The Society of St Margaret
The Priory of Our Lady, Walsingham
A recognised community within the Church of England
We are surrounded by darkness; the media is full of news about the wars in the Holy Land and in Ukraine, people struggling with the cost of living and violence on our streets. But in this darkness there is light. Advent is a time of watching and waiting; waiting for the Light of the World and the hope of the world to come.
But all around us there are signs of hope. In our garden each night for most of the year we have hedgehogs going about their nightly business; eating beetles, worms and the kitten food we leave out for them. They are a good indicator of the health of the environment. One of the main dietary sources for hedgehogs is soil invertebrates, including worms. When the soil becomes contaminated due to the use of pesticides their natural food dies. As a result, hedgehogs struggle to feed and also die. Just by leaving some dried kitten food (not milk or mealworms which are bad for them) out for them we can help them to survive. We get hedgehogs when there is a balance of nature and we will know that nature is back in balance once the hedgehogs return in numbers.
I was interested to find out that the hedgehog had been an unofficial symbol for NATO for some years. It was adopted as they show the spirit and determination of the Allies to defend themselves again enemies; hedgehogs are peaceful animals but can defend themselves when needed. They are a sign of hope and courage.
The hedgehog is also seen as a symbol of innocence and purity; the hedgehog’s quills representing the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head during his crucifixion and with their quills pointing upwards they remind us that Christ rose from the dead and are a sign of hope. If you look carefully you can find a hedgehog in the wall painting by Enid Chadwick in the Resurrection Chapel at the Shrine. In the winter most hedgehogs hibernate, their hearts slowed down so they are barely beating but as the weather gets warmer they will come to life again bringing new hope with them.
And so we wait in hope during this Advent for Our Lord, the prince of peace to come bringing light in the darkness, we wish you a Happy Christmas.
Carol Elizabeth SSM
It is always good to see friends and Associates when they are visiting Walsingham, and especially good to have them staying in our Guest Cottage or the Guest area of the Priory. Everyone is welcome to join us in chapel for Mass, the Offices or Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament or just to spend some quiet time alone in prayer. Our normal timetable is:
Monday – Sister’s day off
7am Offices of Readings (Tues – Sun)
9am Morning Prayer (Tues – Sat)
9:30am Mass (Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sat)
10am – 10:30am Exposition and Benediction (Thurs)
12noon Midday Office (Tues – Sun)
4pm – 5pm Holy Hour (Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat)
5pm Vespers (Tues – Sun)
7:30pm Compline (Tues – Sun)
Community Leaders Conference
Sr Carol Elizabeth joined 19 Leaders from other communities in October for the annual Leaders of Religious Communities conference at Mirfield. Arriving in time for tea with the brethren on the Monday, we then joined in their Offices and Mass for the next few days. The next couple of days we had a very packed timetable, starting with each Leader giving an update of what had happened in their community over the last year. Each morning there was a time of Lectio Divina, reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day and on the Tuesday Fr Richard Carter lead 3 sessions reflecting on the theme Our Home. The following day was taken up with business, finishing with a social in the evening with the brethren. It was good to meet so many other Leaders and spend time with them and before we knew it, it was Thursday morning and time to say our goodbyes and journey back to our communities.
After a busy 5 days with the Walsingham Youth pilgrimage, I was off early the following Monday to catch the flight to Lourdes on pilgrimage with the Society of Mary. Having never been before I was looking forward to a new experience. In many ways a pilgrimage to Lourdes is much the same as one to Walsingham but on a much bigger scale – there is the procession of the Blessed Sacrament, and the candlelit procession of Our Lady as well as drinking from the water and walking the Stations of the Cross. Our Lady appeared in both and in both there was an appearance of a spring of water which pilgrims drink and many have been healed. However, Walsingham is a much earlier pilgrimage site with Our Lady appearing in 1061 to the Lady of the manor, Lady Richeldis. In Lourdes Our Lady appeared 18 times to the young peasant girl, Bernadette in 1858. The message given by Our Lady to Bernadette on the Feast of the Annunciation in the 16th apparition was ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’. The Immaculate Conception being my Profession Anniversary made being able to visit Lourdes very special to me.
I was able to spend some quiet time early each morning before breakfast in the grotto where there always seemed to be a steady stream of Masses taking place in different languages.
Everything was on a much bigger scale than at Walsingham with hundreds of pilgrims joining the Blessed Sacrament Procession around the grounds on the Tuesday evening and on the Thursday evening in the candlelit procession of Our Lady, much to my surprise, as we gathered I was told to join the priests from our group in walking right behind Our Lady in the procession and led up the steps of the Basilica where we could then see the spectacular sight of candles of about 10,000 fellow pilgrims processing towards us in the dark. On the Wednesday morning we attended the international Mass with about 25,000 pilgrims from all over the world.
I enjoyed the 2 trips to smaller pilgrimage sites. On the Tuesday we went to Saint Bertrand-de-Comminges where we had Mass in the Cathedral, then on to Notre Dame de Garaison. This is a much smaller, older shrine and it’s origins have many similarities to Lourdes, Our Lady appeared 3 times to a young shepherdess in 1515 after which a chapel was built and pilgrims started to make their way there to drink from the spring of water. The statue of Our Lady is said to have miraculously survived being thrown on a fire in 1590.
On the Thursday we were taken to Betherram. Betherram was a popular pilgrimage site long before Lourdes and Bernadette often went there and had visited it few days before the 1st vision at Lourdes and the Rosary beads she used when she had her 1st vision were from there. A young girl is said to have fallen into the fast flowing water there and called out to Our Lady, who appeared on the bank and held out a branch to rescue the girl.
