Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

(click on the pictures to see larger ones)

In 1625 Fr. Paul Simon of Jesus Mary, Superior General of the Discalced Carmelite Order, ordained the preparations necessary for the establishment of a House in the Island of Malta. And in the beginning of the following year, an International College of missionary formation was opened in the city of Cospicua, and the Friars became popularly known as "the Teresians".

It was not until over 270 years later that the Maltese Teresians opened their monastery in Birkirkara with an adjacent small Church dedicated to St. Alphonse Maria de Liguori. But, because of the ever growing population of Birkirkara and the surrounding villages, this Church had to be enlarged more than once, until in the fifties of this century the Teresians began thinking of building a totally new Church dedicated to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

Aerial view of the Sanctuary of St.Thérèse of the Child Jesus

The result was the new Sanctuary according to the design of Professor Giorgio Pacini of Rome. The Sanctuary was opened and blessed on the 9th of July 1982. It is a large modern Rotunda that complies with the liturgical reform of Vatican II.

Its dimensions are: diameter 40 metres; the presbytery's diameter 10 metres; the two side chapels' diameter about 12 metres, whilst the highest central part of the Church is 30 metres and the side belfry 40 metres high. An inner Matroneo runs around the whole Sanctuary. It is considered to be one of the most functionable large Churches in Malta, so much so that it is used by many organisations for their national meetings. And it is really packed with worshippers on Sundays and Holy days of obligation throughout the whole year.

The Urn of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus

The central focus of devotion is the Urn of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, which was brought to Malta on the 4th March 1960 in preparation for the erection of the Sanctuary. Of special interest is the fact that the black veil of the Saint's image in this Urn was prepared by the Saint's sister Céline (Soeur Geneviève de la Sainte-Façe) who was still living at the time and sent her best wishes from Lisieux. She was even instrumental in inspiring the Lisieux nuns to donate to the Malta Sanctuary a brick from their Infirmary, where the Saint had died, as well as the Mass Vestments used on the day of the Saint's reception of the Black Veil.

The main altar during the feast of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus

As a result, the devotion to the Little Flower in Malta is widespread among the still fervently Catholic population of more than 300,000 inhabitants - in fact one of the most densely populated regions in Europe. And, since Birkirkara is situated in the middle of the rather small Island of Malta, it is easily reached from all parts of the Maltese territory. And St. Thérèse is keeping her promise of showering her roses of divine graces also on the Maltese devotees and followers of her Little Way.

For more information write an e-mail to Fr. Eliseus Parascandalo OCD

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