Tuesday, 14 January 2020

St Teresa of Avila

Well, you learn something new every day etc.  I was whiling away a few minutes waiting for a visitor today and I found myself looking at stuff on the internet about St Teresa of Avila, of whom I am a Big Fan. To my surprise I gathered that she was born in a village called Gotarrendura.
Now it's only about 15 miles from Avila, but I always presumed she was born in the city itself. Wikipedia says that it is suggested she was born in Gotarrendura because her parents were definitely married there. But drifting around on the net a bit more, I think it looks possible that this was the place. The house they owned has gone, but there survives, of all things, a dovecote, left, that Teresa refers to in one of her letters. Pilgrimages are on the up at the moment, led by the Camino to Santaigo de Compostela in Spain, but apparently there is now a St Teresa Camino, which calls in at Gotarrendura. Incidentally the tiny village is also on the Southeastern branch of the Santiago Camino.
I first came across Teresa of Avila via St John of the Cross, whose poetry we had to study for Spanish A level back in 1970.  It was very striking stuff, spiritual poetry as love poetry, or vice versa. As I continued doing Spanish in university I moved on to St Teresa and was fascinated. This was at a time when my faith was pretty weak, but this dynamic woman so down to earth yet so amazingly switched on faith-wise really caught my attention. I was studying her as literature but she sort of got under my skin, probably more than I realised at the time. It was during my last year at university that all the pieces came together again on my journey and eventually led to my vocation exploring from April 1974.
Anyway, fast forward to summer of 1993 and I pay my first visit to Avila with a (secular) coach tour. While we saw some of the sites associated with Teresa at Avila, the Convent of St Teresa, built on the site of her family home, wasn't on the itinerary. In a spare few hours I hurried across the city and spent a moment in the church there. Suddenly I realised I had about 10 minutes to get back to the coach, and jumped up to hurry out.
As I did so I looked at the statue, right, and asked Teresa to pray for me. To my surprise I felt a kind of answer; "Pray for yourself, as many are going to hell". Now I'm not given to "words" or unusual spiritual experiences - honestly. Neither am I a big fan of hell, so to speak. Anyway, as I dashed down the aisle to the church door, I heard - in Spanish "Reforma la vida" - roughly translated as "Sort your life out" and this was followed, most powerfully by "I am the mother of your vocation". Having thought a lot about that moment, I realise how big a part she played in putting my faith back together back in those university days, and given that this process led straight into my applying to the diocese to be  a priest, it all makes sense.  For some reason, St Teresa of Avila appointed herself - or was appointed - the mother of my vocation.  Make of this what you will...

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Time to blog?

Yesterday and today I watched Gareth Malone's latest attempt to form a choir - this time in Aylesbury Young Offenders Prison. I found it fascinating and moving, and in particular it took me back to 1981, when I started as a part-time chaplain at Cardiff Prison. That nervousness in me, the sense of suppressed trouble in the prison - and the journey that you are able to make sometimes with individual men. The picture left shows Gareth working with the amazing Lewis. There was a lot in the programme I could understand. It got me thinking again about the blog.
What's more, during the last six months I have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, in the hip and maybe the back. It's meant a few changes in my life, routine etc.  The arthritis means I cannot kind of whiz around as has been my custom doing this that and the other - I have to slow down. So maybe that slowing down also points to taking up the blog again - we'll see.
Any way folks, if you're reading this for the first time, welcome, if you're a former reader, welcome back!