History and Description of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower, the first National Shrine in the United States dedicated to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the "Little Flower," was completed in San Antonio in 1931.
When it was designated a basilica, it was the only basilica outside of Lisieux, France, dedicated to St. Thérèse. The Basilica is a San Antonio landmark of great historic and spiritual significance.
The Basilica is dedicated to serving the community by propagating a strong understanding of the value of spirituality to people of all faiths and functioning as a major apostolic center.
The Basilica began as Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Thérèse Church, under the direction of Spanish Discalced Carmelite friars who came to San Antonio by way of Torreon, Mexico, in 1926. The Basilica was built during the Great Depression (1929–1931) and today stands as a monument to the great faith of devotees of St. Thérèse throughout the United States and world.
The Little Flower Magazine, spreading devotion to St. Thérèse, was established as part of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers’ first apostolate, with over 100,000 subscribers from all over the country at the time of her canonization. Over 6,000 devotees to the saint from around the country contributed to the construction of the Basilica.
As part of an international community dedicated to a life of prayer, contemplation, fraternity and service, the St. Thérèse Province of the Discalced Carmelite Friars in San Antonio staff the National Shrine of St. Thérèse and promote the spiritual teaching of St. Thérèse through their work at the Shrine and the parish community. In addition, the friars oversee Little Flower Catholic School (grades pre-K through 8th), located across the street from the Basilica.
Its notable size, beauty and spiritual significance led to the Shrine's placement on the National Register of Historic Places and its elevation to the status of Minor Basilica within the Catholic Church, both in 1998. The Basilica attracts pilgrims dedicated to St. Thérèse all over the United States and throughout the world.
The church is distinguished as one of only 82 in the United States and one of only four in the state of Texas bearing the papal designation of "minor basilica."
All basilicas outside of Rome are "minor." Minor basilicas are traditionally required to meet certain criteria: historical, architectural and artistic value, and significance as an active center of pastoral liturgy. Basilicas are known as the centers of spiritual and apostolic activity for the Catholic faithful, places where one can renew one’s commitment to God and begin a new journey in faith.
In 2000, the Basilica was designated as the Millennial Church for the Archdiocese of San Antonio by Archbishop Patrick Flores. The City of San Antonio designates the church as landmark of “exceptional historic significance.”
The Basilica is a treasury of art, master craftsmanship and relics. Perhaps the most treasured work of art at the basilica is a painting of St. Thérèse created by the saint's own blood sister, Céline Martin (Sr. Geneviève of the Holy Face). This 7 by 10 foot painting was part of the procession at the saint's canonization in Rome in 1927. It is located in the baptistery in the vestibule of the church. The Basilica is home to three first class relics of the Little Flower. Two are contained within the tomb chapel of St. St. Thérèse.
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