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The Society of St Margaret

The Priory of Our Lady, Walsingham

A recognised community within the Church of England

Founders Day 2021

HOMILY Preached at The Priory of Our Lady of Walsingham

Society of S Margaret of Antioch

Founder’s Day 22 May 2021

By +Robert Ladds

Probably because we are aware of our mortality and of the limits of our abilities, we humans are fascinated by beginnings and endings. We mark times and seasons; celebrate birthdays and anniversaries; and in the Church, follow a Kalandar of Festivals and Saints. Today we celebrate Founder’s Day – the Foundation of The Society of S Margaret of Antioch, of which this House is part

The great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis said: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” and this could be said as being applicable to the life and person of John Mason Neale, Founder of this Religious Society

At his beginning, at his birth in 1818, he was named for John Mason, a notable Puritan Cleric, of whom Neale’s mother was a descendent. Yet, in the face of this family tradition and beginning, he was to become a leader in the development of the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival in the Church; not least in the expression of its worship and the architecture of its building through the Cambridge Camden Movement

More especially, he was to be influential in the revival of the Religious Life in the Church. He was sure that the life of prayer, worship and service was of the bedrock of Catholic Christianity. An outworking of this was to be:

1855 – foundation of the Community at East Grinstead

1947 – 3 Sisters from Haggerston came to Walsingham

1955 – Priory OLW established

1994 – This became an Autonomous House

And in addition to so much labour and provision for the Calling of others, John Mason Neale provided for us through his writings, spiritual guidance and theological scholarship. He was an inspired translator of great historic Hymnody as well as author of original Hymns, not least the Christmas Carol for which he is so well known; “Good King Wenceslas”

From the beginning he found no honour in the Church at large; he was physically set upon at the funeral of a Sister of the Community and generally mistrusted and derided. It was only among Catholics that his gifts and works were valued and acclaimed; recognised for their importance and lasting significance. His Doctorate to be awarded from America, not his own University

In the light of this historic disregard, how good it is that he is now Commemorated in the wider Church with a Memorial Day, 7 August

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Though the Christian Calling is individual, the very nature of the Church we are part of through our Baptism is corporate. As part of the Body of Christ; what we are, do and become individually relates to, and influences the whole

The work of John Mason Neale, because it is a work of the Catholic Faith and of the whole Church, means we have a part to play in it. We must contribute to what has begun, starting where we are and so influencing its ending

it is not only in the beginning but in the continuing and ending

From the moment that our Blessed Lord called the first Apostles, His followers have all been charged with spreading the Good News of the Gospel and to participate and share in living the life of Faith. The very gift of Pentecost is that of the Paraclete: that Spirit of Christ that links the members of the Body of Christ together in life and love

The baton of John Mason Neale passes to us in our generation. So this Founder’s Day must not be only one of Thanksgiving for a beginning and the commitment of our forebears. It must be taken as a time for self assessment. Of asking before God how we have begun, towards what ending we are striving

A Prayer attributed to Sir Francis Drake expressed something of the nature of our Christian responsibility, both as individuals and as part of the Body of the Church:

O Lord God, when though givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant us also to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory

May the Blessed John Mason Neale our founder inspire us in this endeavour. May S Margaret our Patroness and Our Most Blessed Lady pray that, individually and together as a Community, we may have the Grace of Faithfulness of our calling:

May we thoroughly finish our undertaking to the Glory of God

May we work to bring to fulfillment that which God desires – the greater Glory of the Most Holy Name of Jesus


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01328 821 647

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