In silence and hope

‘In silence and hope shall your strength be’ (Is 30:15) and so it has been these past 5 months, since the end of June, when allegations were presented against two of our sisters. For several weeks we carried on with our work at Dowry House and suddenly at the end of July we were told to leave immediately all Walsingham Trust property. It was a traumatising experience for us all and one which we offered up for priests who are unjustly accused. The following months we lived at our formation house in Dereham where we allowed the purifying work of the Holy Spirit to continue unimpeded in our hearts as individuals and as a community. Thank you, Lord!

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (Col 1:24) This is not easy to say, let alone live. The psychological and emotional pain of these months cannot be underestimated and yet the spiritual fruits are also undeniable.  A Colwelian (i.e. a member of COLW in whatever branch he or she is) is one who ought to mediate with Christ, to be another humanity in which he can renew his whole mystery, in which he can perpetuate his life of reparation, sacrifice, praise and adoration and offer it all especially for the Shrine and for the conversion of England.

The support of our closest friends made up for the lack of support from elsewhere and enabled us to allow the chiselling action of the Father’s Will to do his work in our hearts and minds. In effect we really started Advent extremely early in this waiting, adoring of his will in the situation and silently allowing our hearts to be hollowed out – to create more space for the love of God to enter in and do his gentle work of purification. How much hubris we carry! How deep is the root or our personal sin! How much expiation we need to do before we can even think of offering up sacrifice for others! So it is when he allows the unexpected to happen, when he ruptures our daily living with a tsunami of grace, throwing us upside down and inside out. When all we can cry out is Abba! Father! Not my will, but yours be done! When our humanity is crying out ‘enough’ even as our spirit desires to surrender! When the flesh is weak and longs for comfort even as the spirit is strong and cries out ‘Thank you God’! How St Bernadette’s spiritual testament speaks into this. How wonderful it was to be able to visit her relics and pray before them when they came to Norwich Cathedral during this difficult time.

One of the most painful things was being exiled from our spiritual home, not being able to go to the Slipper Chapel – where the inspiration for the community was received. Only a Colwelian can understand the pain of this especially for those sisters who had no accusations made against them. And yet how much greater is their merit in the eyes of God when united in the Divine Will to the sufferings of Christ. Only in heaven will we be able to understand the gift of God’s mercy in all this. So, thank you Lord even for this!

In this hollowing out of our hearts you are making us into a true Holy House wherein you can dwell and take your rest. We often put obstacles to this inflowing of God’s love, and it is only in the situations of life where we feel that we are losing control that such obstacles are removed. So, we write also to encourage those who feel caught in untenable, unjust, painful or difficult situations to trust God’s time in your life. He always answers eventually. Truth and love always win in the end. We must just be silent and allow him to work. All he asks for is our love and our trust even when nothing is clear or certain.

Then as he fills us with his love, we can slowly learn to love like him, as Pope Francis said recently in Bahrain ‘Love everyone and love always’. No one excluded. Friends and enemies, people who like us and people who don’t like us. We will never be liked or understood by everyone, so we must never aim for this. Yet, we can try and love everyone… which means to think well of everyone. And to fight against the gossip that kills people’s reputations and does so much damage to the building up of community. An image from the film ‘The Nativity’ often comes to mind: when Mary and Joseph leave Nazareth for Bethlehem, they pass by neighbours who whisper in a derogatory way about her pregnant state. Both Mary and Joseph are unperturbed, entrusting with a laugh the secret they carry within to the Heavenly Father. Small villages, neighbourhoods etc can sometimes be like that. So please pray as we return to our spiritual home to always share the love of God that we have experienced in these months of ‘retreat’ in Dereham. Even and especially when the gift that COLW hides within is often not recognised because it is carried in such poor vessels. For nothing can separate us from his love. (Rom 8:31-39)

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.