SYON'S 600 YEARS                      REJOICE WITH MARY

A message from the Rt. Rev. Mark O’Toole, Bishop of Plymouth...

Bishop Mark O'Toole

IN THIS YEAR of 2015 we celebrate the 600th anniversary of the foundation of the Bridgettine community in England by King Henry V. The fidelity and fortitude of the Sisters of Syon Abbey is known by the fact that they are the only English religious community to have survived the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries.

   It was a privilege for us that the Sisters ultimately made their home in our diocese when they returned from their years of exile. However, Devon’s Syon Abbey closed in 2011 and the remaining Sisters are in retirement. But even now, their principal daily task is still that of prayer. Prayer in particular as expressed in the Foundation Charter of King Henry; “for our healthful estate while we live and, when we have departed from this life, for our soul ... and for the souls of all the faithful departed.”

   Their daily prayer, or daily office, is unique to the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, the Bridgettines, in that it is based on part of the Revelations of their founder Saint Bridget of Sweden, the ‘Sermo Angelicus’. It is the ‘Breviarium Sacrarum Virginum’ that is the ‘Breviary of the Holy Virgin’ known as ‘The Daily Office of Our Lady’ or the Syon Breviary. So it is that this book of prayer offers each one of us a place close to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the chance to welcome her into our own hearts as our Mother in heaven.

   In choosing this Breviary, which I too have approved for use for your private daily devotion, you will be following in the footsteps of Saint Bridget and all her faithful community and I welcome you on their behalf.

   May Saint Bridget and all the saints, martyrs and the whole congregation of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour guide you and lead you peacefully through life to your home with Our Lady in heaven.

   Given on the Solemnity of Saint Bridget, 23rd July, 2015. 

+ Mark O’Toole, Ninth Bishop of Plymouth.

Greetings from Sister Anne Smyth, O.Ss. S., former Abbess of Syon...

OUR LORD'S WORDS to Saint Bridget, in a revelation granted to her most probably in 1346, speak of the Bridgettine Order as “a new vineyard” of which she herself was to be the “new vine”.

   The Order was to be “instituted to the honour of my most beloved Mother” and its treasure must consist in “the grace of God, continual study, devout prayer and divine praise.” 1

   For the sisters of the Bridgettine Order, ‘devout prayer and divine praise’ are fulfilled in the daily singing or reciting of their unique Breviary based on the Sermo Angelicus, the text given to Bridget by an angel while she was living in Rome. It was completed by one of her chaplains and confidants, Master Peter Olafsson of Skänninge.

   The use of the Bridgettine Breviary was “confirmed by the authority of Pope Martin V and Innocent VII. Moreover, as it was in use for at least 125 years before the Council of Trent, it is excepted from the Constitution of Pope Pius V abolishing the use of Breviaries differing from that of Rome.” 2

Sister Anne Smyth O.Ss.S.

   It is this Breviary, now in English with adaptations made after the Second Vatican Council, which we proudly offer to individuals for their own prayer.

Each day of every week we can rejoice with Mary in her joys or unite with her in her sorrows. And through the revelations and visions granted to Bridget, we may learn more about the life of Mary’s son, Jesus, from his conception to his Passion, death and glorious Resurrection.

Sister Anne Smyth, O.Ss.S.,

Abbess of Syon 1976 - 2011.

July, 2015.


1 ‘God’s Ambassadress, St Bridget of Sweden’, by Helen M. D. Redpath, pp. 49 - 50.

2 Preface to the 1908 edition by Father P. Simon Hörmann, Prior of Altomünster in Bavaria and Confessor-General. (See also: The Tablet, 29th May 1897, p. 27.)

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