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offwego[A short paper presented to the Spiritual Reading Group 21 July 2015 on Michael Leunig]

So… Leunig… one of the questions he is most often asked and is always baffled by, is what does a particular cartoon mean? “People will say, ‘I don’t know what it means but I like it.’ Leunig replies… “I don’t know either but I like it too. I’m not trying to say anything but I hope it awakens something in you.”

Michael Leunig was raised listening to Oscar Wilde stories on the radio. He read Enid Blyton, Biggles and Childrens Encyclopaedias… he went to Sunday  school and always said he found it, “not full of God but full of stories.” It was lyrical and what was lyrical made him happy – Leunig heard Psalms and asked of himself “What can I do like that?”

Though born in East Melbourne in 1945, Leunig grew up in Footscray going to Footscray North Primary School and Maribyrnong High School. Many of Leunigs friends, and many of his teachers when he grew up in the 1950s were war refugees or were the children of people from Germany, Russia, Poland. It was a very industrial area –ammunitions factory with machine guns firing, meat works, cannery… it smelt awful and drained into the river… for Leunig this wasn’t bleak but held lots of peace and space. Not a lot of nature around, but then you appreciate and give more significance to what you have… a duck and the moon.

A duck bought from the market while doing the family shop imprinted on Leunig following him around everywhere, coming home from school he’d turn the corner and the duck would see him and come running. So he always got ducks after that considering them playful and good-humoured and innocent with those rounded beaks.

A formative misadventure at eight years, occurred while playing at the rubbish tip Leunig stepped up to his thighs in hot coals and wires – receiving horrible and incredibly painful burns with fear of gangrene and amputation – for five months he couldn’t walk and had long periods of feeling cut off from others and lost.

From paper boy to making sausages at butchers on Barkley St, Leunig didn’t do well at school, repeating his last year, and came to work in the meatworks himself. This was great thinking time and Leunig advocates manual work that keeps your hands moving and your mind free. He said: “Working in such places either toughens or sensitises you” and it sensitised Leunig… he became a humanist (is now nearly vegan) and finely honed his earthy working class sense of humour. Leunig was conscripted for the Vietnam war in 1965 – he was going to fight it, a conscientious objector, but was rejected regardless when found to be deaf in one ear.

In Curly Stories, Leunig talks about it “Being an advantage to grow up without art consciousness… nothing to aspire to but things to find and create”. Homeschooling his own four children would have allowed him to foster a similar environment for them believing “Natural ideas exist within children… their play should be “utterly free” and they must be allowed to be bored – they feel free to explore and discover and the world is new to them and there’s this sense of wonder” Leunig refers to childrens ability to ‘blank out’ looking at a teapot spout or light through a window being present to what is right in front of them, commenting: “The loss of that beauty is appalling… how do I address that as a communicator? How can I express what everyone is feeling?” The prophet expresses the grief of the people. The artist expresses what is repressed.

maxresdefaultWalking out of his 3rd year at Swinburne Film and Television School, it was 1969 when Leunig first began to work as a political cartoonist at Newsday, while the factories might have taught him to use humour – intellectual, witty, cynical – to deflect serious things, Leunig says “I was sung sentimental songs. Part of my first language. Fluent in that emotional language” His Grandma used to tell him: ‘All the world is bad, except for you and me, but even you’re a little strange.’ …perhaps this is where we meet The Creature… The Holy Fool– scribbled in the margins since school – amusing to his slightly hungover Editor, with a teapot on his head and riding a duck into the sunset, the image was put to print. Subhuman, primal, foetal, without gender. Leunig is somehow able to speak to our soul. To take small things and make them large, domestic things and make them sacred. For his own discipline he talks about the paradox of art theory – rules to follow, teachers to emulate >> how this stifles creativity. It’s about earning money, systematic success, built for efficiency, for velocity but you lose much, Leunig believes: “[You] cannot love or appreciate beauty at speed. How do you talk about it in ways that are unsuppressed and real? Might make a bridge with love, make a sandwich with love – it’s passed on to others. Love is what we go to bed thinking about.”the kiss by leunig

Since his first book in 1974, Leunig has produced 23 more – books of newspaper columns, poetry and prayer in addition to his prints, paintings and drawings. Leunig shares intimacy with us, personal and confessional – e.g. The Kiss. We are invited into the privacy of his love life, his soul searching… Leunig makes the private public. He takes the small dark fearful things and brings them out where we can look at them “crying with the angels for a world that is different – this is not fatalistic but hopeful”. Perhaps it is because he has offered his own soul first that we are willing to listen to him expound on many themes:

