Sister Miriam Judith of the Holy Trinity 1938 - 2000
Anne Alfreda Maria Bernadette Campbell
1st April 1938 - 10th August 2000
A memory of faith
In silence slip away
May self, in silence, slip away,
as does the tide outgoing
and is lost
within the vastness of the sea;
to leave behind the clean, smooth sand
unmarred by footprints,
pure and chaste and infinitely simple:
until the tide of God's own love returning
sweeps in from off the ocean, breaking
all that is not perfect in this image
of his Son
until the clean, clear sand is covered,
made anew by wave on wave
which is the Spirit.
The wings of the Morning
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there thy hand shall lead me
and thy right hand shall hold me.
The Land of morning.
Where the dawn climbs golden over the hills
and down the quiet valleys
across the quiet land...
For all my days I put it in your hands, my God,
from whence it came...
Sr Judith's arrival in this world was in every way unexpected; between her and her two elder sisters there fell a gap of more than 10 years - and she arrived premature when her parents were "up country," at their "bache". Sister saw the light of day on the kitchen floor with the sole midwifely assistance of her father, on April Fool's day 1938. She was born, of course, in New Zealand.
Her grandfather and his brother, Campbells of Argyle from the Hebrides, had gone out to New Zealand in the gold rush. They had become prosperous settlers. Sr Judith's father, Charles Campbell was the Reuter Correspondent for New Zealand and deputy editor of the Wellington Times.
My Father was a Freemason and he was Grand Master of his Lodge, at one point. we were nominally Presbyterians, but we never darkened the door of the Church. As a child I was made to go to Presbyterian Sunday school, for a while - and I'm afraid I cordially loathed it. Somehow or other I got a very unfortunate view of religion. I thought they went to church to show off their hats, which was a very uncharitable summing up, but at the time it seemed to me a social thing only; I could see no spiritual depth in it.
Charles Campbell, though, according to his daughter, prone to relegate religion to the realms of psycho-analysis did retain one adherence to the then standpoint of Presbyterianism; a sharp distaste for anything Roman Catholic.
Praised be you, O my Lord, for gardens
and the old taupaita tree on the bank
and the cabbage tree palm.
Praised be to you, O my Lord, for the sea and the sky
for rhododendrons and ferns and the small, pale fuchsia
like a fairy tale tree.
Praised be you,O my Lord, for golden kowhai
and scarlet pohutukawa.
Praised be you, O my Lord, and blessed and exalted above all forever.
Praised be you, O my Lord, for thirteen thousand miles
and as many barefoot nuns.
Praised be you, O my Lord, for half a world away.
Praised be you, O my Lord, for four walls and four vows
to which make me faithful till death, Lord, in the far land.
Delicate and tiny, (she was under five foot) Anne Alfreda Maria Campbell, as her birth certificate called her, was a chronic asthmatic. This restricted her from such violent sports as playing the bagpipes (her sister, Faith, was in a pipe band, and she loved the pipes) and strengthened her early interest in books and in history. - One of her childhood hobbies was dressing dolls in period costume. The Campbells lived in the heights above Wellington, with three flights of steps up from the road. Apart from wonderful holidays with her cousins on Uncle Jack's farm, hers was a rather lonely, or at least, alone, childhood
As a child, I drifted into a sort of agnosticism, where I didn't know whether there was a God or not and felt it was quite irrelevant, and then it hit me once, one day - perhaps there was a God and perhaps it did all have meaning, so I got down on my knees in my bedroom and asked him, if he existed, could he kindly let me know - which he did!
She went to Wellington University to study English and History, and took the 1st "Credit", (in New Zealand you could do a degree, at that time, in separated pieces - since most students had to work their way through university). She went to Library School and got a job on the staff of the National Library.
At this point, with her father's encouragement, she was toying with Buddhism and rather fancied being a Buddhist nun.
I can't remember exactly how it started off but in the late fifties and early sixties, you know, Indian religions were very much the 'in' thing, so I suppose that was how I got on to Buddhism. I thought it had something that I did not think Christianity contained. I used to write to the Buddhist Society in London and brought a quantity of books on the subject, but I think in a way it was a bit above my head, and gradually I came to see it had no meaning for me, and finally I drifted out of it.
She also wrote a novel for which she could not find a publisher - to her subsequent relief. The desire to be a nun was planted in her before she had really encountered the Church.
