Wednesday, 22 July 2015

MICHAEL LEUNIG Taking the Curly Way Round TALITHA FRASER



Leunig
Talitha Fraser conducted the Spiritual Reading Group session this month on the cartoonist, artist, poet, and spiritual teacher Michael Leunig. Here are her opening words.

So... Leunig... one of the questions he is most often asked and is always baffled by, is what does a particular cartoon mean?  “People will say, ‘I don’t know what it means but I like it.’ Leunig  replies... “I don’t know either but I like it too. I’m not trying to say anything but I hope it awakens something in you.”

Michael Leunig was raised listening to Oscar Wilde stories on the radio. He read Enid Blyton, Biggles and Children’s Encyclopaedias... he went to Sunday school and always said he found it, “not full of God but full of stories.” It was lyrical and what was lyrical made him happy – Leunig heard Psalms and asked of himself “What can I do like that?”

Though born in East Melbourne in 1945, Leunig grew up in Footscray, going to Footscray North Primary School and Maribyrnong High School. Many of Leunig’s friends, and many of his teachers when he grew up in the 1950s were war refugees or were the children of people from Germany, Russia, Poland. It was a very industrial area –ammunitions factory with machine guns firing, meat works, cannery... it smelt awful and drained into the river... for Leunig this wasn’t bleak but held lots of peace and space.  Not a lot of nature around, but then you appreciate and give more significance to what you have... a duck and the moon.  

A duck bought from the market while doing the family shop imprinted on Leunig following him around everywhere, coming home from school he’d turn the corner and the duck would see him and come running. So he always got ducks after that considering them playful and good-humoured and innocent with those rounded beaks.

A formative misadventure at eight years occurred while playing at the rubbish tip. Leunig stepped up to his thighs in hot coals and wires  - receiving horrible and incredibly painful burns with fear of gangrene and amputation  - for five months he couldn’t walk and had long periods of feeling cut off from others and lost.

From paper boy to making sausages at butchers on Barkly St, Leunig didn’t do well at school, repeating his last year, and came to work in the meatworks himself.  This was great thinking time and Leunig advocates manual work that keeps your hands moving and your mind free. He said: “Working in such places either toughens or sensitises you” and it sensitised Leunig... he became a humanist (is now nearly vegan) and finely honed his earthy working class sense of humour.  Leunig was conscripted for the Vietnam war in 1965 – he was going to fight it, a conscientious objector, but was rejected regardless when found to be deaf in one ear.

In Curly Stories, Leunig talks about it “Being an advantage to grow up without art consciousness... nothing to aspire to but things to find and create”.  Homeschooling his own four children would have allowed him to foster a similar environment for them believing “Natural ideas exist within children... their play should be “utterly free” and they must be allowed to be bored - they feel free to explore and discover and the world is new to them and there’s this sense of wonder” Leunig refers to children’s ability to ‘blank out’ looking at a teapot spout or light through a window being present to what is right in front of them, commenting:  “The loss of that beauty is appalling...  how do I address that as a communicator? How can I express what everyone is feeling?” The prophet expresses the grief of the people. The artist expresses what is repressed.

Walking out of his 3rd year at Swinburne Film and Television School, it was 1969 when Leunig first began to work as a political cartoonist at Newsday. While the factories might have taught him to use humour – intellectual, witty, cynical – to deflect serious things, Leunig says “I was sung sentimental songs. Part of my first language. Fluent in that emotional language” His Grandma used to tell him: ‘All the world is bad, except for you and me, but even you’re a little strange.’ ...perhaps this is where we meet The Creature... The Holy Fool– scribbled in the margins since school - amusing to his slightly hungover Editor, with a teapot on his head and riding a duck into the sunset, the image was put to print.  Subhuman, primal, foetal, without gender. Leunig is somehow able to speak to our soul.  To take small things and make them large, domestic things and make them sacred.  For his own discipline he talks about the paradox of art theory – rules to follow, teachers to emulate - how this stifles creativity.  It’s about earning money, systematic success, built for efficiency, for velocity but you lose much, Leunig believes: “[You] cannot love or appreciate beauty at speed. How do you talk about it in ways that are unsuppressed and real? Might make a bridge with love, make a sandwich with love – it’s passed on to others. Love is what we go to bed thinking about.”
 