>> loneliness >> the 9 to 5 grind >> war >> sex >> consumption >> love >> god >> media >> religion >> politics

It was being asked to contribute a cartoon to a new paper in 1989, The Age, that Leunig started writing prayers to the horror of his friends… Rather than born-again Christian Leunig’s interpretation lay in the realm of John Keats’s “negative capability”, a word for the unsayable and profound in life. He wanted to say the words publicly as another way of addressing the problems of our time, of our society, of our psyche, of people’s personal suffering {1998} His friends reactions sort of egged Leunig on, wanting to see how much he could push believing that “until a man discovers his emotional life and his gentle, vulnerable side, until he gives it expression, he never will find his women or his soul, and until he does find his soul he will be tortured and depressed and miserable underneath a fair bit of bullshit”.

From Archbishops to Presidents, the Opera House, Australian Chamber Orchestra, National Theatre in London to clay figure animations for SBS and remote communities in northern and central Australia – Leunig has Gone Places and Done Things. Declared a national living treasure by the National Trust in 1999 and awarded honorary degrees by 3 universities for his unique contribution to Australian culture.

094The ‘war on terror’ following 9/11 was a watershed moment in Leunig’s cartooning work where, opposing the war and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, he was at odds with many editors, commentators and members of Australian society – there became less gentle and lyrical themes and he stopped drawing the whimsical characters Mr Curly and Vasco Pyjama as often although the duck and the moon have still faithfully remained. Adding curls arose out of Leunig’s desire to communicate that “What makes you feel so alone and strange is in fact normal. There’s a lot of curliness in life and you can have a homecoming – there is a place for you and for that aloneness, that eccentricity, and there’s a fulfilment of it eventually, it’s no longer the cause of your outcastness. So that’s the curl. It’s the curious, unique self and, if you find that, you find the connection to the whole world because the world is curious and unique and authentic at its best level.” You might say the war, not understanding how people can fight other people this way, has been a breach to Leunigs sense of connection to Australian society and thereby rest of the world.

These days, Michael Leunig has 3 small dogs but no ducks. He enjoys talking to strangers and going to bed at night. He is a devout nature lover and spends his time between the solitude of the bush in Northern Victoria and a home in Melbourne where he enjoys walking in the local park, morning coffee in the café, chamber music in the concert hall, and attending to work in his studio .

When asked: “What is the meaning of life?” Leunig replied: “For humans as for all the plants and creatures: know yourself, grow yourself, feel yourself, heal yourself, be yourself, express yourself”… “I want to be a voice of liberation”. Leunig speaks not only for the wealthy or the poor but both, not only those armed and those without weapons but both, not only the pretty people or only the ugly people but both – he enjoys this inconsistency and variety. As Barry Humphries says “through the vein of his compassion and humanity and his humour – illuminating many a darkling theme”

Like Jesus with his parables and questions – Leunig doesn’t present us with solutions or easy answers but an invitation. He sees his vocation as cracking what is stoic and cold in society – to make us feel anger, grief, joy, sadness… Leunig believes we have something to discover in the wrongness… “Live without ‘knowing’, in mystery. Find things. Unlearn. Get lost. Get primal, getinfantile. When you have lost all hope – start to play. You have nothing to lose. Stay with it and don’t take it too seriously…”

I hope maybe it awakens something in you.”

5am The Night Watch

I have been “awake” since 4.30am, willing myself in this dark warm cocoon to fall back asleep but my brain is busy cataloging the fragments of dream that have interrupted my rest – odd things like a tree falling over the caravan and who and how I calmly call for help in that, a sink hole Alice-in-Wonderland style that sees me slip through soft soil to a room with a skeleton and paintings and artifacts of Wardens past… silliness!

p.36 My soul yearns for you, O God. I keep vigil with you through the night. Waiting and trusting the sacred darkness. I surrender.

p.37 Keeping vigil with eternal questions, I do not look for answers; it is enough to wait in the darkness of love’s yearning. My soul in my night light; i am not afraid.

p. 38 Take me down deep to the holy darkness of Love’s roots.



p.56 “Set the clock of your heart for dawn’s arrival.  Taste the joy of being awake”

I had set the reminder for the Night Watch but I wasn’t really yet asleep or yet awake or yet warm (I must have six blankets and have slept through in my long woolen cardy, ghoulish, but eventually warm).  There is a little electric fan heater but I know the energy they can go through and I like the idea that I can be active enough or layered enough or in bed enough  do not need it.  Although many of the curtains of the caravan are open or down there is no trace of dawn light yet – only darkness without and the wind.  Within my flickering candle to write by… me… and You.  In the mix of what my life is, this Awakening Hour has been the prayers I would read most often on a normal day – albeit closer to 8.30/9am – I think I like to start my day with this taste of joy and the call to be bigger than I am through somehow revealing love and light in the way that I live.  You do that for me.  Call me into a life worth living, call me into a life worth getting out of bed for. …which in fact, I will not do right now, but lie back and listen to the wind talking in the trees and watching the veil of the sky draw back.

