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The Priory of Our Lady – Newsletter Advent 2019
Dear Friends and Associates,
The year has raced by and the temperature has plummeted in spite of a lot of hot air emanating from Westminster! At least there is a change of topic on the news from Brexit to Election … but one tires of clever people stating their opinions and telling us what they think is going to happen. We live in a topsy-turvy world where the ‘name, shame and blame’ culture results in the headline news seeming to specialise in the latest scandal concerning a public figure, with frequent follow-ups. But then that is nothing new and has continued in one way or another since the time of the Fall as recorded in the book of Genesis chapter 3. It now always takes a while to find any follow-up concerning a natural disaster or other major event in the developing countries of our world. Of course we hold the situation in this country, and elsewhere, in our prayer and, as Christians, our greatest prayer and desire is that all should come to know and serve our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, with an emphasis on His being the Servant King. The Christian ethos of our country is rather submerged nowadays, but our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth leaves us in no doubt about her strong faith as she broadcasts her Christmas message.
Chapel: The rhythm of our prayer life continues throughout the year with the five-fold Office, Mass and Exposition, each day starts with the Office of Readings at 7am and finishing with Compline at 7:30pm. It is always lovely to have individuals or groups join us for either the Offices or Mass, and we have had several groups using our chapel either for their own intercessions, or their own Office including St John’s Guild for the blind. Associates are, of course, encouraged to join us in chapel while they are visiting Walsingham, while local Associates are expected to join us on a regular basis.
The Society of St Margaret is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, however when we were founded in 1855 by J.M. Neale, there was a great feeling against anything which sounded too ‘Catholic’ and so J. M. Neale decided to call us the Society of St Margaret: St Margaret of Antioch being a Virgin Martyr and he wished his Sisters to imitate her in giving their whole life to God. As part of our dedication to the Holy Name we celebrate the commemoration of it on the first available Tuesday in every month with the Offices and Mass being of the Holy Name. We also say the Litany of the Holy Name before Mass each day. The Litany has lots for us to meditate on starting with the titles setting out His glorious attributes, e.g. Jesus, Son of the living God; Jesus, most perfect, Jesus, most glorious etc. . Then leads us on His titles setting out His virtues which we are to try to imitate, e.g. Jesus, most humble; Jesus, most poor; Jesus, most gentle.......It then goes on to titles setting out the different relations in which He stands to us e.g. Jesus, lover of souls; Jesus our refuge; Jesus, father of the poor.......It then takes us through titles setting out His relation to the different ranks of the saints e.g. Jesus, joy of the angels; Jesus, king of the patriarchs; Jesus, theme of the prophets......We then ask Him to deliver us from all evil, all peril, the snares of the devil etc. and finally on to the Mysteries of His life e.g. His Incarnation, Advent, Nativity..... It finishes with the most wonderful collect: ‘Father, you have made the glorious name of Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord, most dear to your faithful people, and most terrible to evil spirits. Make us aware of his living presence here and fill us with joy as we behold is glory.’
Associates are encouraged to say the Litany daily and the Holy Name is one of three Community festivals which they are asked to observe, the other two being Corpus Christi and St Margaret’s Day. With this in mind we are inviting local Associates to join us for Solemn Vespers of the Holy Name followed Benediction on 3rd Jan at 3pm, there will then be a chance to relax and enjoy a cup of tea and cake together.
Updates: Our Chaplain, Fr Adrian Ling retired from office at the end of August after guiding and supporting us for five years, and we are happy to say that he is remaining as one of our Trustees. Fr Frank Nichols nobly agreed to ‘take up the baton’ and our Visitor, Bishop Peter Wheatley, commissioned him as Chaplain at Mass on 20 September.
Sister Mary Teresa remains in Care at Chiswick and is bright and chirpy some of the time, remembering accurately and with pleasure things we’d done together some thirty years or so ago. But then she suddenly gets anxious and agitated and doesn’t know where she is or what she had for dinner. Such is the scourge of dementia. We are grateful for the loving and excellent care she receives from our Sisters and the staff at Chiswick. She is able to attend Mass most days in her recliner wheelchair.
