14 Oct St Teresa – 500 years finale
We began this year of celebration of St Teresa’s 500th birthday by some of the sisters joining the Carmelite Friars at Kensington just one year ago, in October 2014 for an opening Mass in their big Church, which was remarkably well attended.
On March 27th, the eve of her actual birth, (and the eve of Palm Sunday too!) Cardinal Vincent Nichols came to our own chapel, for a Mass to mark this special occasion. Fr John O’Sullivan ODC, from the USA, who was in London at the time, gave a very appropriate homily. Our Chapel was packed, as never before, with standing room only, even down the staircase. A hired marquee in the courtyard housed a very happy and celebratory buffet supper for the innumerable guests. After mingling with them, the Cardinal then entered the enclosure and spent some time sharing the joy of the community, before departing late in the evening so that he, and we, could prepare for the solemn events of Holy Week.
During June, one of our sisters was invited to address a very high-powered Academic conference on St Teresa at St Mary’s University in Twickenham, as the experts realised the value of hearing from someone who actually lives the life Teresa proposes. Her talk, and that of two other sisters, were very well received.
Meanwhile, we planned to hold three “Afternoons with St Teresa”, during the Summer months, one in May, one in July, and the final one on September 5th. Each time nearly 50 people came to join us, first for an exhibition which we laid out in our Sacristy, of various things Carmelite, including a model nun, with her cell, and a miniature Wagon of the kind she used to travel in across the rough roads of 16th century Spain. We had on display also some facsimile editions of her books, and as a centre-piece, the actual hand-written text of her “Vow of Obedience to Fr Gracian”.(This is a large, framed and absolutely unique document – a treasure which came into our care last year. ( Because we noticed that it was at risk of deteriorating, it was taken to a specialist in conservation, and is now very safely re-framed in a way that will ensure its preservation for centuries to come.)
As well as the exhibition for each of our three “afternoons”, we also had an interesting talk on St Teresa, given by Fr Robert Opala ODC, followed by half an hour of silent prayer, then refreshments in the marquee. This was followed by a “question and answer session” in the parlour, where the guests could meet and talk to the sisters and Fr Robert, and there were some quite searching questions which indicated a real level of interest. We finished each session with vespers together, the nuns in their choir and the visitors in the Chapel. The whole experience was mutually appreciated, and we had more than one request to “do this more often!”
Now Teresa’s Birthday year is drawing to a close, and we have treated ourselves with a few days of silent retreat in preparation for her Feast Day. Throughout the whole year, Teresa’s shrine in the cloister has been beautifully decorated with flowers and a candle. Tonight there will be a blaze of lights as we gather at her feet to sing to our “Sancta Mater Teresia”. On 15th we will have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and you will all be very much remembered in our prayer.