So… Leunig… one of the question he is most often asked and is always baffled by, is what does a particular cartoon mean.  “People will say, ‘I don’t know what it means but I like it.’ And I’ll say, I don’t know either but I like it too.  I’m not trying to say anything but I hope it awakens something in you.”

…I hope it awakens something in you.


10am The Blessing Hour


I dwell in possibility
O Spirit of the Circling Hours,
bless me that I may be a blessing,
work through me, that I may be
your love poured out upon the earth.

I dwell in possibility.

p.82 Come into our potential with your wind and flame

Bring to our memory the truth that we are the temple out of which you pour your gifts into the world.  We are the temple from which you sing your songs.  We are the temple out of which you bless. Enable us to listen to the renewal you are trying to bring about in us and through us… May all the good that we long for come to pass.

Leunig is a blessing and, I think, Your faithful servant.  I so admire his not being constrained t o one medium or what he is “supposed” to do or say – letters, poems, paintings, cartoons, interviews, expositions, prayers – I don’t imagine there is much that Leunig holds back between contemplation of hisIMG_5082 big toe (an honest fellow) or his loneliness or his love life or his politics… this is all one and I envy that.  Even as I read/write that I am thinking to myself – whose permission am I waiting for?  to be my whole self?  I like to think I am getting there, learning – or unlearning – as the case may be.

Each day is a new day and I dwell in possibility.  This is one of the big lies of culture I think, that we ‘have’ to do these things – finish school, finish uni, get a job, get a house… do we ‘have’ to?  Once you are on the conveyor belt it can be hard to get off but I dwell in possibility.

Am I a temple?

Perhaps some other building turned to Your purpose, but the wilderness has broken in and the overhanging branches arch  protectively and let gentle dappled light through.  Let’s not renovate or do it up but make the ordinary sacred – the structures yielding to nature in time yet inside a beautiful sanctuary. Let there be gifts and songs and blessings… let it be fit for You to dwell.

12.30pm The Hour of Illumination

p.101 Let us bow to each other and pray for peace.

p.102 We pause to remember who we are: birth givers,
027peace033keepers, joy bringers, life bearers. Take heart.  We are the light of the world. in this hour of illumination let us shine into the broken places.

p.103 Trailing clouds of glory, we have come from the brightness of God.

p.105 In the middle of this day help me to stand before my life with an open heart.

This morning I wandered further along the road from the retreat centre.  I got out my new technicolored skipping rope and went up and down the road. My body memory recalling the hop-step motion of my feet and my wrists to swing forwards and backwards and side-to-side.  I imagine my movements are graceful, I suspect they are no such thing, but they feel so and I have a few moments of childlike abandon.


A few months ago, I saw ‘As You Like It’ at the Botantical Gardens… it was over the top and beautiful and funny.  I was much taken with the idea of leaving [bad] love letters in the trees that did not rhyme or make sense but were somehow endearing yet for being sincerely felt.  Today I did this for You – what faltering words do I have to try and describe You or worship You that haven’t already been said before? Let’s laugh at me together and find me endearing for a whimsical love sincerely felt…

ACT III  SCENE II The forest.
[Enter ORLANDO, with a paper]
ORLANDO Hang there, my verse, in witness of my love:
And thou, thrice-crowned queen of night, survey
With thy chaste eye, from thy pale sphere above,
Thy huntress’ name that my full life doth sway.
O Rosalind! these trees shall be my books 5
And in their barks my thoughts I’ll character;
That every eye which in this forest looks
Shall see thy virtue witness’d every where.
Run, run, Orlando; carve on every tree
The fair, the chaste and unexpressive she.


TOUCHSTONE For a taste:
If a hart do lack a hind,
Let him seek out Rosalind.
If the cat will after kind,
So be sure will Rosalind.
Winter garments must be lined,
So must slender Rosalind.
They that reap must sheaf and bind;
Then to cart with Rosalind.
Sweetest nut hath sourest rind,
Such a nut is Rosalind.
He that sweetest rose will find
Must find love’s prick and Rosalind.
This is the very false gallop of verses: why do you
infect yourself with them?
ROSALIND Peace, you dull fool! I found them on a tree. 90
TOUCHSTONE Truly, the tree yields bad fruit.