Sister Alma Mary had remained relatively unchanged in health for a long time, but went into a sudden four day decline, dying peacefully in Dorrington House at lunchtime on Tuesday 26 November 2019 – we arrived just five minutes afterwards. She was anointed on the Saturday and was visited by her niece, nephew and great-niece on the Sunday. We are very grateful and touched by the numerous messages of condolence that we have received – many via Social Media, including those from old girls of St Agnes School, East Grinstead where Sister Alma was a much-loved House Mistress.
Sister Columba does admit to struggling a bit (at the age of 93!) but continues to look after herself in her ground-floor flat in Aberdeen and maintains the daily rhythm of prayer and worship. She still attends Mass in St Margaret of Scotland Church in the Gallowgate – the church founded by Fr John Comper (father of Sir Ninian), helped by our first Sisters to travel north of the border. They went from East Grinstead in 1862 and established the Convent in 1863.
Sister Mary Angela is much better, though not 100%, and manages all but the 7.00am Office of Readings in Chapel. Sister Carol Elizabeth keeps busy with parish, children’s and youth work as well as looking after the Priory Sacristy and Chapel, and all guests in the Cottage and House.
Prisca, our cat, remains timid and disappears if anyone other than Sisters Angela and Carol comes in. She delights in bringing us ‘presents’ – usually deceased – and performs her beautiful acrobatic ballet as she tosses the little furry creature around before supplementing her diet … not the best accompaniment to eating breakfast!
Associates: We are sorry to report the deaths of Mrs Anne Watts, a former St Michael’s Guild girl at Haggerston, on 3rd July 2019; Mr Richard Allen in November 2019.
We were delighted to receive Dr Jill Whawell as an Associate on 18th July 2019. She has been part of the ‘team’ that has worked like Trojans to help us get everything ready for the Dedication Festival, especially the buffet, for the past three years.
Guests: As always our guest cottage has been well used over the summer months and, thanks to legacies left to us, the outside window frames and doors have recently been painted. Since the Guest area in the Priory was decorated at the beginning of the year, the seven rooms there have also be put to good use with at least one of the rooms in use nearly all the time for the last six months. It has been good to have them all full recently with some of the Little Sisters of Jesus staying here in retreat, their retreat addresses being given in our Conservatory, and it was lovely to have a dozen of them joining us for Morning and Evening Prayer each day.
Our guest cottage is available throughout the year for anyone to stay in. It has three twin rooms and is fully equipped for self-catering, the Julian room, which is the single ground floor annex is also available and is especially suitable for those who find stairs difficult. The seven rooms in the Priory are available for Priests, Deacons, Religious, our Associates and close family and are suitable for those in retreat or wishing to have a quiet time away. For more details contact Sr Carol (email@example.com or 01328 820 340).
Charity of the Year: As many of you will know we sell greeting cards and gifts, many of which are handmade, in aid of a different charity each year. These are sold in both our Cloister and in the Green Room at the Shrine. This year our charity has been the Kings Lynn Winter Night Shelter for which we have raised over £1250. We would like to thank all those who helped by donating cards and gifts for us to sell. We change over charities at the beginning of Advent and we will be supporting Tariro, a small charity that raises money to support orphans or young people whose one parent can’t look after them anymore. They support between 45 and 50 young people in Zimbabwe, supporting them through school and then with further education or practical projects until they are able to stand on their own two feet.
What I Did On My Pilgrimage 2019: Fr Andreas spoke one Sunday afternoon about each of us writing our own script with the above title. What I can say is that my script is definitely different for a week spent in Walsingham in October 2019.
