The visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux to a Glasgow prison was more impressive than the visits of Nelson Mandela and Princess Anne, according to a prison officer.
The relics, which are currently touring Scotland, stopped at HMP Barlinnie, one of Scotland’s most notorious prisons. During the visit, Philip Tartaglia, the Archbishop of Glasgow, celebrated Mass with around 90 inmates.
William McGurk, events coordinator at Barlinnie prison in Glasgow, attended the Mass.
“I’ve been here 44 years. I was here when Nelson Mandela came in, when Princess Anne came in, when First Ministers and MPs came in, but this surpasses anything like that,” he said.
“The prisoners got a lot out of it. That was a very good service. It was a spiritually uplifting occasion.”
During the Mass, Archbishop Tartaglia explained how the prayers of St Thérèse for convicted child killer, Henri Pranzini, inspired the visit of the relics to Barlinnie.
“Famously, as a girl of 14, St Thérèse prayed for the conversion of a convicted murderer who, although he never admitted his guilt, at the last, kissed the figure of the crucified Jesus just before his execution,” he said.
“St Thérèse took this to be a sign that her prayer had been answered and that the man had asked forgiveness of God. Because of that, it is recommended that her relics should, if possible, be taken to a prison.”
The relics of St Thérèse, who is known as the ‘Little Flower of Jesus’, have visited all eight Scottish dioceses and will leave on 20 September 2019.
Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin, later St Thérèse, was a French Discalced Carmelite nun. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. Catholics are inspired by her simple approach to the spiritual life, known as the ‘Little Way.’ She was canonised in 1925 and declared a doctor of the Church in 1997.
As they left the chapel, inmates venerated the relics and were handed roses by Carmelite sisters. The rose is the symbol of St Thérèse.
Archbishop Tartaglia left the prisoners with a message of hope.
“I pray that the example and intercession of St Thérèse will prompt you to make life here in Barlinnie more tolerable for you and for your fellow inmates, so that you can look forward with hope to your future freedom and to a new life,” he said.
Picture: Archbishop Philip Tartaglia celebrates Mass at HMP Barlinnie in the presence of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux. (Sancta Familia Media)