Star of the Week
Well done to Eva who was the Year 5 and 6 Star of the Week.
Sister Margaret Truran
As part of our RE topic on Vocation and Commitment, the children have been asking Sr. Margaret Truran, who is a Benedictine nun in the Santa Cecilia Community in Rome, questions about life as a nun.
- Why did you choose to be a nun?
It came as a surprise. I visited some Benedictine monks for a second time. I had never thought of being a nun; I wasn’t male and I thought of the monks as people much holier than me. But someone happened to mention the words “Stanbrook Abbey”, a monastery for women. I had never been there, but I suddenly knew I was being called to be a Benedictine nun.
- How long have you been a nun?
Almost 42 years. I was clothed (that is, received the habit) at Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester, on Easter Monday, 11 April 1976.
- Was there a particular sign or calling from God?
Yes. I can’t easily explain, but it was a definite call to which I had to respond “Yes”. It was a moment of sweetness, happiness.
- What was your motivation?
Just to respond to that call.
- Why did you choose the Benedictine nuns?
When I was at university, I had “tutorials”, sessions where a tutor (or teacher) has just one or two pupils. My companion was a Benedictine monk. We became friends and he invited me together with some others to visit his monastery.
- Is it a difficult job?
It is demanding and challenging. You seek to live a life of faith in God, living in his presence, trying to love him with one’s whole heart, mind and strength.
- A photo of the 10 Benedictine nuns of Santa Cecilia
-Is it interesting being a nun?
It is definitely not boring. There is a rigorous training in the noviciate. Novices learn not only to pray, but are given time to study the Bible, to learn to sing - our main work is singing the praise of God in choir - to learn Latin and perhaps Greek, to learn how to guide others, etc.
It is strange; you leave the world, and then people come and find you. The whole world opens up and becomes bigger. People trust you, and they come to talk about their difficulties, to ask for spiritual help. So, although we live within the monastery and don’t normally go out - that’s to ensure that we are focused on a life of prayer - we are not closed off from the world but try to be at its heart. St Therese of Lisieux wanted to be a missionary, but then realized she was living at the heart of the Church and it is the heart that sends blood to the whole body. So by being a nun, in a sense she was also being a missionary.
- Do you like being a nun?
It’s funny, I don’t think any more about being a nun; I just am! Deep down it is a very happy life. At the same time there are plenty of ordinary things that are uncongenial, as for everyone; we don’t escape challenges.
- Do you ever have any fun?
Yes, there are times of relaxation. Usually in community we keep silent, in order to maintain an atmosphere of prayer, but before Compline (the last time during the day of prayer together) we come together to chat, exchange news, tell stories, laugh together. At Stanbrook there was an hour of recreation on Saturday afternoons when you could do things together in small groups: play table tennis, go for a walk, perhaps bird-spotting, listen or play music together. We would write ideas on the recreation board and invite people to join us. One Saturday in February the pond was frozen over and a lame, elderly nun in a moment of fun suggested on the recreation board: “Skating on the ice.” Abbess Elizabeth wrote underneath, “Strictly forbidden!”
Italians love feasts. Here at Santa Cecilia we usually eat in silence while one of the nuns reads from a book. On Sundays and feast-days, however, we can talk during dinner; there will be festive flowers on the table and with luck chocolates or sweets at the end of the meal (unless it is Lent).
- What is the name of your church and where is it located?
The name of our church is the Basilica of Santa Cecilia. It was actually her house as well as the place where she was martyred. When she lay dying, she gave her home to the Pope, and it became one of the first places of Christian worship in Rome. At that time you were not allowed to be a Christian, so when Christians came together for Mass they had to meet in secret.
The church is located in the centre of Rome near the river Tiber. It is in the part of Rome where the Jews used to live, and therefore where SS Peter and Paul would have come when they arrived in Rome. We are not far from the Roman Forum.
- What do you do in your day to day life?
People are tempted to think that nuns float around all day, but the opposite is the truth. I remember being amazed during my first months in the monastery how much was fitted into the day even before breakfast. This is because so many hours are spent in prayer. There are still the ordinary jobs to be done: washing, cooking and cleaning. Then there are the bills to pay, for water, gas, electricity. We have to try and earn our living to pay those bills! We also spend time with guests, “never lacking in a monastery,” says St Benedict in the Rule he wrote for his monks. Guests come to pray or in search of a wise word, if we can give it; sometimes just a listening ear can help. Some visit the basilica to appreciate its beauty and history. A poor man may ring the monastery bell, asking for something to eat.
Prayer and work are the two pillars of the day in a Benedictine monastery. I think that balance, between prayer and work, is the great strength of the Rule of St Benedict, and explains why it has endured for 1500 years.
- Do you like children visiting your church?
Definitely. Santa Cecilia’s church is part of a monastery, so it is not a parish church where families in the parish naturally go to Mass on Sundays. But everyone is welcome to come to Mass here or to the other services that take place during the day.
Italians love children, and we invite local children to come for special occasions. For example on February 2nd, the feast of Candlemas, children come in the afternoon, light candles, visit the Christmas crib for the last time (here the crib remains in position from Christmas Day till the last Christmas feast, February 2nd), sing songs, and are given a blessing.
