Cover of Dearest Sister Wendy: A Surprising Story of Faith and Friendship (2022, Orbis), a collection of letters between contemplative "art" nun Sister Wendy Beckett (1930-2018) and Robert Ellsberg, publisher of Orbis Books. Sr. Wendy prays for seven hours a day, has a love-hate relationship with Thomas Merton, and reminds us that the appropriate response to Donald Trump is to pray for him, as everyone wants to be loved.

Hello, people. I have been a little out of commission as of late, in large part due to a little situation with ground squirrels (oak trees don’t grow in Tucson so the squirrels here live underground) who made an extensive warren as it turns out directly beneath the floor of my bedroom, bathroom and office. And kind of made its/their way through the walls. Sleep was a teeny bit difficult, as was breathing normally, going about my day with a heart beating at the speed of a hummingbird, et cetera.

I had to clear out for a couple of nights, just to get my bearings, but after a visit from the guys who take care of such things, am back home, fingers crossed.

I know people deal with far worse situations, but I would beg your prayers.

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

Back in the 1990s, Sister Wendy Beckett (1930-2018), a contemplative nun and consecrated virgin, delighted audiences world-wide with her lively BBC documentaries on the history of art.

Born in Johannesburg, she joined a teaching order in 1946, and then earned a degree in English Literature at Oxford, graduating with highest honors.

After teaching in South Africa from 1954 to 1970, she suffered a physical and emotional collapse and was granted permission to return to England.

There she stayed for decades on the property of the Carmelite Monastery in Quidenham, Norfolk, first in a caravan; later in a small room. Her true vocation was to take place in silence and solitude. She prayed for seven hours a day.



  1. Lisa Porter says: Reply

    Prayers, as always, Heather.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks so much, Lisa–as always, I need them!

  2. St Francis of Assisi, please tell your friends to keep to their own domicile. Heather, that would have been VERY unnerving.

    What a lovely study in contrasts this book seems to be, and I marvel that you always seem to have one more treasure just waiting to be displayed for our edification. Sending prayers for a peaceful household!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Angela, the book really is fascinating–in more ways than I could even touch on in an 800-word piece. I’m still pondering the exchange a month after reading it…Sister Wendy is very funny, very deep…you feel she really comes to love Robert Ellsberg, and vice versa…

  3. Sonja Maierhauser says: Reply

    Bless you Heather! Furry friends can be not so friendly when they are NOT where they belong!!! Completely get it! Deep breaths and prayers on the way!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Exactly, Sonja! Out in the yard, delightful! In the inside wall and under the floor–not so much…

  4. Sonja Maierhauser says: Reply

    Also, dear Heather, what a sparkeling review! I am definitely putting it on my list!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      I’m still thinking about the book, and Sister Wendy’s distilled wisdom…well worth reading and pondering.

  5. Thanks Heather, I love everything you write! I’ve been watching those old Sr. Wendy videos on YouTube, and it has given me much pleasure. Thank you for the reminder.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Melanie, Sister Wendy is really something. She has a wicked sense of humor, very understated and dry, not least about herself. She lived this very physically confined, austere life–but as Emily Dickinson said, “The brain–is wider than the Sky”…especially when, along with the heart, it’s centered in Christ…I just read one of her books on art and it’s wonderful. So glad you’ve gone back to some of those old videos…timeless.

  6. Love! “I only love God as much as the person I love the least”….has not left my thoughts since I read….Thank you! dear Heather for reminding me!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Totally, Glenda–doesn’t THAT thought draw us up short! As Dorothy Day also said, “Love is the measure…” Blessings to you!