This morning we departed our Paris hotel to begin our journey through the rest of France. Once we got outside of the area surrounding Paris, we began to see the beautiful French countryside. We saw rolling hills, farmlands, and orchards. Our first stop was in Lisieux, a small town that first gained attention about 100 years ago as the home of St. Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. In St. Therese, we see another holy person who lived a very simple life and loved the Lord more than anything. At the age of 4 years old, her mother died, leaving a husband and five daughters. Shortly after, St. Therese and her family moved to Lesieux, where she would remain the rest of her life. As a young child Therese had a fervor for the Lord and wanted to serve Him in most impactful way she could. At the age of 15, she petitioned the Bishop to allow her to enter the convent a year early. She spent the remaining nine years of her life, writing poems, short stories, essays and what would later become an account of her love for the Lord, entitled Story of a Soul. Therese's impact, however was not truly realized until after her death, when scores of people began to read about and hear her great themes of spirituality, confidence, and abandonment to God's merciful love. St. Therese was affectionately called Little Therese because of her childlike love of the Lord. We celebrated Mass in the beautiful Basilica of Sainte Therese de Lisieux and were blessed to be joined by Joseph and Mary Francois, parents of IHM Parishioner Marianne Francois. Also in Lisieux, we visited the Carmel (or Monestary) where Therese and several of her sisters were Carmelite Sisters.
Our last two stops of the day were at and around the American National Cemetery in Normandy and Ponte du Hoc, the place where American Rangers scaled the cliffs to provide cover for the landing at Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. Our group placed a wreath at the Cemetery Monument, followed by the National Anthem and Taps. There was overwhelming emotion and tears of gratitude from all who witnessed this. Our young French guide recounted that their parents and grandparents tell them about the German occupation of Normandy and how American troops saved them so many years ago. Her voice wavering, she told us they knew the sacrifice of the over 9000 Americans buried in this faraway land and the sacrifice of those waiting for them at home.