I had the privilege this Corpus Christi morn to speak with Mother Elizabeth of the Trinity, newly-elected Prioress at the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart here in Launceston, and also - a nice surprise - with the immediate past Prioress, Sister Stephanie of Divine Providence, who is one of Mother Prioress's councillors. It had been too long since last I spoke with the good Carmelites; my first mission was to ask after Sr Paul Joseph, the now frail and deaf but still alert extern sister emeritus: she is well, Deo gratias.
As Sister Stephanie is a New Zealander, I was glad to pass through the turn to Mother some postcards and books of photographs of the South Island to share with the community at recreation. Sister observed that Dunedin was a dear place to her, as there she received the light of Faith sixty years ago (she had been an Anglican, and a married doctor, but after the death of her husband entered Carmel). I was glad to report to them my present good fortune, my plans for going to Rome in September, and good news about seminarian friends of mine, and also Br Paul Marie of the Cross, formerly Peter from Bunbury, who has just commenced his noviciate with the Carmelite Monks in Wyoming. Likewise I praised Fr Rizzo and Fr Clement, the two Latin Mass priests I met in Christchurch, and alluded to the Carmels there and in Lismore, where my old mentor Bp Jarrett now has a monthly Latin Mass: Sister Stephanie agreed that both Carmels are "very solid".
Mother gave me some holy cards produced by the monastery; I quote one of them, itself a quotation of Pope Benedict:
As a spiritual oasis, a monastery reminds today's world of the most important, and indeed, in the end, the only decisive thing: that there is an ultimate reason why life is worth living: GOD and His unfathomable LOVE.
After speaking with them (the bell alerted them to the upcoming Hour of the Office), I asked permission to go pray in their chapel, which was gladly allowed. I know from past experience that it is very hard, even with the correct Office book, to follow the nun's slow, high, indistinct chant from behind the grille, so instead I settled down to saying a good part of the Breviary by aggregation: Matins, Lauds, Prime and Terce of Corpus Christi.
It struck me how Dominican the Corpus Christi Office is: all the short responds, all the versicles, all the antiphons at Lauds and the Little Hours (but not at Vespers nor Matins), the Benedictus and Second Vespers Magnificat antiphons end with an alleluia or two - and I know that the Rite of the Friars Preachers has alleluias in the short responsories of great feasts. Another interesting connexion to Aquinas!
Forty-five minutes later, when leaving via the main doors, I picked up one of last year's souvenirs of the 6oth anniversary of the coming of Carmel to Tasmania: the six foundresses - one of whom, Sister Mary of the Holy Ghost, is still alive and active, bless her (she answered the telephone when I called not too long ago) - arrived from the Adelaide Carmel on the 15th of June 1948, and moved into their first convent, at Longford, on All Saints that year. As Longford later ceased to be a parish of its own, in the seventies the nuns agreed to relocate to metropolitan Launceston, whence they came on the 8th of April 1975 (Papal enclosure being canonically established on the feast of the Immaculate Heart in the new calendar later that year). As the pamphlet relates, the four who had finished their earthly course while at Longford were reinterred in the new monastery crypt, and have been joined by seven more in the years since, confidently sleeping in eager expectation of the resurrection, while their souls it may be devoutly believed have gone to Christ.
What a blessing to have such contemplatives, faithful to the Church and to their most high calling, hidden in our midst here in northern Tasmania. My family and I can attest that their prayers are powerful with the Lord, like those of Elias their Father of old.