It all started when I received the June Priory Newsletter. Somebody had a bright idea about combining a stay in Walsingham with crafting and the invitation read: ‘Guests will be able to spend time relaxing and making cards and goods to sell on the stall for our Charity of the Year, the Kings Lynn Winter Night Shelter’. I make cards so this enticing offer didn’t need much thinking about. My deposit was in the post the following morning and weeks later, in the days leading up to departure, I put a whole assortment of items I thought may be useful into bags to take with me. In the end I set off with the car boot full – 3 bags of craft stuff and 1 bag of other essentials such as clothes and toiletries. Crafters among the readers will recognize this ratio!
Within seconds of arriving, the door to St Margaret’s Cottage opened and the friendly face of a fellow crafter greeted me. What a relief: partly because I didn’t have to negotiate the key box to get in and partly because it was clear that I had met a kindred spirit. Over coffee and cake in the Conservatory I learned that Dianne and Sandy had also signed up to be resident crafters. Joan & Veronica from the village came for a great proportion of the time and Sisters Carol and Angela joined us at several points each day. Things rapidly got underway as we rooted through the kind and generous donations of craft resources which had arrived at The Priory in recent weeks, as well as boxes of things which had been in storage, waiting to be used. Before very long, we had spread across the window sills, the tables and most of the chairs. Crafters will recognize this scenario too!
I put together my photo cards of the Shrine church and gardens, Dianne and Sandy entered the mysterious world of beads and knots to make rosaries and single decade rosary key rings under some very comprehensive tuition from Sister Carol. Among other things, Dianne stitched lots of ‘a cross in your pocket’ and key fobs with crosses on. Joan had some lovely items with tiny beads, again for key rings, and was also busy with lavender bags. Veronica made her way through a large box of used Christmas cards, to make new cards on very attractive frames and borders. Sister Carol embroidered some very pretty lavender bags and Sister Angela knitted with great concentration. We shared our skills, resources and ideas and very soon it was as though we’d all known each other a very long time. We also shared a lot of laughter and fun. Despite the ‘week’ being planned to finish on Friday morning, we carried on and made the most of two extra nights (and days) Dianne and I had booked weeks before, albeit unknown to each other. At the beginning, we found some resources which we used to make ‘I’m a Crafty Pilgrim’ or ‘Crafty Sister’ badges. These began as rather a joke, but actually proved to be a bit of an inspiration as several pilgrims in the refectory asked us about them and came to see what we had been doing. They all bought items without too much arm twisting!! We also realized that we were being tracked by readers of the Priory Facebook page, who were enjoying Sister Carol’s photos of us hard at work. Dianne and I had a brief foray into Fakenham on Saturday lunch-time but other than that, we kept drifting back to our Crafting Cave (or Conservatory) to do just a bit more, finish this or that item, develop an idea for something else etc. Photographs of us working and our ‘display’ of completed items at the end can be seen on the Priory web-site.
Alongside this hive of industry, we three residents managed the Pilgrimage ministries and devotions. Hurrah for getting the added bonus of three processions: Wednesday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon! A hugely special part of the few days was attending the Offices and daily Mass in the Priory Chapel. This was not an expectation, but Sandy, as an Associate, and Dianne and I felt they were opportunities not to be missed. How right we were and how grateful we were for Sister Carol’s help and gentle encouragement to be on the right page at the right time! It was fitting and proper that time for quiet, prayer and worship timetabled the days and I can honestly say these times were an honour and privilege to be part of. In total contrast, reports of us being the noisiest and jolliest table in the refectory at lunch-times may have been exaggerated (or maybe not ...!)
I thought the few days would be right up my street; that I’d enjoy all it had to offer and I’d no doubt meet some lovely people. How very true it all turned out to be and the Kings Lynn Winter Night Shelter is a very worthy cause. ‘What I Did On My Pilgrimage’ will stay as a hugely memorable part of 2019 and I look forward to hearing the date for 2020.
A very Happy Christmas with Peace and Joy during 2020
Please note: The Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany (6 January 2020) is being celebrated in our Chapel. Thereafter no Masses will be celebrated in our Chapel on Mondays as we have a free day.
Priory of Our Lady, Bridewell Street, Walsingham, Norfolk NR22 6ED.