Please join us in Glasgow on Thursday 27th October evening for a Pro-Life Torchlight Procession. Starts in George Square at 6pm and concludes with Mass in St Andrew’s Cathedral, celebrated by Archbishop Tartaglia.
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Jess joined the Sisters of the Gospel of Life as a postulant on the 8th of September 2016. Here is a letter in which she reflects on her experiences so far…
Five and a half weeks in, I have finally managed to sit down and find some time to reflect and write about my time so far as a Postulant with the Sisters of the Gospel of Life.
I have gone through different phases – feeling like I was on holiday at the start (as I used to spend my holidays visiting the sisters), then feeling overwhelmed at my ‘to-do’ list and deciding where to make a start when it came to working as a GP, feeling homesick (for Pembrokeshire), having difficulty sleeping, feeling like I was just walking around in the shadow of the sisters but not actually one of them. Now that I have started to get used to the changes and life here, I feel I can walk alongside the sisters, in the light of Christ. I feel like I know what I am doing when it comes to locum GP work. I am excited about what plans God has for my life with the sisters.
There have been so many changes in my life… a different country, job, clothes, house… with Jesus and nuns as my new housemates.
Here are some of my thoughts about the changes involved…
A change in the focus of my routine – from work (with prayer at either end), to prayer (with work interspersed).
I have gained new family members – two lovely, inspiring big sisters and their families.
Moving countries – from Wales to Scotland. Different accents, no Welsh (either spoken or written on road signs), Scottish words which are entirely new to me, lots of football talk about Celtic and Rangers.
Moving from the countryside to the city. In Wales I used to wake up to the sound of birds, now I wake up to the sound of a train going by (as our small garden backs onto the railway line).
City driving – lots of motorways, changing lanes, one-way systems and traffic lights. I was terrified at the thought but have coped a lot better than I anticipated. I also seem to have been instantly gifted with the ability to parallel park when I moved to Glasgow, which is miraculous – as anyone who has seen me attempting parallel parking in Haverfordwest will know!
Changing jobs – no longer being a junior doctor or registrar, with an employer, but now a fully qualified GP and self-employed (I had no idea about the sort of paperwork that would entail!)
Working in multiple GP Practices in different geographical areas – new things to learn in each place – where the local hospital is, what tests can and cannot be done within the GP Practice, how to use a different computer system (EMIS). I am still exploring my options and trying to figure out what working pattern and what sort of GP Practice will best suit my weekly routine with the sisters.
Learning about pro-life work… how to put a Moses basket and its accessories together. Prams are a different challenge. Learning about what sort of clothing newborn babies wear… the difference between vests, long sleeved vests, babygros and snowsuits. Being amazed at the size difference between clothing for 0-3 months and 3-6 months. Admiring all the cute patterns on baby clothing. Checking the toys are complete and working – can be fun! Talking in churches about Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion healing retreats – to raise awareness. I still have much to learn about other aspects of pro-life work, like natural family planning.
Being in a multicultural neighbourhood – I used to be quite exotic for West Wales! In Govanhil, many people are from Pakistan or Eastern Europe and still retain their own culture. I’d like to get to know my neighbours more.
Having everything on my doorstep – rather than most interesting things being at least a 3 hour drive away – Glasgow is a great city for events and places of interest. Also LOADS of Catholic churches, with lots of options for daily Mass and confession.
Wearing a long black skirt and tights – took a while to figure out what to do with all that skirt when going to the loo! Not an easy thing to run in either. Also a white T-shirt, which makes me a bit cautious as I don’t want to spill anything on it.
Moving from my own rented space into a house that is a convent. It is amazing to live with Jesus in the house (in the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel). I love sharing my life with others. Gone are the days of meals on my own. Come are the days of tackling disasters together… like cleaning out a cupboard full of mouse poo – after which I dreamt of flying mice and Sr Andrea dreamt of mouse poo glittering with precious stones … hahahaha!
Getting used to praying the Divine Office – still getting to grips with what should be done differently on an Optional Memoria, Memoria, Feast Day, Solemnity and Sunday. Learning new hymns and teaching my sisters new hymns. It is wonderful to share prayer.
