Archbishop Bernard Longley commemorated the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Avila

On the Monday of Holy Week, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham commemorated the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Avila in 1515 and entrusted “a relic to Mother Prioress and all the Sisters”.

The relic is “a small piece of fabric taken from the secular clothing which the French Carmelite Sisters of Compiègne were forced to wear when they were required to abandon their Carmelite habits during the terror of the French Revolution.”

These sisters were executed at the guillotine in Paris on July 17 1794 because of their faithfulness to Christ and to their Religious vows. Pope St Pius X beatified them as martyrs in 1906.

Archbishop Longley entrusted the relic during Mass at Wolverhampton Carmel and he explained how the Archdiocese of Birmingham had been entrusted with the relic.

“In 1907 this relic was entrusted by Bishop Thomas William Wilkinson, the Bishop of Hexham, and Newcastle, to the Carmelite Sisters at Darlington,” he said.

“It has come to the Archdiocese of Birmingham via the Poor Clares of Baddesley Clinton. It seems only fitting that I should now entrust it to you, dear Sisters, as members of the spiritual family of those Carmelite Nuns who gave their lives for love of Christ.”

The Archbishop thanked the Mother Prioress and all the Sisters for their “witness of faith as religious women” and for their “concern for the mission and life of the Church”.


Full text of Archbishop Longley’s homily:

I am delighted to be with you today on this Monday of Holy Week as we continue to contemplate the loving sacrifice of our Lord and his willingness to suffer for our sake. It is a privilege to be able to enter, even if just for a moment, the life of prayer that continues here at the Carmel of the Magnificat day by day and quietly for the good of the whole Church and especially for our archdiocese of Birmingham.

I am very grateful to Mother Elisabeth of the Trinity and all the Sisters for your witness of faith as Religious Women and for your concern for the mission and life of the Church for which you pray constantly. Our clergy and lay faithful all benefit from your dedicated life of prayer.

St John’s Gospel gives us great encouragement today as we again witness the outpouring of love on the part of Lazarus’s sister Mary. She has herself witnessed a prefiguring of the Lord’s resurrection in her brother’s return to life at the Lord’s bidding. Now by anointing our Lord’s feet she herself prefigures his own final anointing: she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial.

As we prepare by these final days of Lent to celebrate the Easter Triduum, I have two particular reasons for wanting to celebrate Mass with you today. Last Saturday, 28th March, we commemorated the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Avila in 1515, named a Doctor of the Church by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Pope Francis spoke of the witness of St Teresa in a recent letter to the Superior General of the Discalced Carmelites, Fr Xavier Cannistrà. The Holy Father said St Teresa left a great treasure to renew consecrated life today, full of concrete proposals, ways and methods to pray that always lead one back to Jesus and that constitute a genuine school to grow in love for God and neighbour.

The Pope described St Teresa as primarily a teacher of prayer. Teresa’s prayer was not reserved only to one space or to one time of day; it arose spontaneously in the most diverse occasions. She was convinced of the value of continuous prayer, even if it was not always perfect. The saint asks us to be steadfast, faithful, even in times of dryness, personal difficulties or urgent needs that call us.

My second purpose today is to entrust a relic to Mother Prioress and all the Sisters. It is a small piece of fabric taken from the secular clothing which the French Carmelite Sisters of Compiègne were forced to wear when they were required to abandon their Carmelite habits during the terror of the French Revolution. On the 17 July 1794, two hundred and twenty years ago, they were executed at the guillotine in Paris because of their faithfulness to Christ and to their Religious vows. They were beatified as martyrs in 1906 by Pope St Pius X.

In 1907 this relic was entrusted by Bishop Thomas William Wilkinson, the Bishop of Hexham, and Newcastle, to the Carmelite Sisters at Darlington. It has come to the Archdiocese of Birmingham via the Poor Clares of Baddesley Clinton. It seems only fitting that I should now entrust it to you, dear Sisters, as members of the spiritual family of those Carmelite Nuns who gave their lives for love of Christ.

Today I offer a word of welcome to the four Sisters from Lancashire who have recently come to make their home here in the Carmel of the Magnificat and I pray that you may be blessed and happy among us. I also offer a word of thanks to your Chaplain, Fr Martin Pratt, for his spiritual care for this community alongside his other work in the Archdiocese, and to your neighbour, Fr Guy Nicholls, for concelebrating our Mass today.

As we journey through this Holy Week we do so in the company of our Lady who united herself to the sufferings of her Son at the foot of the Cross and now shares forever in his risen life. We venerate her in the words of your own Flos Carmeli:

Flower of Carmel,
Vine blossom laden,
Splendour of heaven,
Child bearing, yet maiden,
None equals thee.

Mother so tender,
Whom no man didst know,
On all Carmel’s children
Thy favours bestow.
Star of the sea.