Thursday, October 08, 2009

St Thérèse visits Oxford

The turn-out for the visit of the relics of St Thérèse to the Oxford Oratory has been staggering. I was privileged to sing at a Traditional Missa Cantata at 8.30am and, despite the early hour, the church was packed. It seats 250 but people were crammed into the aisles and side chapels. The same was true for all the Masses and devotions of her visit; at times the queue to venerate the relics extended far down the Woodstock Road. Those passing through the church over the time of her stay must number in the several thousands; when services were not going on the church seemed continuously full simply with the continuous stream of people coming to venerate the relics.
The Fathers of the Oratory have been extremely well organised and the visit proceeded very smoothly. Priests were drafted in to hear confessions, to help people gain the indulgence which has been offered to those venerating the relics. There were a great many Masses during her stay, and a vigil overnight, and priests were able to say private Masses in side chapels. Fr Andrew Southwell, well known in Oxford, travelled from South London to say a private Low Mass in the newly restored relic chapel which I attended; this was not only packed but attracted a large crowd outside the chapel of people who had been queuing to venerate the relics.
The visit ended with Benediction and the solemn carrying out of the reliquary; as she passed under the choir loft petals were thrown down.

This was a wonderful occasion, indeed probably a once in a lifetime event. It has brought great joy to the Catholics of Oxford - and indeed there were people there from long distances as well. Thanks are due to the forsight and hard work of the Fathers of the Oratory, and the many volunteers who marshalled the crowds and even provided refreshment and first aid.

More photographs can be seen here.

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