Sr. Mariam of the Holy Spirit, OCD

I was born in Hamilton, New Zealand, in 1942, of Kiwi parents being the third of five children. At that time everyone was suffering on account of World War II. Shortly afterwards, my Dad was sent to the Solomon Islands, a little after the decisive battle of Guadalcanal, and was away until the end of the war.

I knew nothing of God in those days. My parents and family were very good people. My grandmother, who had a strong, very lovely character, was a Theosophist. My mother had a staunchly Presbyterian upbringing, but had long since ceased to attend Church. My father styled himself a freethinker, and did not wish any of his children to be led astray into religious superstition. So life, death and God were largely a question mark in my mind. Real atheists are few, and I could not look at the beauty and wonder of God's creation, and not sense that "there must be Something!" Also, I sometimes read my Mum's big family Bible. The hymns we learned at the State school I attended gave me a taste of what it meant to love and worship God. Quiet and solitary moments, especially in the bush, on hills, or by the sea were times of awareness of I know not what - who is there who has never felt tangibly sometimes the presence of God?

I was very far from being a saint, and vivid realization of my sinfulness and accountability was the first grace which brought me conversion. Like St. Augustine, I was alone, and reading a book, when it happened. "Believe ye in the Father, who heaven and earth hath created, and in Him who redeemed it, the Son, and the Spirit wherein both are united??" were the words that hit home and transformed me. I knew and believed in God, as surely and securely as if I were built on a rock. Then the fun began! I did not dare attend a Church at first,but listened with earphones to Church services on the radio. Later, I attended Baptist, then Presbyterian and Anglican services. I had a great longing to attend Mass, but knew no Catholic friends who would take me. I had been greatly impressed and influenced by a Catholic boy who worked in the same office, but he married and moved out of town.

At 17 years of age, I moved with my sister to Hamilton, to be with my ageing grandparents. This meant I had more freedom, and it was there that I met Jean. She was about 20 years older, and belonged to the Legion of Mary. She took me to attend Mass, and I took to the Catholic faith, as a duck to water. My vocation sprang up almost at once, before I entered the Catholic Church. I made friends with a Sister of Our Lady of the Missions, but the Order that attracted me was the Carmelites, because it was so radical and prayerful. On the occasion of my first Christmas Midnight Mass, about a week after my baptism, I said my "Yes" to Jesus promising to do my best to enter the Carmelites. Within about 2 weeks I made my first visit to the Carmelite Monastery in Auckland. Sister Canisius was friendly and encouraging, but told me that converts to Catholicism had to wait 3 years before entering religious life. So I waited for those long 3 years to pass, studied law, and carried on with life. It was a time of growth, and proved to me and to others that my resolve was not a passing moment of religious fervour, but a genuine call from God.

Finally, I entered as a postulant, and stepped into a new and different world, where God and the exigencies of a prayer life take first place. It seemed like an oasis of faith, in a desert of secularization. I was happy, in spite of the hardships of our way of life. My sophistication fell off, and I enjoyed the smallest joys God sent my way, like watching the dew sparkling in the sunshine, or listening to the tuis very early in the morning, at prayer time. Like all nuns, I was formed and educated in prayer, and the things of God. Then came the lovely day when I was clothed in the Carmelite habit, followed a year later by my vows of Religious Profession - poverty, chastity and obedience for 3 years. Then at last I made Solemn Profession of Vows, my definitive commitment as a bride of the Lord. It was the end of a journey, and the beginning of one which will end in heaven, where we will love God madly, without end. What does it matter, in the meantime, if anyone thinks us mad to throw away our lives. Jesus has loved us, and given His life for us, and anything we can give Him with gratitude seems a very small thing - to Him be glory forever!

Sr. Mariam of the Holy Spirit, OCD