The idea of creating a prayer journal for Catholic teachers, came from my delight at how successful the pilgrimage of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux was, around the eight Dioceses of Scotland. The Catholic faithful of Scotland had turned out in their droves in every Diocese to venerate the relics, in what was described by Sr Teresa, the Prioress of the Dumbarton Carmel, as ‘a spiritual revolution!’ So when the physical journey of the relics around the country was over, I thought it would be a missed opportunity, if some kind of lasting legacy in education, was not attempted. After coming up with the idea of creating a prayer journal for teachers, I consulted my two Carmelite friends, Sr Marie Helen Mills and Sr Allain Docherty, for their advice and as they both approved, I decided, in true Glaswegian style to ‘go for it!
I am a seasoned pilgrim and devotee of the Camino de Santiago and I think the idea of linking this journey with the journey of the relics and the journey of the school year, was the intercessory work of St Therese, from her seat in heaven, prompting the Holy Spirit to work in me.
I have taught Religious Education at secondary school level for thirty five years and it has been a roller coaster journey of great highs and lows… at times fun and rewarding, at other times, fraught and perilously difficult! Over these years I have participated in many curricular developments and have experienced first-hand, the stress and strain associated with this work. It was therefore my intention to produce a spiritually uplifting resource for teachers that would be life-giving, nourishing and nurturing of their vocation, as Catholic teachers.
As I journeyed with the relics throughout Scotland, I couldn’t help but notice the scenes of deep devotion everywhere. I think the greatest example of this was seen in Barlinnie prison, where 90 prisoners celebrated Mass, before venerating the relics with the Carmelite Sisters and Archbishop Tartaglia of Glasgow. When the pupils in my school watched these events on ‘youtube’ they were silent, respectful and hugely impressed.
I have included in the Journal, photographs taken either inside or outside the eight Cathedrals, in the hope of awakening consciousness of these cultural treasures, as they are strategically positioned across our country. It is important that teachers have an appreciation of their rich Christian inheritance, so they can hand it on to the children they teach.
As a school teacher I have looked beyond Scotland for inspiration for my teaching and many years ago, in response to an inward yearning, I began to research the three great Carmelite Doctors of the Church, St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross and St Therese of Lisieux. From this I tried to engage the pupils I taught in the life stories of these saints, in the hope they would become interested in the spiritual legacy they have left behind. As St Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “People are hungry especially the young. They are hungry for God and you are here to satisfy that hunger.”
I came up with the idea of linking the journey of the relics with my parishes walking pilgrimage to Santiago, as I thought the contrasting colourful photographs from Scotland and Spain would brighten up the Journal and attract teachers to the Camino. I am a member of the Confraternity of St James in London and am always on the lookout for ways of promoting the pilgrimage to Santiago! “Linking the ‘pilgrimage’ of St Therese’s relics to Scotland with the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage (the Little Way meets the Big Way!) and the ‘journey’ of the school year was an inspired idea. The resulting reflections, meditations, prayers and photographs are very well chosen and beautifully woven together.” Charles Mc Ghee (former editor of the Glasgow Herald and the Evening Times)
As the Scottish pilgrims have ventured out onto the Spanish countryside along the Camino, I have sensed a certain missionary zeal about them, which I’d like to think St Therese, patroness of the missions, would approve of! We invite fellow pilgrims, villagers and residents from the towns and cities along ‘the way’, to join us in our daily cycle of prayer. We bring with us a little prayer book from which we recite morning, evening and night prayer and led by our Parish Priest, Fr Michael Kane and Fr Liam O’Connor (Parish Priest of St Mary’s, Cleland and St Aidan’s, Wishaw), we celebrate Mass in the Churches and Cathedrals every day we pass through. Our days soon settle into a familiar pattern of prayer, companionship and celebration.
Of course the main lesson from the Camino is not confined only to the experience at the time, but to what the fruits of the journey are, when we return home. We hope that the pilgrimage has made us more welcoming towards strangers, more generous in sharing our resources, more inclusive and compassionate pilgrim people.
As a Lay woman I have had the advantage of working and living closely with several Religious Orders, namely the Carmelite Sisters, the Sisters of Notre Dame, the Society of Jesus and the De La Salle Brothers and have gleaned from them a huge array of prayers, reflections, hymns and meditations, over the years. By placing some of these into the Journal, I intended to highlight the outstanding contribution these Christ-Centred men and women have made towards the teaching profession and the promotion of the Catholic faith in Scotland.
As the journey of the school year blends in quite naturally with the Liturgical year, teachers have a unique opportunity to catechise, evangelise and educate the young people in their care. I hope the Journal will be a useful resource in this regard.
Bishop John of Paisley said:
“I have now had the opportunity to have a good look through your wonderful ‘Little Way of Prayer and Reflection for Catholic Teachers’ and I can only commend it sincerely. It offers interesting prayers and reflections from our treasury of saints and engaging prayers to end the page, and it accompanies us through the Liturgical and devotional moments of the year. Catholic teachers might spend only a minute or so to benefit from the grace of one reflection, or they could pass half an hour in meditation on the same page…”
When I first discussed the idea of producing the Journal with my Spiritual Director, we agreed that, even if it only helped one teacher, it would have been worthwhile. I am happy to report that several hundreds of copies have been circulated and the feedback has been enthusiastic and positive. I would like to thank Sancta Familia Media for promoting the Journal on their website.
I hope that the Journal will be a source of prayerful support and nourishment to anyone, regardless of status in life and implore St Therese of Lisieux to pray for us.
Eileen M Campbell lives and works in her home town of Coatbridge, where she has spent the majority of her career, teaching RE at secondary school level. She has a BA in Religious Studies an an MEd in Psychology. In additon to this she was a keen amateur footballer for 18 years and a seasoned Pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago. She organisesher Parishes Camino, which she hopes to complete, God willing, in the Holy Year 2021!
If anyone would like to purchase a copy of her Journal, please email her at:
She is requesting a donation of £5 per Journal, the proceeds of which will go to the Carmelite Sisters in Scotland.