Since his first book in 1974, Leunig has produced 23 more – books of newspaper columns, poetry and prayer in addition to his prints, paintings and drawings.  Leunig shares intimacy with us, personal and confessional - e.g. The Kiss. We are invited into the privacy of his love life, his soul searching... Leunig makes the private public.  He takes the small dark fearful things and brings them out where we can look at them “crying with the angels for a world that is different – this is not fatalistic but hopeful”. Perhaps it is because he has offered his own soul first that we are willing to listen to him expound on many themes: 

>> loneliness >> the 9 to 5 grind >> war >> sex >> consumption >> love >> god >> media >> religion >> politics 

It was being asked to contribute a cartoon to a new paper in 1989, The Age, that Leunig started writing prayers to the horror of his friends... Rather than born-again Christian Leunig’s interpretation lay in the realm of John Keats’s "negative capability", a word for the unsayable and profound in life. He wanted to say the words publicly as another way of addressing the problems of our time, of our society, of our psyche, of people’s personal suffering {1998} His friends reactions sort of egged Leunig on, wanting to see how much he could push believing that “until a man discovers his emotional life and his gentle, vulnerable side, until he gives it expression, he never will find his women or his soul, and until he does find his soul he will be tortured and depressed and miserable underneath a fair bit of bullshit”.  

From Archbishops to Presidents, the Opera House, Australian Chamber Orchestra, National Theatre in London to clay figure animations for SBS and remote communities in northern and central Australia – Leunig has Gone Places and Done Things. Declared a national living treasure by the National Trust in 1999 and awarded honorary degrees by 3 universities for his unique contribution to Australian culture. 

The ‘war on terror’ following 9/11 was a watershed moment in Leunig’s  cartooning work where, opposing the war and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, he was at odds with many editors, commentators and members of Australian society – there became less gentle and lyrical themes and he stopped drawing the whimsical characters Mr Curly and Vasco Pyjama as often although the duck and the moon have still faithfully remained.  Adding curls arose out of Leunig’s desire to communicate that “What makes you feel so alone and strange is in fact normal. There’s a lot of curliness in life and you can have a homecoming – there is a place for you and for that aloneness, that eccentricity, and there’s a fulfilment of it eventually, it’s no longer the cause of your outcastness. So that’s the curl. It’s the curious, unique self and, if you find that, you find the connection to the whole world because the world is curious and unique and authentic at its best level.” You might say the war, not understanding how people can fight other people this way, has been a breach to Leunig’s sense of connection to Australian society and thereby rest of the world.

These days, Michael Leunig has 3 small dogs but no ducks. He enjoys talking to strangers and going to bed at night.  He is a devout nature lover and spends his time between the solitude of the bush in Northern Victoria and a home in Melbourne where he enjoys walking in the local park, morning coffee in the café, chamber music in the concert hall, and attending to work in his studio .

When asked: “What is the meaning of life?” Leunig replied:  “For humans as for all the plants and creatures: know yourself, grow yourself, feel yourself, heal yourself, be yourself, express yourself”... “I want to be a voice of liberation”. Leunig speaks not only for the wealthy or the poor but both, not only those armed and those without weapons but both, not only the pretty people or only the ugly people but both – he enjoys this inconsistency and variety.  As Barry Humphries says “through the vein of his compassion and humanity and his humour – illuminating many a darkling theme” 

Like Jesus with his parables and questions – Leunig doesn’t present us with solutions or easy answers but an invitation. He sees his vocation as cracking what is stoic and cold in society – to make us feel anger, grief, joy, sadness...  Leunig believes we have something to discover in the wrongness... “Live without ‘knowing’, in mystery. Find things. Unlearn. Get lost. Get primal, getinfantile. When you have lost all hope – start to play. You have nothing to lose. Stay with it and don’t take it too seriously...”

 I hope maybe it awakens something in you.”   


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

BOOKS FOR THE SOUL AT THE CARMELITE LIBRARY

An article about the Library published this month in Kairos,
the official journal of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Words and photograph by Natasha Marsh




Set inside a glamourous 1918 heritage
dance hall, the Carmelite Library in
Middle Park has the largest collection
of Carmelite writings in Australia. With
something for every reading level, the
library is home to researchers, students,
readers curious about the spiritual life
and locals looking for a lovely place to
relax and read. Natasha Marsh spoke with
head librarian Philip Harvey about
this treasure trove.

When the Carmelites first came to Australia from Ireland,
they brought their books with them. This became the basis
of a library for their student seminarians. In the 1980s the
Carmelites wanted to do something a little different with
their growing book collection.

