Sunday, August 10, 2014

European Adventure 2012: Lisieux Day 1 (Part 2)

After visiting St. Therese's childhood home, we went to the convent where she spent the last 9 years of her life (before dying of tuberculosis at age 24).  It is here that she wrote her famous spiritual writings and spent countless hours in prayer and sacrifice.  This is also the site of her tomb.

Saint Therese's personal crucifix and the crown she wore at her profession of vows

"Holiness consists simply in doing God's will, and being just what God wants us to be."
-Saint Therese

Saint Therese's habit and shoes
"I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors' defects--not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues."
-Saint Therese

Art supplies used by Saint Therese
"Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love."
-Saint Therese
Holy cards of Saint Therese

The tomb of Saint Therese of Lisieux
The most memorable part of our visit to Carmel was spending time in prayer before Saint Therese's tomb.  The light was dimmed in the quiet, serene little chapel.  At that intimate, silent moment, we were the only visitors at the tomb of this great Saint; our dear friend.  We prayed on our knees for her intercession for our little family and all of our loved ones.
We finished up our evening by paying a quick visit to the empty, cold, dark St. Peter's Church not far from our hotel.  Inside this ancient medieval church was the confessional St. Therese used before she entered the convent at Carmel.
After a quick visit to St. Peter's (we would return first thing in the morning to explore it completely), we tried to find some food.  To our surprise, many of the restaurants in town that we stopped at were serving as a bar that night and weren't serving food, so we ended up walking to a small supermarket not far from our hotel and purchasing some pre-made sandwiches, fruit, and yogurt.  We took our food back to our hotel room and had a picnic.  We looked down from our room at the town square below and watched ice skaters skating on the square's ice rink, enjoying the brisk evening.
It had been a day to treasure.
"Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our father's love —
difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs — everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness — Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift.
Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events —
 to the heart that loves, all is well." 
-Saint Therese

European Adventure 2012: Lisieux Day 1 (Part 1)

The next stop on our trip was a life-long dream come true.  Saint Therese of Lisieux has been one of my favorite Saints since third grade.  Saint Therese was the patron Saint of my elementary school and childhood church.  I spent many years of my life learning about this holy young woman and her spirituality.  I love her simplicity and her heroic love.

When I was in college, visiting convents and discerning God's Will for my life, I prayed many novenas to Saint Therese asking her to pray for God's plan in my life.  I later discovered that my future husband (who also loves Saint Therese) also prayed many novenas during his college years asking Saint Therese to help him find his future wife!  Our heavenly friend did intercede for us, and we were married just a week and a half before her feast day in Saint Theresa's Church in Lincoln, NE. 

My sweet husband made sure that Lisieux, France was on our itinerary!  To visit the home of one of my heroines since childhood was absolutely unforgettable!

Saint Therese was born in 1873 and lived only 24 years, much of which was spent in a cloistered convent in Lisieux, France. Her spirituality is called the Little Way: doing small things with great love.  Her spiritual writings were so profound and applicable for every Christian that they are still very popular today.  She was declared a "Doctor of the Church" by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

The drive to Lisieux was breathtaking: French countryside with rolling green hills.  We found Lisieux to be a small, quiet, ordinary town.  A humble home for a humble Saint.

Our hotel was right across the street from Saint Therese's childhood church, St. Peter's!  Saint Therese went to Mass here with her family every week when she was a little girl. We loved this view from our hotel window!

Les Buissonnets was the childhood home of Saint Therese in Lisieux.  This is the setting of countless stories I've heard and read about little Therese and her family.  To be here was like a dream. 

We entered Saint Therese's childhood home and we were greeted by a sweet French nun who spoke zero English.  She smiled graciously and pushed the "play" button on a recorded audio tour of the home.  Peter snoozed serenely in his stroller as we listened to the tour and walked through her home. 

Saint Therese's entryway and fireplace

Saint Therese became very ill when she was young.  Her miraculous healing was attributed to the intercession of Our Lady.  Therese stayed in this room during her illness.

The Dining Room

One of Saint Therese's Dresses

Saint Therese's First Communion Dress

This picture was taken in the bedroom which Saint Therese spent the majority of her childhood.  It is now filled with many objects from her childhood.

Another picture of her childhood bedroom

This floor was the original floor in their home! 

The backyard gardens

We were the only people (other than two sweet nuns) at Saint Therese's house during the majority of our visit!  It made us feel like we were her special guests. It didn't feel like a tourist stop at all, it felt like a home.  It was incredibly peaceful and absolutely unforgettable.

Praise God for such an incredible gift.

"When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth."
Saint Therese of Lisieux

Sunday, January 5, 2014

European Adventure 2012: St. Joan of Arc in Rouen, France

We started our next day's adventure with breakfast at our hotel.  The fresh strawberries and apple juice were Peter's favorites.  Cheers!
Next, we picked up our rental car and traveled to the little city of Rouen, France.  Rouen is the location of St. Joan of Arc's martyrdom.  A church was built near the site of her martyrdom.  The church was locked up, but we explored the gardens outside and asked for the intercession of this heroic young woman.

The sign below marks the location where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake on May 30, 1431.

 Rouen was a charming, picture perfect little town!  We enjoyed doing a bit of exploring and souvenir shopping before grabbing a bite to eat at a local café.  We ate delicious sandwiches on French bread (of course!) filled with lunchmeat, cheeses, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and butter!  Yum!  And instead of chips or fries for a side, our sandwich was accompanied by a flaky, sweet pastry.  Double yum!

