The very walking stick or walking cane which St. Teresa of Avila, in Spain, used during her life time in the 16 Century has arrived in Nairobi, Kenya accompanied by a team. This is according to information made available to Vatican Radio’s English Service for Africa by CANAA. The walking stick is in a special container and has become a world-wide symbol of St. Teresa’s own spiritual journey, inviting pilgrims to continue walking with her
St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) is a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. Often in paintings, she is portrayed with a walking stick. The pilgrimage known as the "Way of Light" (Camino de Luz) was organised by the Discalced Carmelites to mark St. Teresa’s 500th birthday. The walking stick began its journey in Avila on 15 October 2014 (her feast day) and will end in Avila on 28 March 2015 (her birthday).
During her life time, St Teresa trekked throughout Spain as she went about founding new monasteries and convents as well as the Discalced Carmelite Order.
This week, the relic was taken in procession to the Nairobi-based Tangaza University College. The Principal, Father Steven Payne, a Carmelite told CANAA that from Tangaza University College the team with the walking stick would be driven to the community of Discalced Carmelite nuns in Tindinyo, Eldoret Diocese. Later they would continue onwards to Kisii Diocese before reaching Tanzania and eventually Madagascar.
The walking stick has so far been to Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Columbia, Mexico, USA, Australia and many other countries. Kenya is the first stop on the continent. Other African countries set to receive the walking stick, in Africa, include Tanzania, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Togo.
According to Father Payne, “The African part of the pilgrimage is especially significant because of St. Teresa's keen interest in the African missions and her enthusiastic approval of the plan that the first mission of her friars be in Africa (Kingdom of Kongo).”
Last Saturday, when the walking stick arrived in Kenya, the community of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Lavington, a Nairobi suburb, celebrated the 75th anniversary of the founding of their monastery.
John Cardinal Njue of Nairobi presided over the Eucharistic celebration, with Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan; Bishop Anthony Muheria of Kitui Diocese and Bishop George Cosmas Zumaire Lungu of Chipata Diocese in Zambia.
Hundreds of guests joined the Nairobi celebration. According to Father Payne, “During this pilgrimage, many who viewed and prayed with this "walking stick " that supported St. Teresa on so many of her travels have said that they felt somehow connected with this "restless and wandering nun" through this important symbol of her earthly and spiritual journey,” Father Payne said.
During her life time, St. Teresa had a number of visions. Through these visions, she is said to have come to realise that God wanted her to begin the reform of the Carmelite Order with a renewed spirit of detachment, charity and obedience. Her thoughts, prayers, teachings and her travels across Spain are documented in various writings. They can be found in writings such as "The Book of Life, The Way of Perfection," "The Interior Castle" and "The Way of Perfection."