‘The Carmelites decided that they didn’t want a library
that was just a duplicate of the other theological libraries
in Melbourne,’ said Philip Harvey, head librarian of the
Carmelite Library, Middle Park. They sought to put together
a special collection, one devoted to spirituality and
contemplation.

‘One of the very particular things about the Carmelite life is
its spiritual tradition. The Carmelites looked at this—and at
the great thinkers and holy people in their order (Sts Teresa
of Ávila and John of the Cross come to mind) —and decided
that that’s the kind of library that they wanted to build, one
specialising in spirituality.’

In just over 30 years, the Carmelite Library collection has
grown to be one of the strongest spiritual collections in
the country, and one of the largest collections of Carmelite
writings in the world.

‘There is much heated argument about which library is the
biggest,’ Philip said. ‘The three largest Carmelite libraries
are in Rome, Washington DC and Holland. After that, the
squabbles begin, but Melbourne is certainly the fourth or
fifth largest,’ he said.

The Carmelite Library provides an opportunity for people to
focus on what Philip calls ‘life’s important questions’ such as
‘What is wisdom? Who is God? And what is my relationship
with Him?’

‘In 1934, poet TS Eliot asked “what is the knowledge that we
have lost in information?” With so much information around
it’s easy to miss the things that are really important. This
library is one place that has a clear idea about what these
important questions are,’ he said.

The library has a strong research collection for students
of theology. It is an affiliated member of the University of
Divinity and first resource of Sentir, the spiritual direction
school at Campion College, Kew. According to Philip,
however, the largest group that uses the library is the
general reading public.

‘Spirituality is the favourite reading of a lot of people—much
more than many realise. Wherever you happen to be at,
there’s something here for you’.

 The library presents a welcoming environment to visitors.
Set in the beautiful hall opposite Our Lady of Mount Carmel
church, it retains many of the quirky features of the original
1918 heritage dance hall, complete with curtained stage.

The central long study desk is flanked by shelves of books,
while the rare books and Carmelita line the walls. Some
of these date to the 16th century. The library also has
several quiet nooks and crannies for reading. Onsite coffee
and tea making facilities allow visitors to cosy up for a
whole afternoon to read, or chat with the friendly staff
and volunteers.

Philip said the welcoming environment means that they get
many visitors from the local area. ‘There are a lot of people
in the area who treat this as their local library. We also have
people coming in off the street, of all sorts.’

The Carmelite library runs spiritual reading groups, lectures
and other activities.

‘The spiritual reading groups are very successful. People want
to talk about what they’ve read … we look at some text and
everyone gets carried away,’ he laughed.

The interplay between practical, welcoming and spiritual
reflection echoes the writings of St Teresa. Philip talked about
how the library reflects the ‘spirit’ of the beloved Spanish
mystic.

‘This library exists because of people like Teresa. She was very
much about the practical world of the everyday in terms of
what she could do, but linked with this is a very strong prayer
life,’ he said.

‘Most of the great spiritual writers are people looking at a way
of living in relationship to God and their neighbours. They are
interested in the idea of the “personal relationship”, in other
words; prayer, contemplation and meditation.’

Visit the Carmelite Library at 214 Richardson Street,
Middle Park. For more information on opening hours or
events, go to www.carmelitelibrary.org or call 9682 8553.
You can also visit the library’s popular blog at
http://thecarmelitelibrary.blogspot.com.au/.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Saint Teresa's Birthday Poem Reflected in Her Life