It was a rather strange episode, I can't account for it to this day. We were standing around at the library and talking about our various aims and aspirations in life... and quite without premeditation - and why I said it I don't know - I said, "I want to be a Nun". That was the time of the great Buddhist phase, so I had visions of going off to Hawaii, or the east or somewhere...
Then a friend at the library gave her a Bible and her delicately constructed philosophies crumbled, and she wished she'd never seen the book!
It was my 21st Birthday and one of the girls at work - she was a very fervent Baptist! - gave me a very nice copy of the Bible. She put at the beginning of it just the reference 'John 14, 6'. And I looked this up, and it spoilt the present for me. The text was 'I am the way, the truth and the life, no one can come to the Father except through me." As I did not know Christ, or particularly want to know him at the time, this upset me very much. That was April 1st. By the 8th of June I was converted!
In a note, entitled 'Blessings', written in the back of a book Sister Judith later wrote further observations:
Friends, who saw I was seeking, took me to their churches. Found the Baptists "unco guid" - and aware of it, bless them. Thought Anglican as remote as the moon, even RC's seemed more homely! Completely fazed by local Catholic Church where Daphne took me. Two dreadful life size statues of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart of Mary. And Holy Communion looked like going to the market. Catholic friends off-putting - Daphne's husband Pat trotting out with "Extra ecclesiam nulla salus!" (No salvation out side the Church) Went to Auckland to visit the Theosophical Society... had enough sense to leave well alone!..
God, however, was not leaving it there, despite the stunning impact of inadequately lived Catholicism.
Within the silence of your heart
you bore your God.
His living presence was the light
which guided you upon your quiet way.
The simple household tasks -
the sewing, baking, spinning,
the journeys to the well,
were all transformed and seen anew
through other eyes;
the eyes of him you bore within you,
lighting up your way.
In this lies our salvation -
not the great things, not the splendour,
but the turning of the day's dross into gold;
through him who by his grace
lives in our souls.
I don't know how I came by it, but I had been reading one or two books about Lourdes. Bernadette was a very practical down to earth, common sense sort of person. You could not imagine her making anything up.... She simply told what had happened, no embroidery, no nothing - she never altered it. I was very impressed by her. I couldn't disbelieve her, yet if what she said was true then there must be something in Christianity. I didn't have any idea of the Virgin Mary at the time - I didn't even think she was a virgin! The whole thing didn't seem to hold together. Then on the 8th June I went to work in the morning saying: I can't believe this, and it was as if a voice said to me, 'Why can't you? - and I did! the world turned upside down and my whole outlook changed.
She knew that she would have to become a Catholic. She knew also that she could not become a Catholic and remain at home, and that it would hurt and humiliate her family in conservative, close-knit New Zealand if she removed herself to live in a flat. So she followed what is something of a New Zealand cliché, she opted for a visit to the mother country. They warned her that she would not like Britain - (she didn't, except the Hebrides and Edinburgh,) and that the climate would aggravate her asthma - (it did,) but she got on a boat and came.
Stranger and Pilgrim
The stranger is no longer strange,
and we are more at home with you
than we could be with anyone
and closer to you than ourselves.
For we have known you from the start,
but like the men upon the road
our eyes were held until this time,
and only now we realise
the gate of darkness was no gate
and we have entered in to find
that we have always been at home.
She got a job in a library at Brook Green and was instructed in the faith by Canon Heffernan of Holy Trinity Church. She was baptised on 31st October, 1960. When they heard the news, her parents severed all further connection and for a very long time there was no contact at all (a few days before her father's death Sister received a small crate of New Zealand butter, with a letter from him).
She still wanted to be a nun. As a teenager, she had had a fit of reading about nuns - mainly those who had left their orders. But epics like "The Nun's story" and "I leap over the wall" left her, curiously, with the conviction that their must be some happy nuns. So she began to look for them, and a copy of "A right to be merry", by the American Poor Clare Abbess, Mother Mary Francis of Roswell, came into her hands.
She had, of course, hoped to enter immediately, but it was the custom at the time, to make convert candidates wait for two years before reception. In the time of waiting and working, she was able to visit Lourdes and Nevers. Being able to see St Bernadette's relics - Bernadette was also tiny and also asthmatic - was a lasting inspiration to her
On July 1st 1962, she was received at Notting Hill Poor Clares by Mother Felix Clare Vaughan, (then, a very elderly lady). Sr Judith's health was frail, and the time spent in the English fog had aggravated her lung trouble. Some of the older sisters were reluctant to offer a chance to one who might prove unable to live a strenuous life in a house which did not boast of heating. Sister Judith always remembered with deep gratitude, Mother Felix's reply: "She may not be strong but it makes no difference to God whether one lives the life for a few years or for many, providing that one lives it with a whole heart".
