As Sydney prepares for the visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux and her parents Sts Louis and Zélie Martin, her brothers in religion are opening their doors to anyone who would like to explore their spirituality more deeply.
Father Gerard Moran OCD, retreats director at the Discalced Carmelite retreat centre at Varroville, says that a revamped program for 2020 will include opportunities to learn more about the extraordinary Martin family and their message while joining the friars in their daily prayer life.
St Thérèse, the 20th century French Discalced Carmelite nun, whose autobiography Story of a Soul remains one of the world’s most-read books, is perennially attractive, Fr Moran said.
“Her life brilliantly articulates the universal call to holiness, which was also a call to all the faithful made later by the Second Vatican Council,” he said.
“She teaches us that we don’t have to do the great things, but do the little things we can do very lovingly.”
Sts Louis and Zélie, who were canonised by Pope Francis in 2015, “will bring for us an example of the beauty of marriage and family life which are vital in every sense of the word”, he added.
“The image that comes to mind is one of two large trees providing protection for the smaller ones underneath. Marriage provides stability for the natural growth of children, to discover their identity, to communicate well with others, to recover from disappointments and to thrive.
“But in a Christian marriage, there is also the task of sowing in their children’s heart the seed of faith, to bring them to the sacraments and to teach them to pray.
“This was the basis of the down-to-earth holiness of the Martin family, and the garden in which a saint could flourish in their formative years.”
The 2020 Carmelite retreats program includes guided and directed retreats with opportunities for spiritual direction across a range of formats including Saturday retreats, weekend and week-long retreats and a special Easter retreat celebrating Holy Week and Easter with the friars.
St Therese and her parents will be the focus of a Saturday retreat on 1 February and a weekend retreat from 14-16 February held at the centre.
“The hidden treasure of our retreat centre is the presence of a praying community, the possibility of participating in our daily Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and also of joining them in their daily silent prayer,” Fr Moran said.