At Lourdes the Gospel message of ‘the first shall be last and the last first’ is lived out; the apparitions did not appear to a rich lady but to a poor, young, uneducated peasant girl. At Lourdes those with additional needs were always taken to the front, whether it be the front of the queue for the grotto or leading the processions and despite the large number of pilgrims there everyone was happy to wait and give way to those in need.
Carol Elizabeth SSM
Charity of the Year
A big thank you to all those who helped make cards and gifts for our Charity of the year, KASIN- Kids At School In Nepal, we raised a fantastic £2000 over the year. Our charity for this year is the Kings Lynn Night Shelter.
Dates for your diary
Lent retreat 5th – 8th March 2024
Led by Fr Luke Demetri
to book and for more information contact Sr Carol Elizabeth
St Margaret’s day Mass 10am 18th July 2024 preacher Fr Kevin Smith
Fr John Cotterill
Time marches on but the seasons seem to lag behind such that, in late November, a number of trees still waved lots of greenish leaves in spite of already shedding a number of brown/golden/reddish ones next door in the Shrine grounds, that are swept up for the compost heap! But this is England and the weather is often part of our normal conversation! We’ve had no frosts … yet … but there is a distinct chill in the wind. The more senior of you may remember singers like Bing Crosby dreaming of a white Christmas, and some, like me, the hard winter of 1947 when the snow came over the top of my wellies and there was flooding when the snow melted. My mother took me on regular walks to the weir at Bathampton (near Bath) and we’d push a stick into the side of the path to mark the water’s edge – when snow and flood had gone I was amazed at our mini ‘stick forest’ but disappointed that they didn’t grow. Thus one starts to learn that fairy tales and real life are not quite the same!
I haven’t travelled this year but it has been good to see a number of our friends who have been able to visit Walsingham in recent weeks. It is lovely receiving letters and cards but when ‘catching up’ face-to-face, one hears so much more as all the senses are in use! Err … you might need to be cautious with the words you use in communication with a retired medic as this one picks up the unexpected!J My hearing aids do work very efficiently and I am well practised at looking innocent! Four years of setting up and running a general practice in the Men’s Lodging House in Aberdeen, assisted by a Salvation Army Captain (a trained nurse), was good training. The work also made me well known to the police and I also visited some of my chaps in the local prison. I never had a visitor’s card/pass but when I rang the bell by the huge gate and gave my name … ‘Come in’ said a disembodied voice and I saw that, right beside me, a little door had swung silently open. I stepped inside and the door closed immediately – there was no visible handle. I had entered a large, well-lit atrium with a flight of half a dozen steps in front of me. At the top of the steps stood a familiar figure – the detective inspector in charge of the Drug Squad! It was the early seventies and Aberdeen had become international thanks to the off-shore oil rigs. The hard drugs had started to come in and some of my chaps would show me a dirty screw of paper containing grey powder – their ‘fix’ for the night! I’d seen a fair bit of the ‘steamy’ side of life in hospital practice, but much more since I entered Religious Life! We don’t run away nor hide from the world on entering a Convent!
A short Advent this year and we hasten towards the Christ Child to worship and adore Him with Mary and Joseph. May our poor voices blend with those of the Angels as we rejoice at the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
With love and prayer,
Mary Angela SSM
Friday Zoom Meeting
Each Friday evening from 8:15pm as small group of Associates and those enquiring to become Associates meet via Zoom. This started during Lockdown and it has been a good way of Associates from all over the country to get to know each other. For the last 3 years we have been discussing the Gospel reading for the following day. During Advent we are using our time in a more reflective way, with the first week reflecting on the Blessed Sacrament. The following weeks we will be doing some Lectio Divina.
Our Priory Pop-in has proved very popular with pilgrims and locals popping in to see us on a Wednesday afternoon from 2pm – 3:30pm. It is a chance to relax and meet other people, whether you want to knit and natter, craft and chat, have tea and talk, or coffee and cake you are welcome to drop by any Wednesday.
The next few weeks bring us all joy as we celebrate the birth of Christ. We also celebrate and give thanks for all who are united with the Priory of Our Lady, through prayer, through financial and practical support, as local supporters or as Associates of the Society of St Margaret.
As you will be aware the nature of religious life in the Church of England has changed in recent years; while we have witnessed a reduction of vocations to the religious life, there is an increased demand for the services that our religious houses provide. The Priory of our Lady at Walsingham is no exception.
Like much of the world the Priory of Our Lady has withstood some difficult times recently. From March 2020 when the lockdown came, the sisters like us all had to remain indoors. However their prayers for us all were vital to the spiritual health of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham and to us all as individuals.
I am writing to you to ask whether you, our loving supporters and Associates, would consider a small but regular financial assistance to the Priory. You may already support the Priory regularly, but if not, would you consider making an annual financial contribution? Likewise, I reach out to you to consider the Priory in your will. Legacy income has enabled the Priory to upgrade some parts of the building and to redecorate the chapel in the last few years. A gift in ones’ will is a wonderful way of enabling the work of the Priory to continue when you no longer need those resources yourself. We are more than willing to assist you in drafting your will or in adding a codicil. Please contact the Sisters and we will come back to you for a discussion and assistance towards your goals.
Know that we the Sisters and Trustees pray for you. May you enjoy a blessed celebration of Christmas.
Richard Butler (Trustee)
We Wish you a very
and a Happy New year.
With Love and Prayers
Carol Elizabeth SSM
Mary Angela SSM
01328 821 647