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.
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.