Sister Wendy Beckett is the kind of teacher that could make you fall in love with any subject. She is endlessly endearing and adorable, incredibly knowledgeable, and contagiously passionate about art. Her almost youthful excitement is infusive.
Born in South Africa in 1930, Sister Wendy knew from an early age that she wanted to devote her life to meditation and reflection. After spending some years teaching at a girl’s school in South Africa, she returned to England, receiving a special papal dispensation to become a consecrated virgin. Since then she has lived in contemplative isolation, spending her days in almost complete silence. She lives in a trailer on the grounds of the Carmelite monastery in Quindenham in England, speaking only to the monastery prioress and the nun who brings her provisions each morning.
“My real world is a world away from bustle,” Sister Wendy notes. “Coming out into a world of travel and television is the unreal part, where sometimes I get glimpses of what I’ve left behind.”
I am unspeakably grateful to Sister Wendy for her willingness to occasionally re-enter the bustle of the media world. Her books and the series she did with the BBC are treasures and invaluable gifts in my life. Watching Sister Wendy is a lesson in gentle-hearted dedication and generosity. She is focused, intelligent, articulate, and completely unpretentious. She teaches us not only about art, but about living a passionate life. She loves stories, relishes drama, and directs our attention toward the smallest details that most people would overlook.
“He not only rescues her, takes her our of the humdrum into his world of wonder and excitement, but he twirls his hand and he makes a crown of stars for her. And in a way, isn’t that what the artist does? He saves us by taking us into the magical world he inhabits, twirls his finger and makes us stars.”-Sister Wendy on Bacchus and Ariadne.
“The interesting thing is that there’s no door. There is no way into this church. Even the windows are opaque. Now you can say logically, alright, the door is on the other side. But this is what he paints: a church that you can’t get into.”-Sister Wendy on The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise.