Relics of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin visit the Vatican

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI did not preside over the October beatification of the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, but he will receive some of their relics on Wednesday during his weekly general audience.

In the meantime, a separate bronze reliquary — an urn containing arm bones from the bodies of Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin — has been set to the right of the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica for the general public’s prayer and veneration.

The Martins' reliquary in St. Peter's Basilica

The bronze urn containing the relics of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, on display in St. Peter's Basilica. (CNS photo by Cindy Wooden)

Italian dioceses have been taking turns hosting the relics since Dec. 5.

Very few people were in St. Peter’s Basilica this morning — a gray Monday in January. Even fewer knew what was in the urn with a simple flower arrangement in front of it.

Alongside the urn stands an icon showing Louis and Zelie with halos, surrounded by their four daughters who became Carmelite nuns (including St. Therese) and the one daughter who became a Visitation nun. Four smaller figures represent the four Martin youngsters who died in childhood.

At first glance, it appears that access to the area in front of the Altar of the Chair is blocked off. But it is simply reserved for prayer. A visitor who tells the usher he or she wants to pray is welcome to enter and even to go up to the altar rail to take photos of the reliquary or get a copy of the Martins’ prayer card.

The prayer cards offer thanks for the Martins’ example of “unity and fidelity in marriage” and their witness of faith in God despite trials and suffering.

The cards also encourage people to pray that the Martins will soon be declared saints.

Christmas is over at the Vatican

dismantling creche

Vatican workers dismantle the Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square. (CNS photo by Cindy Wooden)

VATICAN CITY — Walking toward the Vatican this morning, my colleague Cindy Wooden and I were surprised to see the Holy Family was no longer in St. Peter’s Square.  Vatican workers were busily taking down the beautiful Christmas creche they had unveiled less than three weeks ago.


A large crane is extended along the Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square. Workers were removing lights and thousands of ornaments. (CNS photo by Cindy Wooden)

Also being dismantled was the 108-foot-tall Christmas tree. The tree will be recycled into toys and other things for children.

The same crane that had helped workers hang lights and thousands of silver and gold ornaments was again extended along this 120-year-old spruce fir.

We were surprised to see everything being packed up because traditionally the Nativity scene and tree stayed up until the Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

A quick call to the offices governing Vatican City revealed that “it had been decided this year to take everything down at the end of the Christmas period.”

So it seems Jan. 11, the Baptism of the Lord, now marks the end of the Christmas period for the Vatican.

Even workers in the Vatican press office were busy carting away poinsettias, taking down smaller Christmas trees, and vacuuming up pine needles today.

Putting Christmas decorations away always makes me feel a little sad, so I think I’ll keep my tree up a few more weeks. It helps that it’s a live potted tree and super chilly in our house.

How long do readers usually keep their decorations up?