One family is very close to us, because their parents work here. They have two children, aged nine and five, David and Maria Divina, who come here after school. On Saturdays they have piano lessons from me.
We also welcome groups of Scouts; they include girls as well as boys, because Girl Guides are called Scouts in Italy. You would recognize them at once, as they wear more or less the same uniform as in Britain.
- What is your daily routine?
Mass is at the centre of the day. Then throughout the day we have different “hours”, or times, of sung prayer together. These “hours”, like Mass, are prayed on behalf of the whole Church, so they are public and anyone can attend. The aim is to sanctify time, both day and night. The moments of community prayer are:
- Vigils, the Night Office
- Lauds, at daybreak.
- Terce, Sext and None, known as the “Little Hours”. These are three short times of prayer before and after work, at about 9.00, midday and 3.00.
- Vespers, at sunset
- Compline, short and beautiful prayers at bedtime
You will be wondering how these hours fit into the timetable at Santa Cecilia.
5.15 (5.30 on Sundays) the rising bell sounds.
5.45 (6.00 on Sundays) Vigils.
6.45 Lauds, solemn praise to mark daybreak and the beginning of a new day
7.20 Mass, fully sung like Lauds with the organ.
8.15 Breakfast! Not up to an English breakfast, but still very welcome three hours after getting up!
Dusting and sweeping our rooms
9.20 Perhaps change into work clothes, for those who go to feed the hens or work in the kitchen
For the first hour, I usually serve as portress, answering the front door, the telephone, showing visitors the beautiful frescoes on the walls of a chapel off the church.
Then there is the organization of the "liturgy": that's Mass and the other services during the day. Depending on whether it is a Sunday or feast-day, or just an ordinary "feria", there are chants to prepare, plus booklets and sheets of music for our guests.
Most days of the week pupils arrive for a music lesson. Sometimes there is a group. Piano lessons are always one-to-one. I enjoy the personal contact of these lessons.
The last part of the morning is usually devoted to organ practice, essential as I do most of the organ playing at Mass, Lauds and Vespers!
Dishwashing for 25-30 people, counting the community, our students, staff and guests. That takes half-an-hour.
Free time: a
I act as Secretary for our school of Gregorian chant and liturgical music. So this is the time for the accounts, business letters, etc.
Perhaps also for writing an article about monastic life or Gregorian chant for publication in a book or on the internet.
7.15 Vespers, a beautiful evening service fully sung, with organ accompaniment
On Sundays, the solemn Mass is at 10.00. There is more time for spiritual reading and prayer.
What are the other nuns called?
At the head of the community is the Abbess, Mother Maria Giovanna.
Sr Chiara, named after St Clare of Assisi, St Francis’ great friend, entered the monastery 75 years ago this week! She looked after our hens and two lambs till her back gave way two years ago. Now she can hardly walk, but is still merry and bright as a button.
Next comes Sr Maria Cecilia, named of course after St Cecilia.
Sr Filomena was our cook till the summer, when she had to have an operation. Now she helps to look after visitors and tourists, and crochets beautiful table-mats in the shape of giant butterflies to sell in our shop.
Sr Rosaria is the sacristan and looks after the basilica, a big job.
Then comes Sr Letizia, a word which means happiness, and she is a joyful person! She is assistant infirmarian, accountant, and organizes hospitality for big occasions like the feast of St Cecilia next week.
I am next in order.
Sr Mechtilde is from Rwanda, a country in Africa. She is novice mistress and guest mistress.
Sr Cecilia Maria makes candles (including huge Paschal candles), soap and distilled water to sell in the shop. She also runs the Matrimony Office in the basilica, seeing engaged couples who want to have their wedding in our basilica, and giving them marriage counselling. You may wonder why there are two people called Cecilia in the community. Her baptismal name is Cecilia, and Mother Maria Giovanna felt that you couldn’t change that in a monastery dedicated to St Cecilia. She is called Cecilia Maria to distinguish her from Sr Maria Cecilia.
Sr Vincenza looks after the hens and lambs, and is also cook.
Link to Hope Family Shoebox Appeal
Thank you to all the children and parents for your generous donations towards the Shoebox Appeal. Your generosity will certainly make a lot of people and families happy this Christmas.
This half term the children will finish studying The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
They will also study Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy.
Please ensure your child keeps up-to-date with reading activities, so that they can participate fully with classroom activities.
Children will have arithmetic lessons when they arrive each morning, so the earlier they get in, the more time they will have to complete the tasks.
It is important that your child is confident with their times tables up to 12 x 12 so please encourage them to get as much practice as they can at home. Mathletics has lots of activities that they can use for this. www.mathletics.co.uk
The children will be learning about the properties and changes of materials this term. Mr Naughton will be teaching science every Monday and Wednesday.
The children will be carrying out a local study this half term in geography lessons.
In Autumn 1, the children studied Ancient Greece and drew symmetrical drawings of the Parthenon as part of their art topic.
Please find below a link to Lexia - a spelling and reading programme.
Your log in is your first name and the first letter of your surname (eg Sarah Smith would be sarahs).
Your password is read.
Any problems or questions please ask Mrs Price in Year 6.