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Lift your heart beyond negativism – and connect

By John Dempster

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Sister Wendy Beckett.
Sister Wendy Beckett.

‘What’s your special book?’ my friends at HighlandLIT are asking to celebrate Book Week Scotland [November 14-16].

I’ve read many books over the years – the majority of them religious. Apart from the Bible, I’ve been encouraged by biographies, books of Christian teaching and theology, books addressing questions which seem unanswerable, books on evolving faith.

Some of those books were special, the right book at the right time, but now I find myself drawn back to basics, remembering how sweetly simple the Christian faith is. So the book I’m reading now, Dearest Sister Wendy, is particularly special.

Sister Wendy Beckett, who died in 2018, spent almost 50 years as a ‘solitary’ in a Catholic convent, devoting herself to prayer and reflection. She is remembered for her books and the TV programmes she left the convent briefly to record, introducing people to great works of art.

She hoped people would find something hauntingly attractive in these artworks, and come to see that ‘something’ was actually ‘Someone,’ God, the source of all beauty.

Sister Wendy was a private person, but in Dearest Sister Wendy ­– a collection of emails between her and an American friend – she reveals much about her inner life.

Reading it, I felt such a sense of loveliness. It was as if Jesus was coming out of its pages to greet me. My life alternates between ‘lights on’ days when God seems close, and ‘lights off’ weeks when God seems distant.

But Sister Wendy brought vividly home to me again that God is always there. The Jesus I long for is already lovingly present with me; all I need to do is to lift my heart beyond negativism, and connect with him.

God has blessed me through the Sister’s words. Once again I feel deep peace. Once again I recognise that everything is a gift from God, an expression of love to be humbly received. Once again that sense of a gentle presence in me prompting love, joy, honesty and integrity.

Once again that gentle whisper of restraint. Once again the recognition that God is the source of all creativity. Once again, a sense of utter security.

Under Sister Wendy’s searching gaze, something of God could be seen in those canvasses she discussed. There is something of God in each one of us, the Jesus who calls us moment by moment to know him and find richer life.

You can see why I find Dearest Sister Wendy a special book. Each of us experiences God in different ways at different times: through a book; bread and wine; a friend; a walk in nature; a discussion group.

Special things because there we get to meet the Shining One who will never leave us.

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