‘Beautiful realities of Catholic faith’ inspire Carmelite artist

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Home > Media > News > ‘Beautiful realities of Catholic faith’ inspire Carmelite artist
‘Beautiful realities of Catholic faith’ inspire Carmelite artist

Stunning landscapes that ‘raise the soul to God’ will feature in a one-day exhibition of works by a Carmelite nun.

Sr Christina Mary of the Incarnation has prepared 18 works for the exhibition at the Carmelite Monastery in Launceston on May 5.

It marks the 20th anniversary of St John Paul II’s Letter to Artists and follows the 70th anniversary last year of the Carmelites in Tasmania.

“I choose images of the Tasmanian landscape that reflect what I see in my soul and where I meet God in prayer therein,” Sr Christina said.

“I choose landscapes that are beautiful and therefore conducive to raising the soul to God.

“When the viewer looks at my work I hope to convey the idea that they are looking at a window which simultaneously communicates my Catholic faith and is a vehicle through which I can pray for them.

“I have been humbled by the many people who have told me over the years of the peace, or sense of well-being, that my paintings have given them. In this I see that I have a responsibility to pray for these people so that it is truly God who is giving them these graces.”

Sr Christina, 46, grew up in an artistic family in the Melbourne suburb of St Albans where ‘our whole upbringing was characterised by art and faith’. Her father paints in his spare time, her mother is creative, and her three younger brothers are all professional artists. She has an honours degree in art from the Victorian College of the Arts.

“In December, 1996, during the university holidays, I went on a painting trip with my brother to Tasmania and a priest … [urged me to] visit this Carmel,” Sr Christina said.

Sr Christina applied to enter Carmel in the middle of her Honours year and entered a couple months after completion of her studies, in January, 1999.

“So art was integral to my journey to Carmel as much as it was to my life beforehand.”

For a time after she entered Carmel, Sr Christina was concerned that her art would distract and obstruct her from giving herself fully to God.

“However, the wonderful mercy of God was that both my novice mistress at the time, Sr Teresa, and the prioress, Mother Stephanie, recognised that God was working in and through my art and so they gave me permission to continue,” Sr Christina said.

“Also, I hadn’t been in Carmel for more than three months when Pope Saint John Paul II wrote his beautiful Letter to Artists and so I felt tremendously encouraged by the Church in my vocation.”

Art enables her to witness to ‘the beautiful realities of our Catholic faith’ while living as part of a prayerful community. As a member of an enclosed order, Sr Christina relies on photos, her imagination and the sky above the West Launceston monastery as references in creating her paintings. A depiction of the monastery gardens, entitled Morning Offering, is included in the exhibition along with 17 other Tasmanian landscapes.

“I feel so grateful to God for my family and the many people who have helped me and to God for the gift of my Carmelite vocation and allowing me to paint and draw here.
“Being a Carmelite, a Spiritual mother of Priests and of souls, and the Spouse of Jesus Christ is the real work of ‘art’ that I am doing with my life. Hopefully, this is a grace not only for me but for the whole Church and the world!”

The Prioress of the Carmelite Monastery, Mother Teresa Benedicta, said Sr Christina’s work continues a centuries-old tradition of nuns and monks involved in creative pursuits.
“All the Sisters are encouraged to develop their gifts in creative ways, which gives glory to God and is an extension of our prayerful pondering of the Word of God and the mysteries of Christ, and also provides relaxation and human flourishing in manifold ways,” Mother Teresa Benedicta said.

“Some Sisters have well-developed skills when they enter Carmel, such as Sr Christina with her painting, whereas others discover new and previously hidden talents after they enter.

“For me, it is one of the very rewarding aspects of being prioress to be able to encourage each Sister to nurture her talents and to help her place these gifts at the service of the Church and the wider community.”

Tasmanian Landscapes: An Exhibition of Original Oil Paintings will be held at the Carmelite Monastery in West Launceston on Sunday, May 5, from 12-2pm and 3.30-5pm. All works are for sale and commissions for new paintings are welcome.