On Saturday I had dinner with my friend Maxine, her husband Simon and other assorted jolly diners. We were a great party, brought together by Fr Jonathan Martin. Fr Jonathan had just returned from a Tyburn Pilgrimage with Maxine and Simon. Maxine was full of it, and precisely the story of her own special patron, St Anne Line.
Anne was arrested on this day in 1601, the feast of the Purification of Our Lady or Candlemas. Anne had hosted the celebration of Mass in her home. In her festal excitement she had invited a bigger group than usual; because of the ceremonies surrounding the blessing of candles attention was drawn to the event. Whilst the celebrant was concealed in a place Anne had previously prepared for him, there was no escape for our heroic hostess. She was taken to Newgate and after summary trial executed at Tyburn just a few weeks later.
Anne was known for her hospitality and brave faith. She was not afraid to be conspicuous too. I discovered she had been a convert from Puritanism and was taken to Newgate with Margaret Gage, presumably one of the Gages of Firle, near Maxine’s home in Lewes.
This morning I celebrated Mass for the Augustinian canonesses at Kingston-near-Lewes. Sister Caro John of this community, was professed on this day in 1999. Conspicuous in their cream habits and black veils, they have brought a renewed understanding of the consecration of life to the Lord to this lovely bit of East Sussex. The sisters join other religious from the diocese of Arundel & Brighton today at Worth to mark the Year of Consecrated Life. The diocese is giving them their dinner.
Brother Daniel and Brother Maximillan (a former beneficiary of the Society) and their conventual brothers hosted my visit to their lovely new Friary off the Cowley Road. Formerly occupied by the Anglican All Saints sisters, the friars have now taken up residence and have been graciously welcomed to make the convent and its chapel their home. This Comper gem couldn’t be more fitted for Catholic worship. The sisters have taken up residence in a house more suited to their needs close to the children’s hospice; this was one of the more recent of their rich and important initiatives since their own foundation for work amongst the poor and needy. The chapel’s gentle statue of Our Lady is quite beautiful. Comper, it is said, was able to recognise when he had done a good job – no false modesty here. I hope he continues to know how much his ‘werk in that church, don’t ye know…’ is appreciated.
St Anne is sometimes referred to as the friend of priests. She said, when charged with receiving a priest, that she was grieved she could not have received a thousand more. I am very grateful for the friendship of Maxine and Sr Caro John and her sisters. I feel sure that the women who support our beneficiaries, as well as the women who are themselves beneficiaries, have something of the spirit of Anne Line about them.