in soul pursuit

in soul pursuit

Friday, 26 June 2015

Teresa of Avila - Doctor of the Soul: Dublin Avila Event, September 18th/19th 2015

Dear All

After the excitement of last week's conference I just received the conference poster for the next event - the 500th anniversary conference at the beautiful Avila centre in Dublin. Please find it below. Look forward to seeing you there!

Best wishes



Tuesday, 23 June 2015

‘An Unforgettable Experience’:Teresa of Avila 1515 – 2015: Mystical Theology and Spirituality in the Carmelite Tradition



Thank you so much for an incredible conference.  The angels themselves were jealous at the gathering.  Where to begin?  It was a fantastic line up of brilliant scholars and the humanity of everyone shone through.Teresa was beaming her wild wonders down from the beatific life. I had so many life affirming conversations and interactions all in the name of theology following God.  All our theologising at the conference was rooted in the God who is actually living and real, and for me it made a huge difference.  It showed that real theology is possible.' (A participant)
‘I thank you for this beautiful and unforgettable conference in Twickenham where so many (if not all) of us have been blessed in so many different ways. This has been the perfect combination of academic and mystic where our mind, heart and soul were made One in the Trinity. I have attended many conferences in my life but this one has been the most fruitful in so many different ways that I have not yet finished uncovering.’ (A participant)


On 18th June 2015 over one hundred delegates from five continents – academics, contemplatives, clergy and lay people – gathered to celebrate the life and work of the great ‘Santa’ of Avila – Teresa of Jesus, whose 500th birthday we celebrate this year. The aim of the conference was to create a space where the latest academic research on her writing might intersect with the contemplative lifestyle of those living out the Carmelite charism. This was achieved by a full programme that included academic presentations from the leading writers on Teresa, space for prayer, artistic exploration and, of course, chat and relaxation over meals and drinks.

The first day was taken up by placing Teresa in her context and seeing how the historical circumstances of 16th Century Spain shaped her place in the pantheon of the Christian mystical tradition. This was begun by two leading interpreters of the tradition – Emeritus Prof Bernard McGinn of Chicago University and Fr Wilfrid McGreal of Aylesford Priory, Kent, one of the first Carmels founded in England after the Carmelites left the Holy Land. The afternoon witnessed a lively debate between Professors Sarah Coakley (Cambridge), Peter Tyler (St Mary’s) and Edward Howells (London University) over Teresa’s debt to the medieval mystical tradition. Finally the day concluded with a heart-centred reflection from the American mystic, James Finley, one time novice of Thomas Merton.

The second day began with a presentation from Archbishop Emeritus, Rowan Williams who chose as his subject the importance of the Eucharist in Teresa’s theology. He was followed by two Carmelite friars – Fr Matt Blake ODC of the Boar’s Hill Priory and Fr Iain Matthew ODC of the Teresianum in Rome who presented two important aspects of Teresa’s thought – her role as foundress and the place of Christ’s resurrection in her description of the soul. The day culminated with a magnificent Votive Mass of Teresa celebrated in the historic University Chapel. The principal celebrant here was Fr Tony Lester OCarm, UK Carmelite Provincial, and we were honoured to be joined by the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of St James – HE Frederico Trillo-Figueroa y Martínez-Conde – who took a particular interest in the travelling Teresa exhibition displayed at the back of the Chapel. The liturgy was celebrated to the accompaniment of music by St Teresa’s fellow Avilan, Tomás Luis de Victoria, brilliantly sung by Cherry-Willows Pauls and her choir.


Our final day began with a spirited video conference given by the celebrated French theorist and feminist Prof Julia Kristeva. Following her post-Lacanian deconstructivist approach to Teresa a dialogue was initiated by Prof Gillian Ahlgren and taken up by the Carmelite sisters, Sr Jo, Sr Philomena and Sr Mary on how Teresa’s 16th Century experiences can be lived out in today’s postmodern world.

The opening comments from our delegate with which we began sum up the feeling at the end of the conference. We felt we had glimpsed the unending genius of this remarkable woman – mystic, foundress, thinker and saint – in a unique event which will stay in our hearts and minds for many years to come.