Peter posed for a photo with St. Joan of Arc to wrap up our visit to Rouen!  He was so happy to have a break from his car seat during this stop!  As you can see from the red marker drawn on his pants, he had gotten a little bored earlier during our morning drive.  God bless our sweet little pilgrim and all of the miles he's patiently traveled! 


European Adventure 2012: Paris Day 2

Waking up in Paris...
When you start off your day with pastries like these little beauties, you know it's going to be an extra special kind of day.
We walked from our teeny little hotel room (we have found that hotel rooms in Paris and London are teeny tiny but uber expensive) and strolled to a charming, busy pastry shop that our local expert Tom recommended. 
Oh my. 
No words can describe the amazing deliciousness of these buttery, melt-in-your-mouth croissants and the sugary sweet almond pastries. 
Powered by pastries, we hit the ground running...and we're off!  Dan, our super travel guide, typed up a full itinerary/research packet to plan our day.  We were ready to tackle it. 
First we stopped at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.  This is where the guillotine named the "Black Widow" stood during the French Revolution. Over 1,300 people were beheaded here--among them were King Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette.  Now, it's just a little plaza area surrounded by bustling traffic coming from all directions.  A plaque near the obelisk in the center of the plaza marks the place:  "This plaza, opened in 1763, was originally called the Plaza of Louis XV.  From November 1792 to May 1795 it was then referred to as the Plaza of the Revolution.  It was the main venue for public executions, including that of Louis XVI on 21 January 1793 and Marie-Antoinette on 16 October 1793."

Next, we walked right down the street to La Madeleine Church in Paris.  This church is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene.

The interior of the church was majestic and beautifully adorned with breathtaking sculptures.  It was a peaceful retreat from the busy streets outside.

We then took a walk through the Tuileries Gardens.  We let Peter out of the stroller to stretch his legs and run through the grass.  Soon, we spotted a charming, old fashioned carousel!

Our little traveler deserved a break from sightseeing.  He was absolutely thrilled!

After a very sad and tearful goodbye to the carousel, Peter and mommy had a little pep talk in the beautiful gardens (with the Louvre in the background) and I convinced our sweet boy that there would be more fun to come.

We continued our relaxing walk through the Tuileries and arrived at our next destination....
...The Louvre Art Museum!
The museum was massive. We cruised through the halls and maze-like corridors (because when you're at an art museum with a two year old, you don't have time to actually look at the art) on a mission to find the one and only Mona Lisa!
As you can see, she's quite popular...

After the Louvre, we went back to the metro to hit our next stop.  Good thing we have such a skilled navigator with us!
We took the metro to the Place de la Bastille.

This is where the infamous Bastille Prison was located. The "flash point" of the French Revolution occurred at this prison in 1789 when French Revolutionaries stormed the Bastille and defeated the Royal troops inside...the prison was destroyed shortly afterwards.

The French Revolution had begun!
After a very full morning of sightseeing, we met Tom at a little café for a mid-afternoon snack while Peter snoozed in his stroller. 

The meat and cheese plate reenergized us for the next adventure on our list:
the Cathedral of Notre Dame. 
We took our time and soaked it all in.  There were countless side altars and statues, one could easily spend the entire day exploring and meditating. 

This red reliquary contains the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus!  It was purchased from the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) by the French King St. Louis IX in the Middle Ages.
The next item on the itinerary was the Basilica of St. Denis.  This Basilica was located on the far northern edge of Paris.  Dan was very motivated to see it, so we traveled on a jam-packed metro during rush hour through endless stops.  It was a memorable experience to say the least!  I entertained myself by people watching (and at one point, dog someone brought a scary looking dog onto the metro) and reassuring Peter not to worry as more and more people smooshed in close to us.  Claustrophobic?  Yes.  As our metro stop approached, I began to feel nervous.  We were pinned in the back with a stroller, how would we ever make it to the metro door?!  Several locals noticed our dilemma and generously yelled and kindly pushed us through to the door.  Phew!  We finally arrived at the Basilica of St. Denis where he (the first bishop of Paris who was beheaded for his work converting the populace to Christianity around A.D. 258) and the monarchs of France are buried.
It was beautiful on the outside, but had unfortunately closed early for the day and we were unable to go inside.  (Humph!) We said a prayer at the doorstep and then hopped back on the metro which, to our delight, was much less crowded. 
Our last stop before dinner was the Sacre Coeur Basilica, dedicated to Christ's Sacred Heart.
It was built over the site where martyrs were slain in Roman times (to include St. Denis)!  It was built high atop a steep hill.  We took a cable car lift to the top and went inside to find a beautiful church filled with prayerful souls at an evening Mass.  It was an inspiring sight to see.  After our visit, we enjoyed the breathtaking view of Paris (including the Eifel Tower lit up at night) before descending down the hill again.



We walked with Tom to an artsy district of Paris for dinner.  Two of the highlights of the dinner were crepes and French onion soup.  Yum!

We are so grateful to our friend, Tom, for being our expert guide!  We had so much fun!

After dinner, we walked through the charming cobblestone streets, peeked in the artsy little shops, and bought a painting of the Eifel Tower. 

Our metro stop was right next to Moulin Rouge, a dance hall famous for its can can dancing, so we stopped for a photo op.  "Moulin Rouge" means "Red Windmill" in English. 
Then we hopped back on the metro for our final ride of the night.  And we slept very soundly in our little Parisian hotel room.