IT'S NOT every day that a saint has a tea party. But 23rd July 2017 was a special day for Saint Bridget of Sweden because her feast day fell on a Sunday and that won’t happen again for six years.
It was an opportunity for St Bridget’s Friends to mark the day in style and they had a special celebration at Buckfast Abbey in the afternoon. St Bridget’s Friends is an international, ecumenical members-only Facebook group and this was the first chance for some of them to be together in prayer.
Sister Anne Smyth, O.Ss. S. gave an illustrated talk about St Bridget and the origins of The Syon Breviary. She is the last of the original English Bridgettine community of Syon Abbey which was founded more than 600 years ago by King Henry V and she was their Lady Abbess from 1976 - 2011. St Bridget (1303 - 1373) was the only woman to be canonised in the fourteenth century, she explained, having founded the Bridgettine Order of the Most Holy Saviour. Bridget vigorously urged the popes then in Avignon to return to Rome.
Joy Hanson had been a gardener at Syon Abbey and not only had a collection of photographs on display but also presented a slide show of her recent pilgrimage to St Bridget’s first monastery at Vadstena in Sweden, accompanied by her husband Robin. Joy is one of the founders of St Bridget’s Friends which exists to link those around the world who use the latest edition of The Syon Breviary (The Daily Office of Our Lady) for their daily prayer – now published in English for the very first time.
Father Thomas Regan, O.S.B., a Benedictine monk from Wales, is an historian. In his reflection upon St Bridget he compared her to other
canonised women of distinction including St Catherine of Siena who, with St Bridget, was made a Patroness of Europe by Pope St John Paul II in 1999. He pointed out that those like Bridget, who have had visions and encounters with Our Lady, always came under the strict scrutiny of the Church. Even the three children who saw the Virgin Mary 100 years ago at Fatima were not believed at first and were actually thrown in jail! Nevertheless their legacy lives on, just like St Bridget, in the thousands who are brought to Christ by his holy mother Mary.
Father Regan’s entertaining and informative talk was the highlight of a united service of celebration attended by people of different Christian traditions including the unique River Dart Wild Church and its pastor, the Rev. Samantha (Sam) Wernham. Her ‘Living Spirit’ ministry celebrates all that is good in God’s creation.
During the service a Hymn to St Bridget was sung for the first time in English outside the chapel of Syon Abbey. The singing was led by Paul Evans, a choir member of the Schola of Buckfast Abbey.
The organisers wish to thank the Abbot and monastic community of Buckfast for their kind and generous support of this event and for the loan of Syon Abbey’s historic and beautiful vestments which were on display. Copies of The Syon Breviary are now on sale in Buckfast Abbey’s bookshop, tel. 01364 645506.
The afternoon ended with a very friendly tea party in Southgate, Buckfast Abbey’s retreat centre.
To join St Bridget’s Friends, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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