Sr. Teresa Jerome OCDM delivered this paper on Friday morning the 22nd of May as part of the Symposium conducted by the Carmelite Centre to celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of Saint Teresa of Avila
We are honouring the 500th birthday of St. Teresa, for us Carmelites she is our Holy Mother who has left us and the whole Church a great heritage.  I would like to begin with a quote from her birthday poem, a few selected lines, which I think capture in Teresa’s poetic words some of the special moments of grace in her life. I have chosen three sections, the early years leading to her conversion, then establishing the reform and how she envisaged life in her Monasteries, and something about her writings.
                               I am Yours, born for you
                           What do you want of me?
                               Majestic Sovereign
                               Eternal Wisdom
                          If You will, give me prayer,
                          Or let me know dryness
                           Or darkness or sunlight.
                         Move me here or there.
                          Give me Calvary or Tabor,
                            Desert or fruitful land,
                             Sorrowing or exulting,
                                 You alone live in me.
                         Yours I am, for You I was born
                            What do you want of me?
As Teresa’s life unfolded she found what God wanted of her, but like so many of us, she too had to search for her way, face the highs, the lows of her indecision, and she has passed her story on for us, the story of God’s work in her soul, God drawing her to holiness.
Teresa was an extraordinary woman – born in a Spain that was trying to close its eyes and ears to the religious and political upheaval that was smouldering in the European countries – the Spanish rulers were trying to control the Church and State of Spain in a firm and rigid grip with the Inquisition as watchdog over both the written word and the prayer of Spain’s saints! 
Teresa of Avila came from a persecuted Jewish family, she broke out of the rigidity, simply by living, by developing and using her great gifts.
So much was against women, yet Teresa was able to write books which still speak to us today – she lamented being a woman because she was deprived of doing things for God which men were free to undertake, but her work has endured for centuries. She could not speak in the Church, yet she is an acclaimed Doctor of the Church with a world-wide audience, she was the foundress of a Reform within the ancient  Order of Carmel, giving to her Monasteries the stamp of how she understood the Carmelite vocation and which has now spread to so many countries in the world—we might be different in culture, language, liturgy, but we can recognize each other as Carmelites, daughters of St. Teresa, our Holy Mother, a simple, joyful, friendly smile is a good sign!  
What do you want of me? It took Teresa time to find what God wanted of her. When writing of the period of her life before deciding to enter the Incarnation she asked friends to pray that she would do God’s Will.  There were really only two options for a young woman of her background, marriage or religious life. Marriage did not appeal to her, perhaps seeing her mother bearing nine children and dying at 33 was not a good role model. Neither did religious life appeal to her, and she tells with no hesitation that it was the fear of hell that pushed her decision to become a nun. But once she had decided and told her father, she said that nothing would make her change her mind. “I was so persistent in thoughts of honour”.  –no going back on her “life decision” (a very different attitude to life decisions of today)  She was a very strong, determined Spanish young lady, preserving her honour, and with plenty of umph and character! The reason for her choice? The Monastery was a safe place to save her soul. As she said herself, she was moved by servile fear, not by love.  Her great desires to serve God and the Church would come later, after her conversion.
                                     Majestic Sovereign 
                                 If You will give me prayer
                                        Or let me know dryness
                                  Or darkness or sunlight –
So Teresa went through all these landscapes of the spirit as she set out in her long struggle of almost twenty years with prayer – to live her life with integrity and truth as the Rule of Carmel challenges all of us to do – its call to silence and recollection, to live in allegiance to Our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in continual prayer. Teresa’s battle with prayer during these early years as a nun is a hard read. We can feel the tension and anguish, even as she recalls it, years later. It was a battle between friendship with God and friendship with the world, her friends, her attachments. She received graces, calls within herself from Our Lord, even what she would later realize were real encounters, mystical graces, to live a more radical, true following of her vocation. She had great desires to serve God but not having the firm purpose of will to give all to the inner call. “All the things of God made me happy; those of the world held me bound ....my spirit was not proceeding as lord but as slave”. They were hard years to live through and even for the reader today,  the wonder is that she could keep on going, falling back and trying again; her determination well in evidence! I think that we have to remember that this is a mature Teresa writing, a holy woman, graced by God, looking back on her early life, judging herself from a new perspective – the kind of self-judgement we make during life, the opportunities we too have missed for a deeper “conversion”, that deeper turning to God, which we try to live each day.
Teresa knew dryness, darkness and moments of sunlight, before her agonized prayer to the suffering Lord, won her the grace to let go the “frivolities” of her friendships, the attachments that distracted her from total commitment to God’s Will, distracted her from a life of prayer with all that it demands. Teresa never set down a strict form of prayer, but she tells what she did, how she recollected herself, centred herself in God’s presence; her carefully worded definition of prayer in Ch 8. of The Life gives us an understanding of how she herself prayed.  “Mental prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us”.  
The Way of Perfection sets the foundation for prayer. Teresa states strongly that vocal prayer does not hinder mental prayer. All prayer is addressed to God. We must come to both mental and vocal prayer, the prayer of the liturgy, with the awareness to Whom we are speaking, reverence in God’s presence. No just saying words, thoughtless recitation, all should be addressed to Our Lord with reverence and respect. Those who read Spanish tell us that Teresa always addressed God and Our Lord with the formal Thou, while St. John of the Cross used the intimate You. ( It looses bit in the English but we get the idea.) While Teresa had great friendship and intimacy with Our Lord, she also had  great respect. She reminds us to come to prayer with self-awareness, facing and acknowledging our own sinfulness, our brokenness and bringing to God our need for His loving mercy and forgiveness. In an attitude of reverence we praise, adore, offer our words of love and desire – share all with this Friend. Teresa allows us to share her own intimate colloquies with Our Lord which flow through all her writings.