Trying to do some spiritual reading – reading books is not one of my favourite pastimes, so I am working on this one and figuring out how to fit some daily reading into my routine. I’ll be meeting with a priest for some ‘spiritual direction’ on Monday, which I am really looking forward to. I am quite curious to find out what ‘spiritual direction’ involves!
Diary meetings – trying to keep track of what 3 people are doing, rather than just having my own plan for the week.
Being identified as one of a group of religious sisters – and pretty awesome ones! Having people greet me very warmly when they realise who I am with.
Receiving cards and gifts from people who are strangers to me but who have heard about me and been praying for me. Amazing to be supported by so much prayer.
Having much more time with other people and having time to just hang around and chat… rather than rushing around at work, trying to do everything in as short a time as possible, and then having to study for exams or complete assignments during a lot of my spare time.
Lunch breaks in the office – for a whole hour, uninterrupted – sitting around a table to eat with lots of other people, having a leisurely chat and sharing random food – quite a novelty for a doctor!
Less spare time – paradoxically – because most of an evening or weekend would be prayer or community time rather than my time to do with as I wish.
There is still so much for me to learn and figure out. Bit by bit things are falling into place.
Please keep me in your prayers and feel free to send me any prayer requests! We have a ‘book of intentions’ to write down the names of people and situations that we pray for daily.
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Tags: postulant, Religious life, sisters of the gospel of life
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To mark the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act, over 100 people, including our very own Sr. Andrea came together to form a human chain in silent witness on Lothian Road, Edinburgh last Saturday. Old, young and the very young made the journey to witness to life. There were lollies, balloons and a wee bit of sun intermittently to help us on our way. Next year marks the 50th year since abortion was made legal in Britain and the witness to the lives lost grows steadily…
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Tags: abortion, children, Prolife Chain
At Mass in our church today the Feast of the Annunciation was celebrated. Its official date is March 25 but because of the date of Easter this year it has been delayed. In the Liturgical Year the Church celebrates many significant feasts of Our Lady; if there is a hierarchy of these memorable occasions that of the Immaculate Conception will be first, because it is this unique privilege that points towards every other event of Our Lady’s life on earth and her approved apparitions during the Church’s subsequent history.
Nonetheless, the subject-matter of the Annunciation has inspired more artists because of the very human drama of the event described in the Gospels: the angel Gabriel’s momentous communication, followed by Our Lady’s life-changing “Fiat”. My own favourite painting is Fra Angelico’s, because it so beautifully conveys Our Lady’s humility. It reminds one that one of the most attractive features of Catholicism is the person of Our Lady herself and the role she has played in salvation history. Although our love for her is incomprehensible to those outside the Faith, she fulfils our human longing for a mother infinitely compassionate and loving – and especially for a mother who will unceasingly intercede for us with her Son.
This particular feast in honour of Our Lady is also significant because it is intrinsically bound up with the pro-life movement. If Jesus became a human being at the Annunciation of his conception, so does every baby in the womb. Thus to be a Catholic is to be pro-life. Other Churches may quibble about a time when a baby is “less” than human and a time when it becomes “more” human; the Feast of the Annunciation tells it like it is
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Tags: abortion, children, newborn, pregnancy
The other day we asked for prayers for a very ill unborn baby. Thank you to all who have been praying. Could we ask that you keep this baby and his mum, who has gone into very difficult labour, in your prayers. The doctors say that the wee one won’t survive and we indeed need a miracle.
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Tags: children, Mothers, Prayer, pregnancy, prenatal diagnosis
This July, Sr Andrea will be one of the leaders of a group of pilgrims who are heading to World Youth Day in Krakow – many of whom are volunteers for the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative.
In order to make this pilgrimage a reality – the group need to raise funds for travel and accommodation costs.
Please support this event by coming along to the concert they have organised. There will be some great entertainment through a mix of musical genres and it’s BYOB too – why not make a wee night of it.
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The Easter Exsultet (The most beautiful prayer of the Church) proclaimed last night: “Rejoice, heavenly powers! Rejoice, O Earth! Rejoice, O Mother Church! For Christ has ransomed us with his blood, and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our Eternal Father!”
