16 September 2019
The relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux which have been in Scotland since Thursday 29th of August, as part of a three-week tour of Scotland’s eight Catholic dioceses, arrived at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow today, Monday 16th September.
The relics arrived at HMP Barlinnie, one of Scotland’s largest prisons at 2.00pm on 16th September where Archbishop Philip Tartaglia celebrated a Mass for staff and inmates.
In his homily, the Archbishop urged inmates to follow the example of St. Therese and to “do little things, little acts of goodness here and there throughout the day that in the end make a big difference.” He suggested prisoners could “offer a kindly word to a fellow inmate who is struggling with prison life. You could cooperate more readily with prison staff. You could perform your duties more perfectly for the sake of all.”
Archbishop Tartaglia recognised that “Prison life is not easy” but suggested to prisoners, that they could “offer up to God your hardships and sufferings for the sake of your fellow prisoners. You could say a kind word rather than a harsh one. You could make more of the opportunities that you are given to prepare for life on the outside.”
Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin (St. Therese of Lisieux) who is patroness of the Missions, the sick and prisoners entered the convent aged just fifteen and was canonised a saint in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Many miracles of healing have been reported throughout the world, including Scotland, through her intercession.
Archbishop Tartaglia explained to staff and inmates why the relics were visiting a prison;
“Famously, as a girl of 14, St Therese prayed for the conversion of a convicted murderer, who, although he never admitted his guilt, at the last, kissed the figure of the crucified Jesus just before his execution. Later, when she wrote about this, St Therese took this to be a sign that her prayer had been answered and that the man had asked forgiveness of God. Because of that, it is recommended that her relics, should, if possible, be taken to a prison. Accordingly, when the relics came to Glasgow, I wanted their first stop will be Barlinnie Prison.”
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Note to editors
The full text of the Archbishops’ Homily is shown below:
Images of the the relics visit to Barlinnie and elsewhere will appear here
A full itinerary of the visit and other background information about the Saint is available at www.littleflowerinscotland.co.uk
What is a relic?
A relic is either part of the physical remains of a saint after his or her death, or an object which has been in contact with his or her body. The casket coming to Scotland contains some of the bones of Saint Therese.
In each location across Scotland’s eight Catholic dioceses, the relics will be placed in a prominent place, such as the sanctuary of a Church, and people are invited to file past the casket containing the relics.
Mass at Glasgow Barlinnie HMP
In the presence of the Relics of St Therese of Lisieux
On the Feast Day of St Ninian
Homily – Archbishop Philip Tartaglia
My dear brothers and sisters, we are celebrating Mass today at Barlinnie in the presence of relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux. St Therese, also called the Little Flower or the Little Flower of Jesus, was a Carmelite Sister. Her name in religion was Sr Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. She was born Therese Martin in 1873. She entered the convent at age 15 in 1888 and she died in 1897, age 24. The goodness and holiness of this remarkable young woman and religious sister was clear for everyone to see. She was declared a saint in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Her relics have been on visitation since 1994, and today they are here in Glasgow.
Why are her relics here in Barlinnie Prison? When she was 14, before she entered the convent, Therese Martin, with all of France, was aware of the notorious case of Henri Pranzini, a prisoner who had been convicted of the murder of three people, including a child. He was to be executed. He had never admitted his guilt and had never shown any remorse. Therese began to pray for him and for his conversion. At the last, Pranzini kissed the figure of Jesus Crucified before his execution. Later, when she wrote about this, Therese took this to be a sign that Pranzini had asked forgiveness of God.
Because of this connection with a prisoner, it is recommended that when her relics are on visitation, they should, if possible, be taken to a prison. In 2009, when the relics came to England, they were brought for veneration to Wormwood Scrubs Prison in London. So, when we were planning for her relics to come to Scotland, I wanted them to come here to Barlinnie. This is the first stop of their visitation to Glasgow. I am grateful to the Prison Authorities and Chaplains for agreeing so readily to this and for making all the necessary arrangements, and I am grateful to you for welcoming St Therese’s relics to your chapel today.
St Therese was known especially for her little way to holiness. She was an enclosed Carmelite Nun. She was not in a position to make grand gestures of goodness or to become well known in the world (although she did!), So she opted for the little way of holiness through Mary to Jesus by offering our daily joys and sorrows and sacrifices to the Lord, all for selfless love. She is quoted as having said, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest thing right and doing it all for love.”
This spirituality has had no little influence among Catholics. It struck me that this “little way spirituality” was a good and practical spirituality for prisoners to follow. Prisoners are confined. They cannot do big things or make grand gestures. We can, however, all do little things, little acts of goodness here and there throughout the day that in the end make a big difference. For instance, you could offer a kindly word to a fellow inmate who is struggling with prison life. You could cooperate more readily with prison staff. You could perform your duties more perfectly for the sake of all. Prison life is not easy: you could offer up to God your hardships and sufferings for the sake of your fellow prisoners. You could say a kind word rather than a harsh one. You could make more of the opportunities that you are given to prepare for life on the outside. You will know better than I what opportunities daily life in prison gives you for such a “little way”.
In praying for the convicted prisoner Henri Pranzini, St Therese recognised his dignity as a child of God who was called to friendship with God. She recognised that in God’s eyes he was not identified by his sin and by his crime, but as a prodigal son who was called to repentance and forgiveness, and to fullness of life and salvation.
I hope that your veneration of the relics of St Therese today will increase your faith and help you follow her little way to goodness. I pray that the example and intercession of St Therese will prompt you to make life here in Barlinnie more tolerable for you and for your fellow inmates, so that you can look forward with hope to your future freedom and to a new life.
Glasgow Barlinnie HMP
16th September 2019