While Teresa leads us into her way of prayer she is also adamant about building the solid foundation for prayer, the practise of the virtues – all the ascetical endeavour that must go into growing in “friendship with God”.  She will repeat continually when teaching her nuns, the need to develop, strengthen the virtues ....detachment and humility (which always go together in Teresa’s teaching,) self-knowledge, charity, obedience, forgiveness. We must make progress in these virtues, her warning. “don’t stand still, don’t be dwarfs”!
Teresa gives instruction and encouragement all through The Way of Perfection. Her commentary on the Our Father, is an insight into how Teresa herself came to this prayer and what she could draw from her meditation. She does not “push” her reflections onto us, there is a great freedom and space in all her teaching, but she gives guide lines, suggestions. Her desire is that all will reach the prayer God is offering. As she said, “the complete gift of ourselves to God, the surrender of our will to His and detachment from creatures”  This is the ideal and challenge she puts before her nuns, and indeed all of us. Not all of us will receive the extraordinary graces, they are not the important part, they are “extra”. If God gives them O.K. but the criterion for holiness is doing God’s will, love of the neighbour, charity. Teresa often stressed that holiness, depends on that, and holiness is what we are all called to, not just religious, it is the call addressed to everyone. 
Teresa knew the sunlight of the wonderful mystical experiences she had of God’s love, the locutions, ecstasies, raptures that poured into her soul at the period before the Reform, these mystical graces that were preparing her for the mission she would have in the Church. It was a time of grace, but also a time of suffering, because grace always costs; she herself was amazed at the development of the virtues in her soul during this period. 
Fr. Kavanagh writes in his introduction to The Way of Perfection, “Teresa never received revelations for the Church.....(he noted that many saints did)  Her mystical life consisted in an inner experience of the content of Revelation”  She was tireless in checking that all her mystical experiences were recounted to her confessors and were in conformity with Sacred Scripture  - this gave her peace and assurance. Anything not valid, “tear it out, burn it” she begged those who censored her writings.
                                             Move me here or there
                                          Give me Calvary or Tabor.
When Teresa undertook the work of the Reform of Carmel she was aflame with desires to do great things for God but as she wrote in The Way of Perfection, “I realized that I was a woman.....and incapable of doing any of the useful things that I desired to do in the service of the Lord....as a result I resolved to do the little that was in my power” 
The Church in 1562 was in a process of reform. The Council of Trent was in its final phase; the Reformation was in full swing and echoes of it reached Spain in some form which greatly disturbed Teresa. The Reform was to give her the opportunity to do something.  Teresa and her friends were finally able to set up the small Monastery of St. Joseph’s in 1562. It is a long and interesting story but I would like to talk about what were Teresa’s hopes for the Monastery.
In setting up the Reform of Carmel Teresa’s ideal was to return to the original Rule of Carmel—to the life lived by those unnamed hermits on Mt. Carmel in the 1200s.  In all the upheavals Carmel has been through during the centuries, the life had changed from the eremitical to the mendicant form of life...but in the heart of every Carmelite there lives the desire for the solitude and space of our early hermits, who left us a Rule and way of living that they treasured and which they brought to Europe when they were really squeezed out of the Holy Land—in the time of the Saracens.
Teresa’s desire was to recapture the spirit of the hermit way of life, to value silence and solitude and to live in continual prayer as the Rule enjoins us to do. Her genius was that she could build the life of solitude into community living. So, how did she envisage the way of life? The important emphasis was on prayer, the liturgical prayer of the Church, and time and space for mental prayer, a more contemplative approach to prayer. What was her purpose? We must all have a purpose for what we do.   To pray for the Church; by prayer and sacrifice, by following the evangelical counsels, by a cloistered life of solitude and silence, she sought to support the Church, the leaders, the teachers, the whole mission and life of the Church. This was her purpose, what inspired her. St. Therese of Lisieux understood all this profoundly.
Teresa emphasised small in number. She wanted her nuns to be friends with each other, “in this house ...all must be friends, all must be loved, all must be held dear, all must be helped”. Teresa recognized that this was a big challenge; she knew that it is not always the holiest one in the community who is the easiest one to get on with, but, “no one is to be excluded, or feel excluded”. In Spain all were not equal. Teresa was well aware of exclusion in communities and made a strong point that this was not to be the case in her Monasteries. She wanted her nuns to be united in their love of God, in their prayer for the Church.
Community life is built and strengthened by time together, and Teresa introduced a period of recreation into the daily horarium. This also was an innovation and Teresa was adamant that all participate in this time together. She herself made this an entertaining time, the nuns enjoyed her company, her stories, her experiences with the foundations, and of course she expected that they too shared their conversation with each other, and that they had peace and joy in community. I think Teresa always communicates joy, joy in living, “God preserve us from sorry saints”.
                                             Give me Calvary or Tabor.
A Tabor moment at this time was the visit of the Carmelite General to Spain in 1566. Teresa had been living at St. Joseph’s for two years; this was the first visit of a Carmelite General for over a hundred years, (they just never got around to getting over to Spain!) and Teresa was justifiably anxious. She a Carmelite nun setting up a “reformed house” and actually living in it, with a group of women she was directing, while she was  still under obedience to the superior of the Incarnation. She had established a Monastery, St. Joseph’s, outside the jurisdiction of the Order, under the Bishop of Avila.  The Bishop of Avila explained all and asked the General to visit the Monastery. Teresa said she spoke openly to General Rossi, telling him the whole story of the foundation, her hopes and her prayer.....as Fr. Smet writes in his Carmelite History, Rossi “was captivated by his vivacious daughter” and he approved the Monastery and asked her to found more!  He visited Teresa a number of times to speak about prayer. Teresa always held General Rossi in high esteem and even when the troubles in the Reform broke out and Rossi was given false reports of Teresa, his disapproval was a great sorrow for her but her affection and gratitude to him never wavered.
                                                