The proceedings of the conference will be published by Ashgate in 2017 and in the meantime papers from the conference and videos can be found on and



Monday, 15 June 2015

Teresa of Avila 1515 - 2015 Mystical Theology and Spirituality in the Carmelite Tradition. St Mary's University, Twickenham, 18th - 20th June 2015

Dear All

As we reach the last few days before our conference at the end of the week please find attached a poster detailing three public events in connection with the conference:

The first is the travelling Teresa of Avila exhibition which is touring the UK during this Teresian year. So far it has been to many British cathedrals and I think this may be its first visit to a British University.
The second event is the public lecture by James Finley on the evening of 18th June. James was a novice of Thomas Merton and brings great experience and insight to Teresa's writings.
Finally, we have our celebratory Votive Mass of St Teresa on the afternoon of the 19th June. The music will be drawn from that of 16th century Spain, especially the work of Teresa's fellow Avilan, Tomas Luis de Victoria.

You are very welcome to all of these.

With all good wishes


Friday, 5 June 2015

Jonathan Moore - Inigo - Review (Pleasance Theatre, London)

I had the great pleasure of attending the second run of this 'little gem' of a play in London's Pleasance Theatre this week. It is still running for another week and I would warmly commend it to anyone who can reach London. I attach the review below:


 By Jonathan Moore

Pleasance Theatre, London

The life and struggles of St Ignatius Loyola – muscular Christian and all-round poster-boy for the Counter Reformation – do not immediately suggest themselves as a fit subject for a contemporary art-house play. Especially if the playwright is Jonathan Moore – radical director of great opera
premieres such as Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek and
one-time collaborator with Joe Strummer of The Clash (younger readers please refer to Google...). Yet here it is, played out in the Pleasance theatre a step away from the hipsterism and designer beer of the Caledonian Road. We walk into the theatre from all this activity outside to suddenly find ourselves immersed in the power politics and theological controversies of early 16th Century Spain. Such a terse and multi-layered piece, given over to much theological and philosophical discussion, is enriched by the skill of the actors here performing it. They have been chosen well – a troupe of mainly young RADA graduates and seasoned professionals radiating all the energy, struggle and drama of this crucial turning point of European history as played out in the life of our eponymous hero (‘Inigo’ being the original Basque name of the saint who would later assume the title of ‘Master Ignatius’ after his studies in Paris). First amongst equals is Fayez Bakhsh (his first role after graduating from drama school) whose Inigo occupies a space of quiet intensity as if lit from behind – here surely is a great future actor in the making. Portraying the conversion of a libertine to a saint is no mean feat but I think Bakhsh pulls it off. Also worth mentioning are Reggie Oliver as the suave and sophisticated Figuero who turns, St Paul like, from persecutor of Ignatius to one of his strongest advocates and Paul Storrier, camping it up as a somewhat cartoonish Gian Carafa (later to become Pope Paul IV – the Pope who famously put the fig-leaves on Michelangelo’s work). Moore’s writing is at times expressive and lyrical alternating with the demotic life of 16th Century Spain. The former is revealed in the subtle allegories and symbolism of the piece – not least the heavy anvil blows that punctuate the piece and recall the spectator’s attention to the central insistent hammering of Inigo’s drive. The latter is translated easily to the street language of Moore’s native London and the early fights, skirmishes and womanising appears uncannily like the London streets we have travelled through to get to the theatre. However, juxtaposed with these scenes are ones of quiet intensity where the struggles of the young spiritual seeker are movingly portrayed. In an age and society obsessed with ‘radicalisation’ and general fear of faith I am not sure what contemporary audiences will make of all this. We were a small but dedicated group (if somewhat eclectic) and I wonder whether our wider cultural amnesia regarding faith will prevent this piece becoming the critical success it deserves. Yet, with love and careful acting it is clearly a fine piece with some moving writing. I can see it as something young groups of people, especially in schools and colleges, could seize upon as an entirely workable drama production with a thinking reflection on the nature of faith. I cannot see it becoming the basis of an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. Reading the full text after the performance I noticed that a number of stage directions and cuts were made (this is its second outing, initially staged at the Bear Theatre in London) – most pertinently the removal of the character of the young Inigo. It will be interesting to see what future directors make of this and hope we can look forward to a long and varied history of interpretation of this fascinating piece.