by JENNY McPHEE
Christchurch Carmel was founded from Sydney in 1933. The sisters continue living this tradition, with the belief that labour is also a way of associating themselves with the redemptive work of Christ. Their separation from the world is “For the sake of the world”, with its joys and sorrows, its problems and fears.
The sisters rise to pray the Divine Office at 5.30am. Silent prayer begins at 6am, followed by breakfast and Mass at 8.30. Their day includes almost seven hours of devotion, with time for recreation, study and rest.
Their work includes candle painting (for church and weddings), sewing of vestments, statue restoration (a skill much
needed since the Christchurch earthquakes). Two sisters from Vietnam craft artificial flower arrangements.
There are cattle to be fed and, for those who never wondered where altar breads come from, they are made by the
sisters (sometimes 6000 in four days). The flour and water dough is put into a press that both cuts and cooks the hosts.
Sr Teresa, 68 years a Carmelite nun, with a fondness for English literature, art and drama, is a gifted artist who shares her paintings with the convent and church community.
When she was six she was given a children’s picture book on the Life of St Therese of Lisieux. At 16 years of age she
had no doubts that this was the life she wanted.
Although their day is long, with unscheduled visitors needing help and prayer, their happiness and joy radiates to
all who come.
On display for the 500th anniversary celebrations in Christchurch was a facsimile of St Teresa’s book, Way of Perfection. The limited edition copies (2000) were made in 1964 from a copy made in Spain, using paper similar to that used for the original book.
Professor Ben Gibbs, a secular Carmelite, gave the opening talk on The Interior Castle, exploring the soul, continued
by Fr Greg Burke, OCD, from Sydney, who confirmed his reputation as a lively and engaging speaker.
William Wallace, a Methodist minister with an interest in mystics and things spiritual and a love of music, arrived
to share in the celebrations and the singing of his composition, the hymn, That of God Within Us, which is based on The Interior Castle.
Pope Francis in his letter to Msgr Burillo, Bishop of Avila, referred to St Teresa’s dying words, “It is time to walk”.
His words: “It is time to walk, going on the paths of joy of prayer, of fraternity, of time lived as grace. Let us go on the paths of life by the hand of St Teresa. Her footprints lead us always to Jesus.”
by JENNY McPHEE