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Newsletter June 2018
Dear Friends and Associates,
Our world continues to be much troubled by violence, division, strife and hardship that we hold before our Lord on the Cross, beseeching his mercy as we pray for the coming of his kingdom. We have had the joy of a Royal Wedding but, on the whole, newsworthy items are not good news – but we have much to celebrate and for which to give thanks: warm sunshine (at last!); birds singing and busily feeding their young, including house martins nesting under the eaves near Sister Carol’s bedroom; a burst of colour in the garden plus the scent of roses; a need to water the tubs outside as they had been neglected after the excess rainfall together with a week in arctic conditions and one in the Mediterranean earlier in the year!
Our biggest celebration was on 6th March 2018 – the Life Profession of Sister Carol Elizabeth who writes:
It seems only yesterday that I started my journey and arrived in Walsingham and now 6½ years later I am taking the final step on the journey; taking my life profession. As the day dawned I saw that the snow had melted just in time; the previous week much of the country had been covered in thick snow, preventing me from travelling to Oxford for my pre-profession retreat but on the Sunday the snow started to melt, just in time for guests to start to arrive for the big day.
The Shrine church started to fill with friends and family; four generations of my family were present from my mum, who was celebrating her 90th birthday, to my four young granddaughters: 6 year old Alana, 5 year old twins Eve and Ada and 4 year old Aria. Bishop Peter was the chief celebrant and received my vows, while Fr Adrian Ling’s sermon was based on our motto ‘Per angusta ad augusta’ – through trials to triumphs. He reminded us how ‘Through the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit, our sufferings, trials and tribulations can be turned to good. Through them we can have some idea of what others are going through,’ and how ‘God is good to those who are faithful, that he doesn’t leave us to drown in the turbulent waters of life, but throws us lifebelts to keep us afloat. A Sister of St Margaret has many such lifebelts: she has the infinite blessing of spending time in the company of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and the daily Mass; she has the anchor of the daily office, that consecrates the day and keeps her close to Christ; and she shares the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.’ And that ‘what a Sister has which sets her apart is the Rule of Life, and the vows she makes of poverty, chastity, obedience and charity. This is not just a recommendation, a suggestion or a good idea, but a rule. Sr Carol will make solemn vows to live according to the rule of this Society until the end of her life. She cannot do this by her strength alone, but only with the help of God.’
I then made the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and charity. This had been the calling I had received while on Pilgrimage to Walsingham; ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16), how could I respond to such love but to do as he was calling me to do and give up all for him and to live a life of ‘love first, love midst, love last’?
The four vows stemming from the two great commandments: to love God and our neighbour. We give up all for God, not only our belongings but our time, our talents and our very selves, living a life of poverty, to live in complete dependence on Christ. We vow to love God above all else in our vow of chastity, as our founder J. M. Neale tells us: ‘As by the service of consecration, a church is separated for ever from all other uses, and is so made the dwelling place of Him whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, that nothing, however innocent in itself, however right in its own time and place, can henceforth be carried on there, unless it is directly and immediately in His honour: so, by a vow of chastity your senses and bodily powers are separated from things which are innocent to others, but which are not directly and immediately His.’
The vow of obedience is taken ‘with the desire to follow Jesus who said ‘I do always these things which please the Father’, seeking only to live God’s will. J. M. Neale tells us: ‘See how, by these 5 ever-blessed wounds, every kind of action, every kind of thought, is brought into the obedience of Christ. That of the Right Hand, all active exertion for His sake. That of the Left Hand, all patient endurance of evil for His sake. That of the Heart, every strength and power of affection. That of the Right Foot, going forth to His work, when it is joyful in the light of His countenance. That of the Left Foot, going forth to the same work, when it is for a while saddened by the withdrawal of His Presence. Yes, every power of action or suffering is there hallowed; hallowed at what a cost, hallowed to what an end!’
‘In response to God’s love, the Sisters make a fourth Vow, the vow of Charity, promising to love and serve Christ in each other and in their neighbour’ (J. M. Neale). Remembering always the words of Our Lord: ‘For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)
After I had made my vows, Bishop Peter placed a gold ring, representing the ring of faith, on the 4th finger of my right hand. Sr Angela then gave me a candle, representing Christ the light of the world and then Bishop Peter placed the coronal, made by my mum, representing the crown of life on my head.
Of course having four young granddaughters present was bound to mean that the unexpected would happen and as the Mass continued Ada decided to come and join me, probably the first time at a Life Profession where the Sister had gone up for communion carrying one of her granddaughters. We were then joined by Aria, both gave me a big hug, breaking the cord of my cross. The blessing at the end was given by Bishop Peter as I knelt on the floor with Ada in my arms while Sr Angela and I both got the giggles as she tied the cord back together. As I glanced up at Fr Alex, I could see him mouthing ‘very SSM’ and he was right, as Fr Adrian had reminded us earlier: ‘Both John Mason Neale and St Teresa of Avila believed that convents should be joyful places. Neale stated that the life of a Sister should be marked by a spirit of joy. Teresa said how much she disliked ‘long faced saints that make both virtue and themselves abhorrent.’
