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Newsletter June 2016
And then there were two … life in the Priory has changed again! Sisters Angela and Carol continue the daily round of Mass, Divine Office and solitary prayer, from which flows the rest of our life – welcoming and being available for pilgrims, assisting at Healing Liturgies, parish worship on Sundays plus Carol’s youth, school and children’s work.
Many of you will have heard that Sister Teresa fell at the end of January and snapped her right upper arm bone in two. It is taking a long time to heal: she needs two people to assist her with all moves and has been receiving high-dependency Care since Candlemass at St Mary’s Convent and Nursing Home, Chiswick, W4 2QE [run by our Sisters, now all moved from East Grinstead]. She is well in herself but getting frustrated at her inability to do much – apart from talking or phoning! She is always pleased to have visits. It is not possible at the present time to predict her future, but nor is it possible for her to return to Walsingham as long as she needs high-dependency care – she is next seen in the fracture clinic at the end of June/beginning of July. We are having to cover her Care costs at present. She is sorry she cannot write a message herself but she sends her love to you all.
As you know, Sister Alma Mary has advanced Alzheimer’s and she has now been in Care for a whole year. Rebecca Court, Heacham, PE31 7EF, is a lovely place and we couldn’t wish for a better. Sister Carol visits mid-week, usually with one of our Priest Associates and the Sacrament, Alma joining in the responses. Sister Angela goes on Sunday afternoons when Alma always joins in the Lord’s Prayer and the singing of the Salve Regina – the Latin being word perfect. Conversation is limited but she is pleased to have visits.
Sister Columba remains faithfully living a disciplined life in Aberdeen and celebrates her 90th birthday in October, though she is not as fit and active as Her Majesty, the Queen. Sister Francis Anne was formally transferred to the Chiswick House 15th October 2015 and has settled very happily, celebrating her Golden Jubilee of Profession a few weeks later.
Many of you will have heard with sadness of Sister Wendy Renate’s untimely death early on Wednesday of Holy Week. The Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham was packed for the funeral Mass that was, characteristically, up-beat and some of you may have seen it live-streamed or recorded on the website. We both joined Wendy’s sister Denise, Sister Jane Louise and the small party at the crematorium later. We are pleased to report that Wendy’s ashes are now buried in the SSM plot in St Mary’s churchyard, ‘with her Sisters’ as Mgr. John Armitage said.
Recently a lady stayed with us for a ‘Come and see’ week and there are three other enquirers hoping to do likewise when we can arrange mutually convenient dates. We are encouraged that there is some interest in living alongside the Community and, perhaps in due course, wishing to test a vocation to Religious Life.
The Blessed Sacrament
The Sisters of the Society of St Margaret have always had a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and this is shown in our daily Mass and Exposition. John Mason Neale introduced daily Eucharist in East Grinstead in 1856 and it has continued since that time. By 1857 the Blessed Sacrament was reserved and Benediction introduced. It was not until the 1870s that it was introduced in any parishes and was still fairly rare before World War 2.
After the Reformation in England, the reservation of the sacrament had only been permitted so that the consecrated bread and wine could be taken to the sick on the same day that the service had taken place. The 1552 BCP abandoned this. In the 1662 BCP the rubric appeared for the 1st time commanding the reverent consumption of what remained of the consecrated elements. However, with the Oxford Movement bringing about the revival of more frequent communions, the communion of the sick in their own homes once again became a pastoral issue. As busy parish priests often did not have time to celebrate repeatedly in the homes of the sick people in their care the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament re-emerged. However, it is clear that from the beginning J.M. Neale intended the reserved Sacrament to be an object of devotion and an aid to prayer and a source of strength for the Sisters.
In the historical sketch of the Sisterhood, entitled ‘Doing the Impossible’, the importance to the community of the reserved Sacrament is made clear:
‘....the red hot centre, from which radiated all their work and prayer, was the Blessed Sacrament. This was the inspiration of all that they did, and the focus of their thoughts and prayers. When the community became large enough a watch was kept before the reserved Sacrament all day, from 6am until 10pm with the Sisters taking turns of half an hour at a time’.
As St John Vianney said ‘We should consider those moments spent before the Blessed Sacrament as the happiest of our lives.’ I am sure many of you will have heard the story of the Cure d’Ars seeing a peasant coming into church and spending hours sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, when he asked him was he was doing he pointed to the Blessed Sacrament and replied "I look at him - and he looks at me."
At Walsingham we keep the watch going from 10:30am – 12:30pm each day, except Thursday when we have a corporate ½ hr watch at the end of Mass finishing with Benediction, and on Sundays. It is great to have Associates, friends and pilgrims taking part in what is an important part of our life. This year’s Yr4God have been joining us, each taking a ½ hr watch once a week which they have all grown to find a very special time of their week. Walsingham can often be a very busy place and so why not come over to our chapel next time you are here and spend some quiet time before our Lord present in the Sacrament? It helps us to make sure we always have at least 1 person in chapel if you could either sign up on the list at the back of chapel or contact us to let us know beforehand.
As well as joining us for daily Exposition, anyone is welcome to join us for our Offices (7am Office of Readings and Morning Prayer, 12:45 Midday Office, 5pm Vespers, Compline 7:30pm (Sunday, Tuesday, and Saturday) or 8pm other days), or for Mass (No Mass on Sunday, 9am Thursday, 9:30am the rest of the week) followed by coffee in our conservatory.
Our Guest cottage has been doing well, with it in use throughout last winter and spring and lots of bookings for the summer, there is still some availability for the Autumn. The current charge is £34.30 per person per night and you can either cater for yourself or book meals at the Shrine.
We now also have several rooms in the Priory we are using for Guests; these may be used by Priests, Associates, or Religious who would like to stay for a quiet time.
We have been able to use some money left to us in peoples’ wills to upgrade the facilities for Guests in the Priory: last year a shower was fitted over the bath and now a proper sink unit is being fitted in what was the Craft Room. Thus the end by the entrance door will be a kitchenette – refrigerator, toaster, kettle, microwave etc. are already there – then there is a table and chairs and a quiet sitting room at the far end. Thus guests can self-cater if they wish or book in at the Shrine for meals.
To book either the cottage or a room in the Priory please contact Sr Carol.
May I take this opportunity to remind you that it is always a good idea to have one’s affairs in order and a valid will made. Perhaps you might consider a legacy to the Priory of Our Lady?
May I also remind you that Sisters do not have personal bank accounts, so if any of you do kindly send us a cheque at any time, please make it out to: The Priory of Our Lady. Thank you.
At the time of this going to press one of our cats, Aquila, has been missing for several days. We have received reports of a cat being run over which may have been him. During his time here he has brought companionship to the Sisters here and is being greatly missed by us and by his sister.