By Marguerite Cook

Nun and Art Historian
February 25, 1930 – December 26, 2017

On the feast of St. Stephen, a much loved Catholic Nun died. Sister Wendy Beckett became an art critic and TV presenter during the 1990s. Sister Wendy wrote numerous books, and Pope John Paul II commended her for giving a positive image to the church. Sister Wendy’s obituary in The Times said St.Thomas à Becket; the 12C saint and martyr was a distant ancestor of this popular nun. 

Sister Wendy Beckett never owned a television, although she presented TV programmes including Sister Wendy’s Odyssey, Sister Wendy’s Grand Tour and Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting. Sister Wendy was a TV natural and she was at ease speaking spontaneously without a script.

Sister Wendy became hugely popular on television. People became fascinated by her, especially when they learnt she was a hermit living in a mobile home in the grounds of a Carmelite Monastery in Norfolk. As a hermit, Sister Wendy prayed for many hours a day.

I had occasional correspondence with Sister Wendy, and just before Christmas, I received my last Christmas card from her. The card was unusual; a painting by an English artist; Mary Newcomb, who painted the Norfolk countryside. The painting was called Sun and Rain for the Lamb (1975). The picture was of a tiny black lamb, almost invisible, hidden in its mother’s fleece. Inside the Christmas card was a beautiful commentary from Sister Wendy:

“It was to bring this glory down to earth that the little lamb renounced His royal state in the heavens and came to live among us, as unprotected as any human baby ever was. From now until His final sacrifice and He moves back into His natural brightness, He will not only bring the glory of the Son to earth but will take us into it. We do not just see, but in Jesus, we live the Glory of God.”

Sister Wendy Beckett’s life and words demonstrated her deep love of God to so many people in the world. A holy lady who believed, “Jesus is the meaning of Christmas. He is its joy.”


Sun and Rain for the Lamb, by Mary Newcomb