If you would like to read the sermon in full, it is on our Web Site and photos can be found on the Shrine Web Site.
Associates: Last year we had the joy of receiving ten new Associates and we are thrilled that there are another eight hoping to be received in the near future, including two youngsters! Three of our local priest associates have reached significant milestones this year: Fr. Geoffrey Miller – 60 years a priest on 1st June, Fr. John Burgess – 50 years on 9th June and Fr. Bryan Parry – 50 years on 29th June. We assure them of our congratulations, love and on-going prayer with thanksgiving for their years of dedication to their priestly and pastoral ministry.
We are sorry that Brenda Taylor has resigned and severed all links with the Priory, and to report the deaths of some senior Associates: Jim Allen on 11/1/18; Patricia Hurworth on 11/2/18 (just 11 months after her husband William) and Sophie Wright on 6/4/18. We have also been notified of the deaths several months/years ago of the Rev. Charles Billington and the Rev. Colin Fletcher (tardy return of undelivered mail). May they all rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.
Recently we have been looking at ways in which we can help our Associates on their spiritual journey. One of the things that several Associates have asked about is a Lent retreat. We have booked a retreat here at the Priory from 25th – 28th March 2019. We have accommodation for 10 Associates here in our guest cottage and the Priory, others will be accommodated in the Shrine and all meals will be eaten in the Shrine Refectory. If you would be interested in joining us for the retreat please contact Sr Carol to provisionally book a place, (firstname.lastname@example.org); more details will be sent out later in the year.
Another idea that we will be trialling during July is to move Morning Prayer to the later time of 9:00am (except on Mondays and days in which there is no Mass in chapel). It is hoped that Associates and friends will join us for it at this later time. The Offices are an important part of our day and each one includes several psalms. Psalms are often a neglected part of the Bible but, as St Ambrose tells us, ‘although the whole of sacred scripture breathes the spirit of God’s grace, this is especially true of that delightful book, the book of the psalms. History instructs, the law disciplines, prophecy foretells, correction shows us our faults and morality suggests what should be done: but in the book of the psalms there something more than all this and at the same time a sort of medicine for man’s spiritual health. Whoever reads the psalms finds a special remedy to cure the wounds caused by his own passions. Whoever is at pains to read the psalms will find in them a sort of gymnasium for use of all souls, a sort of stadium of virtue, where different sorts of exercises are set out before him, from which he can choose the best suited to train him to win his crown.’
If you are not used to saying Morning Prayer why not join us and give it a go? The Office of Readings will continue to be said at 7:00am and any early birds are welcome to join us for that too.
Updates: Sister Mary Teresa remains in Care with our Sisters at Chiswick as she will always need two carers to assist her with getting up from bed or chair or anything that needs more than one hand to accomplish. Her short-term memory is, sadly, noticeably diminishing and she is getting distressed with her awareness of this fact. Sister Alma Mary remains physically well but is unable to co-ordinate her limbs to actually do anything. She still thinks she is in the Priory and says she has been to Chapel and has had Communion … but reality is different. She displays no distress and usually appears pleased to have a visit – mostly weekly. She made her Life Profession on 18th June 1960 at East Grinstead when a young non-ordained John Burgess was part of the serving team that travelled down from Chiswick for the occasion! Sister Columba continues to live independently in Aberdeen where the Episcopal Church is in turmoil following the appointment of a female bishop, and there are problems of episcopal oversight for many in this most catholic of the seven Scottish dioceses. Sister Mary Angela has had a challenging three months, mostly waiting for appointments for ‘fancy’ hospital tests, as standard investigations have so far been normal! Fortunately she has not felt ill most of the time, just very tired and has not lost her appetite! It is hoped that a definitive diagnosis and a tweaking of pill dosage will be achieved before our St Margaret’s Festival on 19th July 2018 so that she will be able to function more ‘normally’. A nice touch is that her Consultant Cardiologist was very proud to be recognised as someone from Kerala, South India and told us that he had been educated by nuns and his brother is a Monsignor!
Prisca, our little cat, is now just over three years old and is full of purrs (and washing of whiskers!) for all her admirers who have so kindly brought her packets of Dreamies! She stares fixedly at her bowl and will not eat her lunch until some ten or so Dreamies are placed on top, then she crunches them all in a trice and returns for the ordinary biscuits when she’s really hungry. That might be quite a long time afterwards as she has a tendency, at this time of year, to bring ‘presents’ of a feathered or furry kind … a live young blackbird was rescued a few days ago, but mostly there are just a few feathers as evidence – such is the nature of felines, especially those that manage to ‘lose’ a collar with a bell within minutes of going outside. She is not a lap-cat but she loves having a fuss made of her, either on terra firma or sitting on an adjacent chair. You may be fortunate and catch a glimpse of her, or a disappearing tail, as she remains very timid with all except her Sisters!
With our love and prayer, and looking forward to seeing our Associates on St Margaret’s Feast,