When “Sister Teresa, Carmelite Nun of Lisieux, generally known as the ‘Little Flower of Jesus,’” was canonized on May 17, 1925, our second pastor, Bishop Crane, was not personally present at the event, but still managed to have eyes at the Vatican!
Catholic News Service reported that “The canonization ceremonies—the first during the reign of the present pope (Pius XI)—were carried out with all the splendor prescribed by the ancient ritual of the Church…” Philadelphia Cardinal Dougherty – Bishop Crane’s boss — was among the cardinals and bishops in the magnificent procession. Viewers included “twenty-one members of various royal families of Europe; the sister, nephew and cousin of the sovereign pontiff, and a multitude, estimated at sixty thousand persons.” CNS reported that among those “given places of prominence were: Timothy Healy, Governor General of the Irish Free State…; John Coyle, of Philadelphia (president of the American Catholic Union and Private Chamberlain to His Holiness by Pope Pius XI), and Miss Langton, niece of Bishop Crane, Auxiliary of Philadelphia”.
The latest in technology made the ceremony accessible: when the Pope “pronounced the words whereby the new saint is formally proclaimed” it was reported that “Due to the installation of microphones and four amplifiers—the first time such installation has been made in St. Peter’s—the voice of the supreme pontiff could be heard in all parts of the vast edifice.” An ancient tradition made it memorable: “A custom, which has lain dormant since the downfall of the temporal power of the popes, in 1870,” was revived so that “the outside of the Basilica of St. Peter was brilliantly illuminated” by “Five thousand large lanterns and twenty five hundred torches…replicas of those used in former days, specially reconstructed for the purpose…At first, it was proposed to substitute electric lights for candles in the lanterns and the torches, but this suggestion was rejected because one of the most picturesque features of illumination is the blowing of the flames in the breezes, which always play about the great dome…When the hour for the illumination arrived, the first of the “sampietrini”—the personnel attached to the basilica—stationed at the top of the cross, lighted the first torch, crying out as he did so: “In nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti”. Almost instantaneously, 7,500 torches and lanterns, tended by his 300 assistants, burst into flame, and the outlines of the great basilica were etched in fire against the dark background of the heavens….” A report says that “Cardinal Dougherty, Bishop Schrembs, of Cleveland, Bishop Gallagher, of Detroit, and Bishop Turner, of Buffalo, viewed the spectacle from a terrace in front of the residence of Cardinal Sincero.” We don’t know where Miss Langton sat for this!
Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, the SFDS Parish Monthly Bulletin reported Bishop Crane’s plan to dedicate a permanent shrine for St. Thérèse in a new basement “Lady Chapel” of our church on the day of her canonization. “In preparation for this a novena will be conducted on the afternoon of Sunday May 10” followed by devotions each day at 4 PM and 8 PM. “A beautiful statue of the Little Flower has been secured (located today in the former confessional on the parking lot side of the church) and this will be unveiled and blessed at 4 o’clock on the afternoon of May 17…” The Parish Monthly Bulletin published a request “to secure sufficient old gold and silver to have made up a reliquary to hold the relic of St. Therese. Those who have old articles of jewelry, watches, rings, etc., silver plate, spoons, etc., are asked to submit them with their intention that they may be incorporated into the Reliquary.” (Novenas featuring the relic were held regularly for the next few years. We do not know what became of the relic upon the death of Bishop Crane).
Miss Stella Langton returned triumphantly from Rome on 29 June, and Bishop Crane went out on the U.S. Coastguard cutter to meet her. Never in the best of health, “The bishop climbed the rope ladder from the cutter’s deck to that of the Ohio, arriving safely amid the cheers of passengers who lined the rails.” Mission accomplished!