Members of the Carmelite family from across Britain gathered in Kensington Priory on 15 October to open a year of celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Avila.
More than 600 guests, including the Spanish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, clergy, religious and seminarians, joined the Carmelites to celebrate the opening of the centenary year. Sr Shelagh Banks of the Carmelite Monastery in Quidenham, began the evening with a reflection on one of Teresa’s poems:
I am yours and born for you,
What do you want of me?
As a sign of the diversity of the Carmelite family, secular members, Carmelite Missionary Sisters and sisters from the Anglican community at Fairacres, Oxford, all participated in the liturgy. The Mass featured the premiere performance of music composed for the centenary celebrations, as well as a new arrangement of the much loved Carmelite hymn, Flower of Carmel. Blessing an icon depicting Teresa at prayer, Fr Antony Lester, Prior Provincial of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, prayed that the year would be a time of special grace for Carmelites and the whole church.
Teresa of Avila was born in 1515. By the time of her death in 1582 she had founded seventeen monasteries of reformed or ‘discalced’ Carmelite nuns, and established – along with St John of the Cross – a new movement of Carmelite friars. Her writings were quickly translated into many languages and today are regarded as classics of Christian spirituality.
Throughout 2014–2015 the Carmelite Forum of Britain and Ireland will be organising events across the country to celebrate the centenary. An international conference will be held at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, in June 2015, and a touring exhibition will visit Westminster Cathedral in January. For more details, and to view highlights of the opening Mass, visit www.teresaofavila.org.
Picture credits: SPARK Productions Ltd, 2014