Like Leunig, I don’t suppose I am satisfied with communicating.  I want to talk to You in poems and journals, prayers, reading, walks, talks, storytelling, listening and notes left in the trees for You to find.  Bio-degradable paper with native daisy seeds in it! But I couldn’t quite bring myself to leave them up.  Others won’t know what they are made of and it wouldn’t do to antagonise or pollute in the name of God.  How am I to speak of You? How am I to speak to You? Show me the way that You would have me go, step by step and day by day, moving forwards, being found.

3.30pm The Wisdom Hour

p.125 We seek to live a more contemplative life, so that we will not have to wait until we are dying to learn to live… Give us the grace of tender seeing. Help us to recognise and honour the wise one who lives at the core of our being. May we always be open to being taught.

I had a nap in my last “hour”. I wanted to be warm and rest and rest in You. But now, as day deepens, I am out and about again.  I might pass this way but once – through the chestnut orchard, qi gong in a clearing… I tried to move like the wuthering wind and the singing bird, holding myself and the others in this space, opening ourselves to You and the tenderness that comes of that – from the holder to the touched.  I tried to get to the creek but I did not really know where I was going – all was lush and green and somewhat impassable (at least per this afternoons excursion) and I wandered away to find an old swing hanging low amidst the carpet of fallen orange leaves, walking onwards I have found a tree. A good climber. And here I am, rugged up, in my blanket, in a tree…




the day is good to me
feeds and fills
there isn’t really silence
just listening
becoming attuned
to the world around
and surrounding me,
to myself and to You.

Talitha Fraser

We have a little halfway house between our cabins where we can share resources… this quote from Teresa was there – so soon after the symposium!


6.30pm The Twilight Hour

p.144 My eyes scan the horizon of your goodness… a thousand colours is your face.

p. 145 …beautiful has been my daily bread.

p. 146 It is well with my soul.  All shall be well.
Come, sit at our table.  Be present in the bread we break and share.

205We shared communion, You and I, and I have attempted to set things in order for tomorrow as we will be leaving early – rendered slightly complicated by the power going out but here indeed is living simply after all and, possibly, my cue to go to bed at 8pm at night because it’s dark. I’m in bed and have only a warm glow of a candle to see by – pretty but perhaps not functional… at least for this.  Perhaps it depends what you are trying to do… what then by candlelight?

Candles are often romantic light. Softening edges, smoothing out wrinkles.  Gentle light for tender things like touch and feelings… holding back the dark.  I can be beautiful by this light too.  More helpful.  More comforted.  We take all of who we are wherever we go and while mistrust is a bedfellow so is faith.  While loneliness may pay a visit, faith dwells here and I am never alone.  In our darkness there is no darkness. And the softness and the sensations and sleep and serenity are all my own.

9pm The Great Silence

p.167-8 O Holy One, in whose light and shadows we 216
have journeyed through this day… Remember then…
the powerful and strong searchlight of faith… Let us place ourselves in the protective care of the angels and into the cupped hands of the Divine.

p.168-9 I yearn to be held in the great hands of your heart – oh let them take me now.  Into them I place these fragments, my life and you, God – spend them however you want.  In this hour of deep silence when all things are hushed, I carve out a space in the darkness for you, O beloved, to dwell.


At Gembrook Retreat Centre for a silent, contemplative retreat using 7 Sacred Pauses [by Macrina Weiderkehr – this text will be used throughout the weekend  as a framework for following a monastic rhythm of prayer] – greedy and grasping I have reached for my new journal “making space” despite the sheets remaining for Teresa… I will come back to you Teresa! …but I wanted all of ‘this’, whatever it is, to be in one place and I wanted this clear window of time to feel like a fresh start.

In our pre-sharing there has been an emphasis on soul over mind and body, and moving away from words… I want to encounter You with my mind and body, AND my soul.. You know I want to encounter You with words! I don’t know that I was ‘good’ at the shared silence this evening.  Is that a discipline to cultivate?  Perhaps I am a kinesthetic listener?  We each of us want to seek after You… be found by You.  I don’t know if that language is necessarily helpful as You are with me always, it is only that other tasks and work and expectations lead me to spend time elsewhere – the coming together, or encounter, is about re-focusing my lens on You.  You know all the things I have in me and with me to do… let me offer them all to use or discard as You see fit.

  • Leunig talk
  • sustainability report
  • the very trees will speak Your name! (As You Like It)
  • photography
  • writing up previous blog posts
  • reflections on the Teresa content

…I wish I had a week, a month, a lifetime to give over to doing as I felt led.  Does anyone really get to do that?

