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Newsletter June 2017
We live in a very troubled and divided world with countless people experiencing much suffering, distress and anguish through war, terrorism, drought, famine, disease, and natural disasters – the ‘litany’ seems endless as we hear the plight of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. In recent weeks we have experienced the two terrorist attacks in London, the bombing at the Manchester Arena and now the appalling fire of the tower block in North Kensington. There is such a huge loss of life and the question forms: ‘Where is God in all these situations?’ He is, of course, right there in the midst of everything, suffering with each one (cf. the Parable of the sheep and goats: Matthew 25:31-46). As Christians we live with a constant tension between the temporal – that which we see and experience physically – and the eternal – that which we experience with the eyes of faith and know in our hearts to be the reality of the Kingdom. This was very obvious in Walsingham when we participated in the Archbishops’ initiative ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ between Ascension and Pentecost, particularly during the forty-hour Watch before the Blessed Sacrament in the Shrine Church and the Ecumenical Vigil of Prayer in St Mary’s Church.
Chapel: The basis of our life is our daily prayer and everything that we do flows from it. As Sisters we say the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Midday Office, Vespers and Compline together in chapel as well as participating in our daily Mass. We also have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament daily with Benediction every Thursday after Mass. These set times of prayer are only a small part of our prayer life, with Sisters doing at least 1½ hours of private prayer a day, ½ hour of which must be in front of the Blessed Sacrament. We also set aside at least ½ hour a day for Spiritual reading.
It is always lovely to have people join us for these important parts of our life here at the Priory, whether is it joining us for one of the Offices, taking a part in the Exposition watch or attending Mass with us. If you are not used to saying the Offices, don’t worry, books are always available with the pages marked for you, or you are welcome to just sit and listen and take in the atmosphere of prayer. After Mass there is a chance to join us for coffee and a chat in our conservatory. Our chapel is open every day from 6:30am until the end of Compline for anyone to use for a time of quiet prayer. Whether you live locally or are on pilgrimage to Walsingham why not drop in and jon us? Our time table can be found on the Services page.
Please note that we have a half day on Mondays and so we are not available after midday and the Offices of Vespers and Compline are not said formally in chapel.
Another change to our daily life has been that we are now having our main midday meal in the Shrine refectory giving us a chance to meet and sit and chat with pilgrims while we eat. (Sr. Carol)
Associates: Your regular prayerful support helps us to keep on keeping on, and that cloud of prayer is increasing as we have eight men and women preparing to be received as Associates around St Margaret’s Day this year – some of you will be invited to assist with preparations for the Festival!
It is with sadness that we record the deaths of Associates Fr. Malcolm Gray, Mr William Hurworth, Mrs Prudence Williams and Mrs Barbara Mannall, assuring their families and friends of our love and prayer.
Updates: Sister Teresa remains in Care at Chiswick. The operation on her broken right arm last December was not successful as her bones are very thin and fragile, and natural healing is insufficient for her to put pressure on the arm – a mid-June clinic appointment showed no improvement over the previous three months – thus she continues to need more care than is possible here. Sadly, a brain scan reveals the changes of early dementia but she remains her positive, buoyant self and loves chatting with visitors and receiving phone calls (direct line 020 3815 9517).
Sister Alma is well in herself, but her Alzheimer’s has progressed such that the level of care required was more than could be provided at Rebecca Court, Heacham so she was transferred to Courtenay House, Tittleshall on February 14 – it is also a lovely place and is half the distance to travel! We manage to visit twice most weeks, Sister Carol usually taking the Sacrament midweek, and we now have a list of local people (and some pilgrims from further afield) who kindly drive her there – two with dogs that enjoy saying hello to all the residents! Sister Angela currently drives herself each Sunday afternoon; Sister Alma’s nephew and niece, from Essex and London, have also visited and are delighted with the new place.
Sister Columba admits to being a little frail and forgetful (at 90 years), but continues to live her disciplined life in her Aberdeen flat. This coming St Luke’s Day she will have been professed 50 years.
Alongsiders: This year we have started a new venture as a way of exploring the development of our life here in Walsingham – women living alongside us for a week or two at a time, joining in our life of prayer and the daily routine as well as Shrine and Church services that we attend. We meet for an hour each afternoon to talk about our way of life, our stories and aspirations … and await the promptings of the Holy Spirit for the next step of each of us. Three women have come separately since Easter: please pray that we may all have the grace of discernment; also for our Visitor Bishop Peter and Sister Margaret Theresa SLG making a Visitation here at the end of July.
Pilgrimage: On Monday 13th Feb, Sisters Angela and Carol set off on a pilgrimage of a life time to the Holy Land. Neither had ever been before and our Trustees had decided that it would be a good experience for us. The pilgrimage was led by Bishop Lindsay with Fr Adrian assisting him.
Below I have written some reflections on our pilgrimage:
‘As we tread in the footsteps of Jesus, we journey not only in time and place;
from the Basilica of the Annunciation to the tomb.
From the silent, empty wilderness,
To the noise and bustle of the Via Dolorosa, walking in His last footsteps
While people all around carry on with their normal day’s activities.
Drinking the clear, cool water from Jacob’s well with Jesus offering us living water,
And recalling our re-birth in Baptism by the murky waters of the Jordan.
Recalling Mary’s Fiat at the Basilica of the Annunciation
And renewing our vows by the Sea of Galilee.
Kneeling to kiss the ground where the Word became flesh
as Shepherds and Kings and countless pilgrims before us have done.
Mass in the Shepherds’ cave, surrounded by the Host of Angels singing Holy, Holy, Holy,
Just as they did on that first Christmas morning.
Jesus weeping with us as we pray for our departed at the Mass at Bethany
But giving us hope of a life to come with them.
By the Sea of Galilee the privilege of being used in the Laying on of Hands
Knowing Jesus’ healing hands in our lives.
As we sail out on the Sea of Galilee,
knowing the calming presence of the Lord when the storms of life hit us.
At Cana, as others renew their marriage vows,
Remembering a husband lost but rejoicing in a new life as a bride of Christ.
The Word speaking to us on the Mount of the Beatitudes.
At the church of the Pater Nostra, hearing the Lord’s Prayer in different languages
as he speaks to us in the way we understand best.
Getting a glimpse of life for the people of the land today; conflict between Muslim, Jew and Christian
where Peace came to birth.
At the church of St Peter Gallicantu, where along with Peter we deny the Lord so often,
And down in the prison cells and pit, humanity at its worst, being moved as Psalm 88 is read.
At Calvary, kneeling at the foot of the Cross, my sins piercing his hands and his feet
But knowing his mercy.
So much to take in, so much to reflect on and take back with us
As the gospels are brought to life
Finally Mass at Emmaus, before going our separate ways home
to tell of how we had met the Lord on the road and how we recognise Him in the breaking of bread.’ Sr. Carol
Prisca: We have now had feline company for two years! It is a whole year since Aquila was run over and, once she had seen her brother’s body, Prisca stopped her piteous crying and keeping watch at the cat-flap. It didn’t take long for her to be ‘in charge’ but she is definitely not a lap-cat and remains very timid, hiding if anyone appears apart from us. She is very partial to ‘Dreamies’ of every possible flavour and has her daily ration at lunchtime – she sits and stares pointedly at her bowl of Go-cat biscuits until her ‘dream topping’ is added, daintily picks them all up at great speed and leaves the rest until a lot later! She is grateful for any contributions and sometimes brings us little ‘presents’ … usually deceased!
With our love and prayer,