Yes, well, I travelled about 13,000 miles to become a Catholic and a Poor Clare, and my poor mother when she heard the final news said, "Oh dear, she was always such a home body!" My father said (this was all related to me by friends afterwards) "I always knew if she became a Catholic she'd have to become a Nun!". Nothing like going to the dogs completely!
And if he came a beggar
and, smiling, said to me:
Come, lay your hand in mine, child,
for you belong to me."
Then, rising, I would follow
across the wide world's span;
I'd follow in the footsteps
of God, for us made Man
She received the religious habit on the 8th September 1963, and the name, Sr Mary Judith of the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Sacrament. Later, she asked to change the Mary to Myriam, out of reverence for Our Lady's roots in Judaism, and reduced her 'Mystery' to 'the Trinity'.
She made her first profession on August 5th 1964. Her final profession fell on the same day, three years later.
In 1970, the land upon which the Notting Hill house was built was seized by the London Council for building, and the community moved to Arkley, near Barnet, a suburb of London. Sr Judith served the community as portress, both at Arkley and until very recently, here at Hawarden.
I asked the Lord for morning
and he led me to the cross.
Before the Easter glory
comes the passion and the death.
You know the road, Lord;
you trod it to the end,
through desolating blackness
to the rising of the sun.
We follow in your footsteps,
holding fast your wounded hand.
If you lead we needs must follow
on unto the promised land.
During a time of growth and struggles which preceded our pilgrimage here, it was Sr Judith who, prophetically pointed a hand, as it were, to Hawarden, to which she came in 1982 with a group of sisters from London, to rebuild this community.
Because of her lung complaint, she had never been able to sing, but suddenly, as a gift from the Lord, she took to composing music with the aid of her recorder and glockenspiel. This produced such Ty Mam Duw hit pieces as "The Grey Mists of Morning", "The Celtic Rosary", "Father Francis Singing", "The Lord has carried you", and the Celtic Mass. Texts which were not direct quotations from Scripture, were taken from her own considerable output of poetry. Her music has a typically wild, Celtic Twilight sound.
Apart from the lyrics of her songs she produced many plays and poems which the community greatly enjoyed. Having arrived on Welsh soil, she set herself to learn Welsh. Despite being a New Zealand Scot, she became a devoted Welsh Nationalist, and the troubled history of our country and its language was dear to her. She took it as a personal insult that the government changed the Welsh name of our county back from Clwyd to Flintshire, shires having been invented by that dire invader of Wales, King Edward I.
She took Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Welsh, Prince of Wales as her hero, writing a children's book about his life in the "Lion of Gwynedd", and a sequel about his wife, Eleanor.
As her personal preparation for the Millennium she wrote a New Testament novel, "Nahum's Town" which we finished in the refectory shortly before her death. As Sister Agatha said, "It was her "swan song."
The Road to Paradise
The road to Paradise is a path of pain.
And he left his blood on the path like stars.
O wounded feet! O wounded hands!
And the side pierced through!
O Lord of life and of death and beyond
and we stumble but somehow go on
In the spring of 1999, she went to hospital for a priority operation for cancer of the bowel. The operation was not completely successful, though the chemotherapy seemed for a time, to be working. In late July, when Sister went for a check-up, our doctor explained that there was no more that medicine could do.
We love each other very much as a community and somehow, we had never thought of being parted. Our unconscious desire has probably been to be carried off together by an earthquake. When Sr Judith was first seriously ill we all felt a sense of fear. But when it came to the reality, we shared her sense of peace and serene joy.
Canon Quigley anointed her, in choir with Sr Ruth and Sr Clare. It was the last time Sr Judith was able to come to Mass.
Nurses came from the various hospitals in which she had spent time, to say goodbye to her and to share what having met and nursed her had meant to them. Sister was nursed in our own infirmary, by Sr Agatha (who was a Nurse by profession) and by Sr Elizabeth with Sr Amata. The night nursing - sister was never alone - Sr Agatha and Mother Francesca shared between them. All remember her beautiful smile as they helped her. The Nurse and our Doctor came daily, and we received wonderful help from our medical centre.
