08 August 2019, The Tablet

Mercy and overwhelming love

Mercy and overwhelming love

Sr Mary David: ‘A literary quality that one would expect from a former professor of English’


Testament to a short life that bore great fruit

The Joy of God: Collected Writings
(Bloomsbury Continuum, 208 PP, £12.99)
Tablet bookshop price £11.69 • Tel 020 7799 4064

The last time I spoke with Sr Mary David, a member of the Benedictine community of St Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight, she told me how she had prayed in 2010 for my recovery from a cancer that is fatal more often than not. She had insisted that God show me mercy. As this book tells, a very short time later she was dead from the cancer from which she herself was suffering. The Rule of Saint Benedict says that length of days is given for amendment of life.

Sr Mary David’s life was shorter than mine. Clearly it did not need amending. The evidence for this has now been published.

The substance of these, her collected writings, takes the form of notes written to the novices at St Cecilia’s, often on the back of used Christmas cards, and her talks to them. This is in a sense a work of her whole ­community, since the sisters to whom the notes correcting their personal faults were written generously made them available, and Sr Elizabeth, who was first Sr Mary David’s novice and then, at the end, the infirmarian who cared for her, has arranged them ­skilfully into sections reflecting the progress of a soul.

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