                                                 Sorrowing or exulting
                                                  You alone live in me.
St. Thomas said that it is grace to receive mystical experiences and it is another grace to be able to describe them. Teresa could recount her story and also do something more – she inflames us  with the desire to enter the world of the soul, where God dwells, where he draws us. I remember when I was  novice and after hearing some pious talk saying to the Novice mistress, with a good amount of fury, I don’t want to be holy, I can’t stand this, someone’s idea of what holiness is”... I was expecting big trouble!  Mother laughed, “go out to the garden, dig your patch and see if you can remember what St. Teresa says about gardening”.....I got the message, I was enthused! We all know what it is like to dig, to carry the bucket of water, put the thirst plant under a dripping tap, the good fortune to find a spare hose ....and then the relief when the rain does come....a blessed relief all we Aussies from the out-back country know. It is not hard to translate all that into life in the spirit! 
 The Interior Castle, the masterpiece of the interior journey by which God led Teresa to union with the Divine Lover; the long hard road that led to the transformation of the caterpillar into the beautiful butterfly.  What I love are the images that Teresa uses, they seem to capture and carry  her story – like poetry – we don’t have to understand everything but there is a beauty and wonder in her images, she tells us that “we could never imagine the beauty of our soul” Her amazing crystal castle, the castle that we all have, with its millions of rooms, spaces of prayer, suffering, challenges, where the soft whistle of the Shepherd reaches through the spaces, the distractions, it reaches to the soul, drawing it towards Our Lord and the mystery of the Holy Trinity. There are the serpents, the darker areas that must be recognized and taken along on the journey to transformation. 
Teresa reached her centre – and she didn’t go off into a life of ecstasy and contemplation, but rather, the enormous, arduous work of the foundations; 17 convents, going from one end of Spain to the other in a mule cart!  All kinds of problems, accidents on the road, frightened, terrified nuns! law suites, litigation, letter writing, troubles that seemed as though all her work would be undone; and through it all, her poor health. Reading her I certainly tend to forget that it is an elderly lady with very frail health telling this incredible story, doing this amazing work for God.  I think St. Teresa would say to us, after the time of prayer,  “ my daughters , Good Works, God wants Good Works”!
She could surely say at the end of her life to Our Lord  -- to His Majesty – “Yours I am, for You I was born.. You alone live in me. I’ve tried to do what You wanted of me”! 
Thank you dear St. Teresa for all that you did with such love for God, for the Church and which continues to live and reach us today in Carmel. A very Happy 500th Birthday. May I ask you for a special blessing as I share your date .....but my years look very insignificant beside your 500!