…I am torn between ruefully laughing at how much I clearly didn’t get the living simply component of this weekend and wondering how much it matters to You.  Would eating or not eating draw me nearer to You? Travelling more lightly make it easier to reach You?  I think I find You where I look for You basically – is that too simplistic?  You are everywhere and the Creator of everything so it doesn’t matter if I am lying on a blanket on the grass in the sun, reading the wisdom of the saints, or drawing, or writing, or eating… You provide all things and You are in all things.  I need only be present to contemplate You and Your forms.

We have started off with the  Night prayers:

[p.168] “I yearn to be held in the great hands of your heart – oh let them take me now. Into them I place the fragments, my life, and you, God – spend them however you want.”

Let this be the yearning, the taking the placing, the spending… for each of us seeking You out this weekend.

wondering how much it matters to You.  Would eating or not eating draw me nearer to You? Travelling more lightly make it easier to reach You?  I think I find You where I look for You basically – is that too simplistic?  You are everywhere and the Creator of everything so it doesn’t matter if I am lying on a blanket on the grass in the sun, reading the wisdom of the saints, or drawing, or writing, or eating… You provide all things and You are in all things.  I need only be present to contemplate You and Your forms.

We have started off with the  Night prayers:

[p.168] “I yearn to be held in the great hands of your heart – oh let them take me now. Into them I place the fragments, my life, and you, God – spend them however you want.”

Let this be the yearning, the taking the placing, the spending… for each of us seeking You out this weekend.

IMG_5009To know the gaze of God – Sister Miriam

St Teresa is convincing because she is speaking out of her experience.  We don’t have to guess about her interior life.  She is anxious to explain herself truthfully – hard on herself – a light fault is serious if it goes against His Majesty.  She would see herself as like the Samaritan Woman and pray “God, give me that water”.  She was dedicated to hours of prayer – even when praying hour would be over. “more enabled to bear the beams of love” – Blake. Saw prayer as the only way to deeper connection – God did in a moment what she could not have done in years on her own.  Stick with it, Godwards (inward) our centre whether we know it or not.

Prayer consists not in thinking much
but in loving much.

Each person inexhaustible – there are many rooms in our interior castle.  There is a call to growth – face to face encounters with the living Christ.  Steady unwavering gaze of God kindles love.

In the measure you seek Him, you will find Him.

Hone focus and choices > prayer fosters “presence” to unfathomed, unconditional love, Under His gaze, joys and sadness are given perspective.

 St Teresa had a spontaneity and gladness to her interior life > personal gratitude.  You must put on the new self that is clothed in God’s likeness. Mystical experiences ‘more’ real than ‘normal’ life > reformer.  Energy/capacity to write, correspond despite illness… by their fruits shall you know them.  Her way, her truth, her life.

Sips of what we hope for.
Lives with very determined determination.

He who lives in God, lives in love and God lives in him.

St Teresa’s gift of wisdom – Sister Paula

Wisdom illuminated her life and vision.  Learned through fidelity in prayer.  Knowledge and understanding acquired in life brought to thoughts.  Trustful confidence and hope.  Listened to voice of God in her heart > sought counsel.  So enriching, longed to share it… this is possible for everyone.  Practical and idealistic.  Lived simply and appreciated beauty.  Wrote hundreds of letters – family, convents, business, books… 1562 St Jospehs of Avila dedicated to prayer and contemplation, 3 essentials:

  • love for one another
  • detachment
  • humility

Pure love without self interest does not lower itself to seek recognition.
For love you were fashioned.

“This is the love wisely sought IMG_5008by the pure of heart”

God/Trinity always to be found in human heart, a familiar homeliness not a remote establishment. Captivates soul with fresh encounters.

Love is complete in giving itself
and serving.

Appreciated holiness and integrity in others.  Priceless treasures with glimpses of eternity.  Everyday common sens and compassion.  Let down by friends > loneliness > let nothing bother you because God alone suffices.

There was no  conflict between her inner life and actions because all was one.  If noticed foibles in others, looked beyond to how God saw them.  Fostered friendship, encouragement, support between sisters. Contemplative but enmeshed in practical affairs.

“Seek yourself in Me,
seek Me in yourself”

Know sublime truths.  New depths of human capability, certainty from her own experience.Love at the beating heart of the universe enables us to participate in the resurrection. It is not the greatness of the works that are done but the love with which they are completed.  Each person is gifted individually and has something unique to share.  Gifts are multiplied when they are shared.


