since her death in 1897 — 115 years ago this year — she has showered literal and spiritual roses upon many souls, including my family and friends, as well as myself.
Little Flower, pray for us!
Amy Smith is the Register’s associate editor.
National Shrine of St. Thérèse
8501 Bailey Rd.
Darien, IL 60561
Planning Your Visit
The St. Thérèse Room can be viewed through glass windows every day from 10am to 4pm.
Guided tours of the room are available for groups of 20 or more. Call (630) 969-4141 to schedule a tour.
Feast Day Events
Monday, Oct. 1, feast day: 9am talk in St. Paul’s Hall; 11am blessing of roses in the shrine; 11:30am blessing of roses and
Mass, followed by veneration of relics; 7pm blessing of roses and Mass, followed by veneration of relics.
The gift shop will be open until 9pm on Oct. 1.