Sister became, by degrees, unable to eat. She withdrew gently, inside herself in a very beautiful silence, to prepare to meet Jesus. This was not, as our district nurse pointed out, due to the sedation that she was receiving, but was her choice, or her response to the Lord's invitation. This began on the feast of the Portiuncula, August 2nd. Benefactors of our Community had brought a little statue of St Clare from Assisi which was placed beside her bed with a white orchid, the gift of Marianne.
August 5th was her profession day and she again received the sacrament of anointing with us all present, after which we all renewed our vows in her behalf, at her bedside.
We prayed and read scripture in her infirmary room in what seemed like a nonstop prayer meeting. As we prayed we were aware that in some way God offered her a free choice to follow him whether by living or by dying - and that the choice was hers alone. After her anointing on the morning of her profession day, her heart rate slowed to a virtual stop, and it seemed death would be a matter of minutes. But strangely, she recovered and seemed until the morning of the 10th, to be almost like a person in an ordinary sleep, except that her face slowly changed, and became at he same time both younger yet in some unique way more womanly and mature.
Come at Compline, Lord
Will you come at Compline, Lord,
and take my soul
far out as goes the the wave upon the sea?
Will the foam break white and clear
upon that distant shore,
when I go with you, my God, into that far
O Lord, whom I have loved
with all my heart
and who has been so gracious unto me;
when the ebb becomes flood-tide,
when evening comes,
O come to me, my God, O come to me.
On the morning of the tenth of August, this change intensified and her face became as pale as ivory and utterly transfigured by an inner radiance. She looked very young and very royal and we no longer recognised the person we had once known.
It was the vigil of the feast of our Holy Mother St Clare. Since dear Mother would not be able to be at Matins in choir at midnight, we had arranged to sing Matins, early, in Tabor, the room next to Sr Judith's. The community came round the infirmary through the garden, bringing the Blessed Sacrament and singing "Wake, 0 wake with tidings thrilling... the bridegroom comes, awake. In Tabor we placed our lanterns round the Monstrance and sang the Office, at what was really the hour for Compline. After dear Mother had read the Gospel and brought the Gospel book round for us all to kiss, she took it next door for Sr Elizabeth to venerate and laid it on Sr Judith's heart She did the same with the Monstrance, laying it gently against Sister's lips, before handing it back to Sr Damian.
We returned to choir, as we had come, singing, in the soft grey evening the words of Mother Clare:
O holy Poverty, O blessed poverty,
to those who find her
heaven is gained
where Christ in glory reigns.
The awesome radiance that surrounded Sr Judith intensified, if that was possible. Sr Elizabeth helped Sr Agatha prepare sister for the night and they recited the Litany of the Franciscan Saints. It was about nine o' dock. A tear slowly formed under the corner of one eye, and then tears rolled down Sr Judith's face. Sr Elizabeth wished them good night and went to bed.
Dear Mother and Sr Agatha sat either side of Sr Judith. At about 9.10 her face again puckered up like that of a little child when it is about to cry, and tears poured down her cheeks. They prayed the Lord's prayer. Again, a third time, the tears ran down sister's face. Then Dear Mother said the prayer of commendation to our Lady:
Help, Mary, it is time.
Mother of Mercy you are mighty to deliver us
from all our tribulations and anxieties
for where human help fails, yours is not lacking.
Show yourself a Mother when pain is at its worst.
Help Mary, it is time.
Help, Mother of Mercy.
Sr Agatha looked up and said "She's gone." In the minutes that followed the transcendence slowly faded from Sr Judith's dead face, and she became recognisable as the person we had always thought we knew.
As we have said, we had wonderful support from our local medical centre in Buckley. But the Doctor who came to sign Sister's Death Certificate was unknown to us. Mother told him of her tears, and he said, moved, "She was weeping with gladness to see her Saviour, and with sorrow to leave you, her sisters."
The nurse came, and wept. The community came in to see her the following morning laid out in her habit with a crown of flowers (and wept) . The Undertaker came to measure her for her coffin; even he wept.
But there is nothing to cry about.
The wounded hands of Jesus,
outstretched, to me entreat,
who, running, fall before him
to kiss his wounded feet.
So, barefoot, as a beggar,
may I thy bride, Lord, be.
I lay my hand in thine, Lord,
for I belong to thee.
The autobiographical material:
from a short note titled On My Conversion, and from the transcript of an interview which Sister gave for the BBC Open Space series.
from an unpublished manuscript volume of Sr Judith's poetry.