Jesus Christ, St Teresa’s true friend and companion: Her definition of prayer – Sister Angela

Loneliness and longing for God.  Desire for love and wholeness > struggle fraught with conflict.  Minority: Jewish blood/conversas (objects of hatred and suspicion); woman; ecstatic experiences and wrote books > threat/pollutant. Despite obstacles – pursued goals determinedly. Sought advice from highest theologians – proof. Love, affection, legitimacy, acceptance: she was warm and extroverted.  Shadow: crippling dependent relationships at the expense of inner truth and full Surrender to God.

Defines prayer in terms of love: frequently and secretly sharing with Him …grew in intensity and Presence.  Human personality caught up in Christ.

Forsaken moments alone and afflicted – Gethsemane/cross.  Could accept her in brokenness and poverty. Consoling Him.  Consoling each other. This became habitual. “Tried to keep God present within me.”  That was my method of prayer…

I’m not asking you to do anymore than look at Him.
The truth of who He is will be imprinted in us.

Humble ourselves and delight in the Lords presence.

Maintained presence:

  • identifying with people in gospels
  • those who needed redemption – Mary Magdalene, Peter in tears after denying Jesus, John at the foot of the cross, Samaritan woman…
  • moment after receiving eucharist, receive divine gift within her.
  • Not just inner prayer but human limitations and conflicts > see transformative power of Jesus at work.  Battle between being friends with the world and friends with God (stalled growth for 20 years).

St Teresa felt an inner conflict/fragmentation – unable to commit herself fully to God.  Likened it to a voyage on tempestuous seas and sought a remedy.  “Life I was living was not life”. Let go of trusting herself > trust God.  39 years old when she had a conversion experience.  God lived in her – act of surrender, discovered Christ, healing and transforming her.  Desired by God, in her entirety, as she was.  Set free of needing to be ‘approved’, rooted in Jesus Christ. “Jesus As Friend And Liberator” permeates her Christian life.  Satisfied all desires.  All sufferings and trials – related back to his humanness and limitations.

Body needs to be integrated in our search for God.  Life is hard.  Need example and companionship of one who has gone before.  Reality and weakness of human experience… could converse continually.

God understands our miserable make up.  Flesh and blood, life and death, joy and sorrow – embrace this reality with trust and love.  Freed to live more fully.  Obedience to life under God’s conditions. The will of the Beloved became her sole compass.


St Teresa’s writings – Sister Teresa

“I am yours born for you, what do you want from me? …move me from here to there… sorrowing or exalting… what do you want form me?”

Living and developing her great gifts.  Asked friends to pray she would do God’s will.  Moved by servile fear – then had her conversion – served by love.  Receive s graces, calls within herself, encounters to follow vocation .

“Those things of God made me happy,
the things of the world made me bound”

Self judgement critiquing her earlier life.  Had darkness and dryness, moments of light. Mental prayer – intimate sharing between friends with Him who we know loves us.  Vocal prayer – liturgy – not thoughtless recitation but mindful.  Come to prayer with self-awareness of our brokenness and need for grace.  Adamant of building solid foundation of prayer – virtues: detachment, humility, charity and obedience. Don’t stand still! Don’t be dwarfs! Space in her teaching – desire that all will reach prayer God is offering.  Criteria for holiness in doing God’s will and charity.  Call addressed to everyone not just religious.

 Grace always costs.

Gave writings to mentors and confessors – anything wrong, cut it out!  Resolve to do the little I can do (as a woman, scope was limited).  Reform of Carmel (hermits 1200s) solitude and space.  Value silence and solitude and live in continual prayer.  Liturgical prayer (church), contemplative prayer (individual). Small in number.  All in house must be friends with each other “all made of the same clay”. United in love of God and prayer for the church. Peace and joy in community and life.  God spare us from sorry saints! Give me Calvary or Tabor.  The castle is the masterpiece of the interior journey.  The soft whistle of the Shepherd can be heard through all the spaces.  My daughters, good work, my God wants good works.

Yours I am…


St Teresa’s Conversion: The movement from performer to beloved – Adrian Jones

Live out of a role – profession/family/community… the way we are socialised to behave.

1538-1565 move beyond ‘role’ to her loved self.  Feisty and an adventurer.  Loved by her family and she loved them.  Didn’t want to married (one of ten children herself).  Family of faith > raised in that atmosphere.  Her father didn’t want her to join the Carmelites.  Ran away at 20 to join.  Lived faithfully and with energy > liturgical prayer and community life.  Individual prayer not at the fore (Latin/couldn’t read… not easily accessible). “midlife crisis” had become burdensome – plateau.  Felt torn between the satisfactions of life and the stirrings of God.  Best reminded about what was going on during prayer life… continually checking in… being present to God.  18 years trying to hold the middle road.  Tried to have effective control, everything under her control, God wanted affective control – trusting God and things find their own place.  Know depths of God’s love and her own hearts desire… invitation to come close to God.  Call to religious life not questioned but can I let God be God?

