The Society of St Margaret

The Priory of Our Lady, Walsingham

Dedication Festival 2020

Due to the Lockdown in force because of the Coronavirus we were unable to meet together for our Dedication Festival. However, the Sisters kept it privately on 10th May and Fr Frank Nichols, our chaplain, has written a sermon for you to read.

“God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and in truth”

On warmer mornings in late Spring my back garden has become my Church. I may not be allowed to enter the Priory Chapel whose dedication we celebrate today, but from my garden as I say my daily offices I can hear the Priory Chapel bell calling the Sisters to their Opus Dei, their work of prayer and praise to God. A bell which I took for granted as Walsingham background atmospherics has become for me an important reminder that the Sisters are at their daily task in the faithful praise of God.

During this painful pandemic time, as Christ’s people, we need the reassurance that there are those whose calling is to spend much of their day in praise and adoration. So in celebrating the dedication of the Priory Chapel we celebrate the faithful prayers of so many Sisters through so many years in the cleared Holy Space of the Priory Chapel.

So –probably in my back garden – I will sing a verse from my favourite Dedication Festival hymn:

“These stones that have echoed their praises are holy, And dear is the ground where their feet have once trod; Yet here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims, and still they were seeking the city of God” English Hymnal 208.

Jesus said (St John’s Gospel 4:24) “God is Spirit and those who worship must worship in spirit and in truth”

The Sisters will be cheered to know that all of us who would have been within their holy walls today are with them in prayer in spirit and in truth.

I first was privileged to worship in the Priory Chapel as an older teenager in the early 1960’s. By the invitation of their then Chaplain who was my parish priest, I served at a Profession Mass. I can remember that there were two significant differences to the fabric of the then Chapel.

First there were no small windows in the apse behind the High Altar. The Chapel may be the Sisters private Chapel, but it looks out on the world.

What happens at the Altar and in the regular recitation of the Divine Office is not simply a private matter for the Sisters, but an offering on behalf of the whole world, glimpsed through the small windows of the Apse. Those windows remind the Sisters and all of us that we are called to offer the Eucharist and all our prayer for the whole world. At this time of great fear and anxiety there is nothing more important we can do. Each of us, rather than moan about the boredom of lockdown, can deepen our faithful prayer on behalf of the world.

Second I notice that the great brick arch leading to the apse and the High Altar has been strengthened some years ago by a strong curved metal girder. I understand from the Sisters that there were signs of the brick arch weakening, and the metal girder support was needed.

I take the metal girder as a reminder that what goes on beneath it at the altar and in prayer provides through the grace of God the strengthening we need to seek the “City of God”

So I do not underestimate the importance of what goes on within this cleared Holy Space of the Priory Chapel.

Here in this quiet Chapel the work of the Shrine and the life of the Parish is richly blessed through the prayerful service of the Sisters.

Here in this quiet Chapel through the prayerful service of the sisters the world is strengthened and upheld.

So in our distant celebration of the Dedication Festival of this Chapel do join me in praying for an increase of vocations to the Religious Life in our Priory. It may even be that God is calling you to this life?

During this terrible time of suffering and fear I have been sustained by one simple belief: that even when the worst does happen, the promises of Christ do not fail.

The Priory Chapel reminds us of that essential truth about God’s loving dealing with the world and with the Church in Christ Jesus.

May Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the prayers of His Holy Mother, pour upon you the riches of His grace until you are able to return to worship with the Sisters in England’s Nazareth.