The Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux can be found less than a 200 meters’ southbound walk from the chaos of the hundreds of computer sales and repairs shops at the corner of Aurora Boulevard and Gilmore Avenue, in the district of New Manila, Quezon City. The convent and chapel grounds stand as an oasis of green and open spaces that harken to grand old days of New Manila in the 1930s.
The Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux is home to the Discalced Carmelites, which is a sub order of the Carmelites that was established in 1593 by the Spaniards Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz; 1542-1591) and Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582), as part of the Catholic Church’s Counter Reformation.
Located near the border of Quezon City and San Juan City, the Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux was established in 1926 in the Magdalena Estates (New Manila), which was still part of the Municipality of San Juan Del Monte. However, the history of the Discalced Carmelites in the Philippines starts in 1923, with the arrival of four French nuns from Hue, Vietnam, to the shores of Jaro, Iloilo. There they established the first Philippine Discalced Carmelite Monastery, under the guidance of the American Bishop James Paul McCloskey (1870-1945). After the old convent sustain some damage after World War II (1938-1945), the present chapel and convent were constructed in the 1950s, with donations from many of the residents of New Manila.
The convent is dedicated to the French saint, mystic and Doctor of the Church; Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (born Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin, 1873-1897), who also known as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. A Carmelite nun, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the more popular saints of the modern age, as her autobiography, “L’histoire d’une âme” (Story of a Soul), gave a clear look into her deep devotion and unwavering love called “Petite Voie” (The Little Way), which has inspired many people since then. Saint Thérèse is often portrayed with a bouquet of roses in her hands, as a sign of her love of flowers, making her a patron saint of florists and gardeners. As one of the patron saints of the Philippines, Saint Thérèse has a strong devotional following here, and her relics have been brought over for a pilgrimage four times, with the last held between January and May 2018.
Just like many Filipino Catholics, Saint Thérèse held a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The saints devotion can be attributed to an event at age nine, when she miraculously healed from violent tremors by looking upon a statue of “Our Lady of Victories.” Saint Thérèse’s devotion to the infant Jesus (Santo Niño), during an episode she called her “complete conversion,” where the divine inspiration of the Christ Child made her mature suddenly at the age of 13. These twin devotions are represented in the sculpture that is found at the altar of the Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux’s chapel.
The Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the many Catholic convents and monasteries found in the New Manila district, making the whole area perfect for the Lenten pilgrimage of the Visita Iglesia, or the visit of seven churches. The next church to visit is the St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration of the Pink Sisters.