Absorb story through immersion.
A living in Christ.

Loving God drew her to the centre to “be” with God.  “We” might have a good book with us > she and God hanging out together.  The Samaritan Woman and Mary Magdalene (in John) had strong conversion experiences with strong emotions.

Turned by love.

Only wrote after 1565 had established ideas  and experiences.  The reality of God, the presence of God, not doctrine (in Teresa we stand in the presence of God) – trying to describe/explain that.  Time between rising something new and familiar practice.  Not here or there.  In the middle is where we’re supposed to be.

1st mansion – become aware of God in our life. Self-awareness.

2nd mansion – awareness of that.  Must answer, become aware of implications too.

3rd mansion – taken or living for God, “perfect” Christian. Downside, miffed with god (entitlement). God: love yourself or do you love me?

4th mansion – God wants to wound us.  Doing things for God.  Can’t avoid.  Struggle living with it.  Let go of control, let God be in charge > be grateful.


St Teresa approach to community living – Richard Hallett

Teresa wrote constitutions for the communities she established.  Teresa, Paul and Alberts constitutions for sustainable community (handout). Doing very poorly at Sundays in our communities > 12 years a minister.  Work in Catholic schools and talk to families who can’t connect to Sunday services.  “ekklesia” means the group who gathers.

If the quality of inter-personal relationships among those who gather are weak, the ekklesia is weak, weak in the quality and scope of its service; weak in its power to transform and save lives.

Whether she was explicitly aware of it or not, Teresa established her communities on the same model employed and developed by Paul of Tarsus:



Teresa did not consider that she was doing anything particularly original. Her aim was to establish and sustain an environment in which her contemporaries would have the opportunity to respond to divine Grace in the greatest liberty of spirit and to live life to the full.  She recognised that her Carmelite history, if honestly implemented, provided just such an opportunity.

p.314 St Teresa ‘The Constitutions’

What stands out in the guidelines for the Teresian life is balance. We find an interweaving of eremitism and cenobitism, or work and contemplation, of liturgical and extra-liturgical prayer.

Eremite: hermit of recluse
Cenobite: member of monastic community sharing common life.


#18 The Sisters should pay no attention to the affairs of the world, nor should they speak about them.  They may do so if the matter concerns something for which they can offer a remedy or help those with whom they are speaking, assist them in finding the truth, or console them in some trial.  If no effort is being made to make the conversation a fruitful one, they should bring it to a quick conclusion, as was said.  It is very important that those who visit us leave with some benefit, and not after having wasted time, and that we benefit too.


A Bernard McGinn retrospective – Philip Harvey

Inner life and connection with God.  First female ‘doctor’ of Catholic church.  “New mysticism” actively going out and doing things.  Democratisation, mysticism for everyone/anyone, vernacular (not just in Latin).

Read widely: Augustine… Jerome…

Creating new: Prayer of Quiet, sleep of the faculties…

Mystical theology – whole of life, hidden presence of God. [Teresa was the last of the old line not early in the new]

Def. That part of religion deepening consciousness of God in our life and lives of others.  Not intellectual, found in other religions, in eucharist, etc.  Thousands of rooms (Teresa only writes about the ones she knows about).

  • Thinking, knowing, acting, deciding out of context with
  • Personal and transpersonal
  • Absence as well as presence of God

Every baptised Christian called to mystical life.  To love God and neighbour.

Cataphic and ataphatic/positive and negative.

Dedicated to outreach of spiritual life.

A mystic doesn’t need to be a ‘drop out’ of society. Confined to cloister not ends but means > to love God and love others.  True active contemplative.

 “do not be sad
for I will give you an inner book”

Liber experienciae.

  1. The Slacker
  2. The Contemplative
  3. The Contemplative in Action

Others wrote their own spiritual expression or related them to confessors but never combined with apostolic action.  Union of inner and outer worlds.  Reactive > social reform.  Teresa: political, fundraising, leaders of reform (training others to continue her work), participation in community.  No rank within monasteries.

Mary & Martha//Raptures?? Grace of spiritual marriage. Need a uniting of Mary and Martha to host the Lord well.  Prayer will be more powerful for its responsibility/relationship > pray for those you know.

Action and contemplation not opposed but mutual.  Two lives are equal and active ways of loving God.  We should not build castles in the air but work with love.


For whom did Teresa write?  Reading the Interior Castle today – Father Greg

Like the ocean – shallow enough anyone can walk in, deep enough for anyone to swim in.

Teresa was not writing a DIY manual for mystics.