We press the issue and boldly sing that ancient text, “What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer? Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave, you gave away your Son.” He is risen! Anyone who has faith and contemplates the Resurrection of Christ simply cannot live an ordinaryexistence anymore. Our response to Christ’s victory over death is proclamation. This news simply must be shared and all people deserve an opportunity to hear it! Happy Easter!
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On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Good Friday, in the Adoration of the Cross, in the chanting of the ‘Reproaches’, in the reading of the Passion, and in receiving the pre-consecrated Host, we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord.
The Church – stripped of its ornaments, the altar bare, and with the door of the empty tabernacle standing open – is as if in mourning. In the fourth century the Apostolic Constitutions described this day as a ‘day of mourning, not a day of festive joy,’ and this day was called the ‘Pasch (passage) of the Crucifixion.’
The liturgical observance of this day of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion and death evidently has been in existence from the earliest days of the Church. No Mass is celebrated on this day, but the service of Good Friday is called the Mass of the Presanctified because Communion (in the species of bread) which had already been consecrated on Holy Thursday is given to the people .
Traditionally, the organ is silent from Holy Thursday until the Alleluia at the Easter Vigil , as are all bells or other instruments, the only music during this period being unaccompanied chant.
The omission of the prayer of consecration deepens our sense of loss because Mass throughout the year reminds us of the Lord’s triumph over death, the source of our joy and blessing. The desolate quality of the rites of this day reminds us of Christ’s humiliation and suffering during his Passion. We can see that the parts of the Good Friday service correspond to the divisions of Mass:
- Liturgy of the Word – reading of the Passion.
- Intercessory prayers for the Church and the entire world, Christian and non-Christian.
- Veneration of the Cross
- Communion, or the ‘Mass of the Pre-Sanctified.’
The Veneration of the Cross
In the seventh century, the Church in Rome adopted the practice of Adoration of the Cross from the Church in Jerusalem, where a fragment of wood believed to be the Lord’s cross had been venerated every year on Good Friday since the fourth century. According to tradition, a part of the Holy Cross was discovered by the mother of the emperor Constantine, St. Helen, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 326. A fifth century account describes this service in Jerusalem. A coffer of gold-plated silver containing the wood of the cross was brought forward. The bishop placed the relic on the a table in the chapel of the Crucifixion and the faithful approached it, touching brow and eyes and lips to the wood as the priest said (as every priest has done ever since): ‘Behold, the Wood of the Cross.’
Adoration or veneration of an image or representation of Christ’s cross does not mean that we are actually adoring the material image, of course, but rather what it represents. In kneeling before the crucifix and kissing it we are paying the highest honor to the our Lord’s cross as the instrument of our salvation. Because the Cross is inseparable from His sacrifice, in reverencing His Cross we are, in effect, adoring Christ. Thus we affirm: ‘We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee because by Thy Holy Cross Thou has Redeemed the World.’
The Reproaches and the Reading of the Passion
The Reproaches (Improperia), are often chanted by a priest during the Good Friday service as the people are venerating the Cross. In this haunting and poignant poem-like chant of very ancient origin, Christ himself ‘reproaches’ us, making us more deeply aware of how our sinfulness and hardness of heart caused such agony for our sinless and loving Savior. A modern translation of the some of the Reproaches, originally in Latin follows:
My people, What have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!
I led you out of Egypt; but you led your Savior to the Cross.
For forty years I led you safely through the desert,
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to the land of plenty; But you led your Savior to the Cross.
O, My people! What have I done to you that you should testify against me?
Holy God. Holy God. Holy Mighty One. Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.
Three times during Holy Week the Passion is read – on Passion Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday. By very ancient tradition, three clergy read the three principal parts from the sanctuary: Jesus (always read by a priest), Narrator, and all the other individual parts. The people also have a role in this – we are those who condemn the Lord to death. Hearing our own voices say ‘Away with Him! Crucify him!’ heightens our consciousness of our complicity by our personal sinfulness in causing His death.
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