What a joy to welcome you to St Joseph‘s Willunga on Sunday! You had travelled such a long way over land and sea, time and tide. Yet you arrived fresh, alert and ready to engage with us all. To hear your voice in word and song and story brought us, brought me, closer to you again. I loved hearing about your anxiety, your annoyance with the leadership, your passion and care of your vocation and visions. When your music sprung to life in three dimensions I think I there was a wisp of what heaven might sound like.
I took myself back to the Rhineland and to Rudesheim to those rolling hills, and the music I heard told me of that landscape. Both the eye and the ear could see and hear the beauty of the sound of your song. I was struck by the love and relationship between yourself and the women in your life in a new way. The sisterhood seemed to complete you, and the convent, and indeed your vocation, a vessel to express that solidarity with women was intense and tireless.
Being the celebrity you were, women were drawn to you and leaving their homes and fortunes to you must have been quite a challenge to their fathers and brothers – to say nothing of potential suitors!
O beautiful faces
You who behold God and build in the dawn,
O blessed virgins, how noble you are,
The King has contemplated himself in you,
has foreshadowed all heavenly beauty in you,
and because of this, you are in yourselves the most delicious garden,
sweet-scented in all your beauty.
The garden bequeathed to us from the dawn of time does not appear to be separated from our human form in this stanza, with human flesh and nature melting into one. These days our planet is struggling and that separation, almost an apartheid at times, is finding so many of us outside of the garden and being banished from its beauty. I think you and Rachel Carson would have some wonderful conversations and all the women of my time like Karen Silkwood, Dorothy Stang, and closer to home the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council would be your sisters in a new way. Those conversations would be about the most delicious garden, a feast for the senses and how we need to be there more often, and restore ourselves and our planet to that garden and women throughout the ages tending to that garden and bringing forth fruit and raising up a generation to care for it.
It has brought me to a new understanding of your favourite phrase and metaphor for yourself as being a ‘feather on the breath of God’. In hearing the haunting lilt in Emma Horwood‘s beautiful rendition of your song; I could imagine you as a feather floating in the air. You allow the spirit, the ruah, the breath of God to send you to new horizons, gently allowing you to be in the slipstream, the gale or the sea breeze taking you to a new place. I was also touched by considering the breath of God is the place of voice – it has a capacity to hold sound and yet the feather is so light the sound of silence is once again understood as God’s language as John of the Cross said. I have come to know this is true through my own meditation.
What a delight to have a taste of the most delicious garden you knew in your time, revealed to me in mine, through your letters, story and music carefully crafted and packaged so that I could enjoy it in the little church in my village. Thank you to Emily Sutherland, Emma Horwood and Shona Benson for bringing you to us all.