  • For drunks and prostitutes, drug users, alcoholics anonymous, AIDs clinics, out where my people are.
  • 12 steps not n alcohol or self but higher power of God > sobriety of life.
  • 7 steps – realisation one is loved and worthwhile, self worth given as a gift to be received gratefully. Love and therefore loveable – changed how she understood God. Response of a person loved by God/freedom/love God/love others/love church.

Humility aka authenticity.  Detachment aka spiritual freedom > moved to love others.

That which makes me most me is also that part which I’m to share with everyone else > dignity of the human person.  Sense of the importance of her own experience.  What she understands a mature Christian to be – submitting wholly to God.  Just read the 7th dwelling place… know where you’re going.  Within each dwelling place are sets of relationships:

  • Others
  • God
  • Action
  • Prayer

First 3 dwelling places – co-operation with God’s grace in our lives:

  1. God exists
  2. Following
  3. Well ordered – judgemental

Next three dwelling places – lose control, God works without us planning or co-operating:

  1. Praying not praying
  2. Rest and work
  3. Grace and receiving

Invalid>dynamic/active.  Visions, locutions, shadow of the cross. Changing memories and hope and how and who we love… LONG JOURNEY

Last/7th dwelling place – profound transformation, live in a different way.  God working with us in our lives.  Moat outside filled with vipers, toads and vermin >> do not know that you are loved.  Knock on the door through prayer, reflection on self, scripture, liturgy of the church.  Parents have seen who you will marry – caught sight of your “intended”. SEEING/BETROTHAL/CONSUMMATION commit to each other.

  1. Sharing the passion

Encounter God as Trinity. Christ-centric >Trinitarianism (with others) ekklesia.


God is not static. Creation still happening now.  Species just beginning to understand now.  Incarnation happens in us, death in us and ascension >> Marriage and the House of Divine Love.  God doesn’t give Teresa a wedding ring but a nail from the cross.  Pray with eyes open.  Prayer for others… good works, called beyond ourselves to hospitality of others > most mature and developed human/Christian. Hungry, cold, poor, excluded >> wok for the benefit of others is to be alive. “Seek yourself in Me”.

Seeking God would be very costly if
we could not do it until
we were dead to the world.





God give me that water

For love you were fashioned

Seek yourself in me,

Seek Me in yourself

Set free of needing

to be approved

Tried to keep God

present within me

Grace always costs

God spare us from sorry saints

Yours I am, I am Yours

A living Christ

Do not be sad for I will

give you an inner book

Sense of the importance

of her own experience

Seeking God would be very costly if

we could not do it until we

were dead to the world.

IMG_5004Talitha Fraser

062077081084091 087

No sin on this page


Talitha Fraser


Last night I participated in a graveyard shift with the Walking for Freedom crew who were walking for 30 hours for the 30 ASIO negatively assessed refugees who are still indefinitely detained in Australia.  Largely this is awareness raising, while we will willingly acknowledge the rights and responsibilities of the ASIO to protect the local populace we are interested in what this looks like in the light of that little piece of paper called The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  People are being held, uncharged, indefinitely, without any opportunity to defend themselves. Is that OK?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has 30 Articles – here’s the first 14… apart from Article 4 (slavery)… can we honestly say that these refugees are being treated fairly and with just consideration of their human rights?  Let’s talk about it as we walk along the way… 

Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

  • Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

  • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

  • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

  • (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
  • (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  • (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  • (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

— About the ASIO Negatively Assessed Refugees —

Australia has found these 30 people to be refugees fleeing war and persecution. However, ASIO have given these people negative clearance assessments- claiming that they may be a security threat to Australia. ASIO do not have to inform the people of why they think they are a threat. The refugees are not given any chance to dispute or explain the claims against them.

As they were granted refugee status, Australia cannot deport them to their home countries and because of their negative assessments from ASIO, they cannot be released into the Australian community.

For some it is now the beginning of their sixth year in detention. Six years of their lives have been taken from them. No one knows when they will be released.


This story has become a strong (repeating) narrative, or metamessage, in my life – coming to mind at particular crossroads between easy, straight paths and narrow windy ones. Seemingly simple points of decision making around how I spend my money and how I spend my time that can feel weighted with symbolic meaning.  These are the resources I have, where do I invest them?  Every day that we live is an opportunity to invest in where our hope lies, to build – with whatever we have – the world we wish we lived in. At times the pull to do what is easy, to do what is accepted and expected can be so strong…

“I have seen too many stars to let the darkness overwhelm me”
– Macrina Wiederkehr

“What in me is dark, illumine” – John Milton

(7 Sacred Pauses)


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