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of Saint Therese
St. Therese's Valley
SHRINE CHAPEL OF SAINT THERESE OF LISIEUX
ON DECEMBER 8, 1934, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the little group of Carmelite Sisters, with picks and shovels, commenced the excavation for the building of the Chapel. They persevered in their hard labors and were most industrious so that by March 19, of the following year, the Feast of Saint Joseph, Protector of the Carmelite Order, the masons were able to commence the stone work. It was to be a majestic stone edifice of Roman style. Mother Therese early formulated the idea to have the Chapel and Monastery buildings a close duplicate of the Chapel and Carmel of Lisieux.
It was likewise on the great Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 1935 that the Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, the Most Reverend Gerald P. O'Hara, D.D., J.U.D., laid the cornerstone before an immense throng of friends of the Carmelites. In addition to His Excellency, the Bishop, there were present on this memorable occasion: the Right Reverend Monsignor Leo G. Fink, V.F.; the Very Reverend Lawrence C. Diether, O. Carm., of Chicago; the Very Reverend Silverius J. Quigley, O. Carm., of Englewood; the Reverend Urban Lager, O. Carm., of Chicago; the Reverend Peter Kramer, O. Carm., of Leonia; the Reverend Joseph L. Mathis, of Allentown; and the Reverend Joseph Kavanagh, secretary to Bishop O'Hara. Father Quigley preached the sermon.
Gracing the spacious side/entrance of the chapel is all immense life-like statue of Saint Therese as the Patroness of the Missions. Four angels, carved in stone, adorn four prominent piers.
The beautiful main altar of exquisite Carrara marble was presented to the Carmelite nuns by the Reverend Father William Hammeke and his parishioners from Sf, Paul's, Reading. Towering over the main altar is the lovely shrine-group, depicting Saint Therese showering her roses from Heaven, close to the Immaculate Queen of Carmel, and her Divine Child. This marble group is an elaborate and truly devotional piece of art.
To the left of the Sanctuary, an immense grille of iron separates the cloister from the public. This grille was the gift of Mrs. Martin Roessler, of California, given in memory of her late husband, the uncle of Sister Clement Mary.
An outstanding copper cupola towers majestically over the Sanctuary, and can be seen for miles away. The erection of this grand cupola was made possible through extreme kindness of Miss Ethel B. Waters.
The two side altars came from Saint Stephen's Church, in Shenandoah. The delicately beautiful shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is enthroned on the one side. And a most impressive statue of Saint Joseph, Patron and Protector of the Carmelites, holds a prominent place on the opposite side. The other spaces contain shrines of the Sacred Heart, of the Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague, of Saint Anne, of Saint Jude, and of Saint Philomena, the wonder-worker and special advocate of the Cure of Ars. The great mystics of Carmel, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Saint John of the Cross, also, have their special places in the new Chapel. The gifts of these shrines were presented to the Carmel by devoted friends.
Behind the large, iron grille, over the choir, is a balcony. Here was installed an Estey organ of splendid tone, which greatly enhances the spiritual atmosphere of the surroundings. Mr. Matthew H. McCloskey, Jr., gave this welcome gift to Carmel.
STAINED GLASS WINDOWS
Mother Therese likewise planned the theme that should be depicted in each window of stained glass. All the windows on the Gospel side reproduced scenes from the life of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, the Patroness of the Chapel: first, Saint Therese as a novice, standing at the foot of the Calvary, in the courtyard of the Carmel; second, on the evening of her Profession, communing with God, she contemplates the starry heavens; third, as Sacristan, she prepares the Sacred Vessels for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; fourth, lying in state after death, her angelic countenance continues to reflect her last ecstasy of consuming love; fifth, the Saint in glory, showers her promised roses upon the earth..., upon souls!
SAINT TERESA OF AVILA WINDOW
On the opposite side, over the entrance, is a window dedicated to the seraphic Mother, Saint Teresa of Avila, reproducing an episode in her life. Christ appeared to her in the cloister of Carmel, in the form of a little child, wondrous countenance and flowing hair.
Teresa, amazed at the celestial visitor, deigned to inquire: "And art who thou?"
He answered her softly: "Tell me first what thou art called."
"Teresa of Jesus is my name." And His gentle answer sweetly told her: "And I am Jesus of Teresa... "
Facing the street side, the massive windows represent the following: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, assisting the children of Carmel, detained in Purgatory, speedily releases the wearers of Her Brown Scapular, especially on the first Saturday after death. The second window depicts Saint Elias, the great Prophet of Carmel, ascending into the heavens by a whirlwind which had assumed form of a fiery chariot. The third window shows the Patrons of the Carmelite Order, representing the Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague, surrounded by a host of Carmelite Saints. The theme of the fourth window is Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, receiving her First Holy Communion, whose entranced face reveals her inward rapture on this first visit of Jesus to her soul; and the fifth window represents the Little Flower, receiving the Holy Habit of Carmel, when she kneels before the enclosure door to receive her father's blessing.
WINDOWS IN NUNS' CHOIR
"The Queen of Heaven to her little Mary" is the title of a poem composed by Saint Therese. The symbolic representation shows Our Dear Lady with the Child Jesus and Little Therese. The enchanting thought is that Therese, possessing a childlike spirit, resembles the Little Christ, and is worthy to be cradled with Him, upon the bosom of Holy Mary.
The second window depicts Saint Therese, "mystically wounded by Divine Love"; it shows the Saint making the Way of the Cross, when she felt herself wounded by a dart of fire, so ardent, that she thought she would die; third, in the garden at Carmel, she contemplates the Sacred Heart, and pictures her soul as a little dove in exile, longing for the moment when it may fly to the Divine Ark of the Heart of Christ; fourth, on her death-bed, in an ecstasy of love, she sings her last love song on earth: "My God, I love Thee"; and fifth, as patroness of the Missions, she is seen coming down from heaven, to scatter her roses of grace, and of blessing, upon the missions of Mother Church, throughout the world.
With the erection of the Chapel facade, two massive stained glass windows, and a large oval one, were added to the sacred edifice: the first one depicts the seraphic virgin of Carmel, Saint Mary Magdalen di Pazzi, the special Patroness of the Monastery; in the second, we behold the powerful Protector of the Universal Church, Saint Michael, the Archangel; and the large oval window, directly over the main entrance, is dedicated to Christ, Our Lord, as the "Agnus Dei".
The Community, without doubt, had many struggles during those trying times. Living elbow to elbow, in cramped quarters while the building was going up, provided salutary means of penance, mortification, and real hardship. But the prayers never ceased, and Our Lord, always lavish and merciful to the trustful, was ever ready with His comforting rewards. People, too, were always generous and sympathetic with the nuns. They saw to it that the Sisters had sufficient food, and other necessities.
There were times, of course, when some item, much needed, was lacking. And then, at the very last moment, some good Samaritan would appear who provided relief in the needed cause. This was inevitably the case, and so much so, that it seemed our Blessed Lord would not allow His spouses to go to the end of their strength, or to sound the depths of their blind confidence in His ever-loving Providence.
View a complete slide show of the beautiful stained glass windows in The Shrine of Saint Therese.
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