To conclude this Year of Mercy, on 9 November 2016, Emmanuel Community missionaries from all over the world descended upon London, armed with the relics of St Claude de la Colombiere and St Margaret Mary, in order to spread the message of mercy from the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Members of the Emmanuel community came from as far as Australia, Mexico, the US, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Ireland especially for the mission.
In a collaborative effort with the Jesuits and Father Alexander Sherbrooke from St Patrick’s Church in Soho, the Emmanuel missionaries went out into the streets of London for four days and nights to evangelise and invite people to come and venerate the relics and spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament.
The relics were taken to five different parishes, two convents, St Elizabeth’s Hospice, London Oratory School and Wormwood Scrubs Prison. In addition there were two processions that followed the footsteps of the Catholic martyrs who were hanged, drawn and quartered in those
very streets four hundred years ago.
The visit of the two saints — reunited after more than 300 years — was the driving force behind this Sacred Heart of Mercy Mission. Their presence had particular relevance, for it was thanks to St Margaret Mary and St Claude that the very devotion to Christ’s Heart, open and enflamed with love for all, was spread throughout the world.
Commencing on Wednesday evening at the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception, the mission opened with Holy Mass, celebrated by Bishop Wilson, followed by an all-night vigil.
“The focus of the visit of the relics” said Wilson, was “to draw people closer to Jesus and to enable them to experience the love of His Sacred Heart. The Saints are our intercessors; they desire and long for our holiness. The presence of their relics brings us close to Jesus and his love. His Heart is the source of new life.”
The little Sisters of the Lamb, who had travelled (some hitchhiking) to England for the mission, sang compline before the Blessed Sacrament in quiet and prayerful contemplation. The Emmanuel community then accompanied the faithful in song throughout the night, keeping watch with Christ on the altar until morning.
On Thursday some of the missionaries took the relics to the St Elizabeth’s hospice, where those residents who were at the end of their lives could have some time to venerate the relics and offer up their intentions.
On Friday the relics were taken to London Oratory School. The missionaries gave their personal testimonies, revealing how they had experienced the love of Christ in their lives. The young students engaged enthusiastically and were given the opportunity to pray beside the relics.
All of the missionaries then congregated at Tyburn convent where they were welcomed by the Benedictine Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre, a congregation of Sisters who, like the Emmanuel Community, have a particular devotion to the Sacred Heart.
From there, everyone set off in procession, relics in hand, taking the road that the martyrs had been dragged down, after being partially hanged, on their way to be quartered most brutally at Tyburn for refusing to give up their Catholic faith.
It was an incredible moment of grace and great spiritual battle, as the faithful moved through the streets towards St Patrick’s Church in Soho. While shoppers and party-goers bustled about, the faithful sang and prayed on their knees and spoke to all who would listen about Christ’s message of mercy.
A second procession took place on Saturday afternoon, stopping this time at the churches of Notre Dame de France and Corpus Christi, again walking the relics through the most secular of streets, in the belly of the most secular of cities.
Ed, who came from Dublin for the mission, described his experience of the processions: “When I first heard that the relics would be carried in procession down Oxford Street, the main shopping street in the centre of London, I thought this couldn’t be possible!” he said. “Then I realised “Yes! God can do the impossible.”
He continued “we had been warned that we might face some difficult moments and maybe even violence as we evangelised, but our desire to bring the love and mercy of the Sacred Heart to the people on the streets overcame all our fears.”
“I was saddened by the blank, stressed, uncaring faces of some people who had no time to stop for a moment and listen to our message” Ed explained. “However, I experienced a real joy when people stopped and asked, “What’s happening here?” “Why are you all so happy?” and I had the opportunity to talk about the relics of these two great saints who just wanted to let the world know of the love that Jesus has for each one of us.”
“I realised that I also was being evangelised” Ed continued, “All I had to do was invite and God would do the rest. What a joy it was to see stressed faces becoming relaxed and uncaring faces showing interest. The Lord was working great marvels in the centre of London.”
Each procession was followed by a night vigil at St Patrick’s Church in Soho. On Friday there was a healing service, where all people were invited to spend some time before Jesus on the altar, and there were CFR, Emmanuel and local parish priests available for the Sacrament of Confession. Saturday night was Night Fever, culminating in a procession to close the Door of Mercy, a gesture that was happening all over the world to bring a close to the Year of Mercy.
The mission concluded with mass on the Sunday at Our Lady of Victories Church in Kensington. The church was filled with joyful faces, giving thanks to God for the graces of the mission. It was an incredible time of mercy for the confused and busy city of London. So many hearts were touched by the peaceful presence of the relics, and more importantly of Our Lord and His Sacred Heart.
Through the visit of the relics to perhaps the most secular city in the world, the Sacred heart poured out a continual flow of grace and the sense that permeated the whole mission was one of incredible peace and unity.
Photos: Penny BadwalShare on Facebook