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Celebrating St. Margaret

St. Peter’s Partick was the host parish for the Glasgow Churches Together (GCT) service to honour St. Margaret. Parish Priest Canon Peter McBride was joined by representatives of the Church of Scotland and the Methodist Church, by the St. Mungo Singers and instrumentalists Clare O’Neill, John Allan and Noel Donnelly for the celebration.

As the congregation gathered, the instrumentalists played quietly and the choir sang Dr. Donnelly’s hymn in honour of St. Margaret. Then the service began with the Lectionary carried in procession, escorted by Scottish saltire flags carried by students from Notre Dame High School, carried to the sanctuary and placed on the lectern. Meanwhile the congregation sang “God our Creator”.

As Canon McBride lit the candles on the sanctuary, the St. Mungo Singers led the congregation in singing James Quinn’s “O Light from Light”. Then they sang a haunting new piece (a “motettino” as the composer wryly described it) by Mgr. Fitzpatrick in honour of St. Margaret. Canon McBride welcomed the congregation and guests to the service in honour of a saint whom he described as one of the most important women to have lived in our country.

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Canon McBride lights the candles for the service

The service continued with the singing of Psalm 23, a very appropriate psalm in honour of “the ones who seek your face, who seek your face, O Lord”, followed by Psalm 121 – a psalm with a particularly poignant in light of the events of the preceding Friday in Paris: “May the house of the Lord be at peace!” .

Before the reflection, the Notre Dame students led the singing of “O Scotland Blest” , their voices soft and sweetly carrying. Their headmistress, Mrs Martin then read a short passage from the First Letter of St. John, before Sr. Maureen Coyle SND gave a wonderful reflection on St. Margaret and her relevance for us today.

Margaret, she said, was a wonderful wife, mother and Queen, and a great influence on the Scotland of her time, a holy woman who cared for the poor and orphaned, and supported the spread of education in the country. She helped social reforms and helped pilgrims through the institution of the ferry at Queensferry and hostels along the way. The new bridge being built across the Forth continues that link in its name – the Queensferry Crossing.The cave in which she used to pray in Dunfermline remains in existence and a little chapel at Edinburgh Castle, built on the site of her oratory there, is dedicated to her, and flowers are placed there each week by women named Margaret in her honour.

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The girls of Notre Dame lead the singing

Many organisations are named after her, among them the St. Margaret Hospice in Clydebank and the St. Margaret Children & Family Care Society, and this year the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) has been placed under the patronage of St. Margaret in this its Golden Jubilee Year. Sr. Maureen finished her reflection with the words “Margaret, Patroness of our Nation look kindly upon our land and guide us in ways of Justice and Peace.”

After a quiet instrumental interlude as the congregation pondered the message of the reflection, the service continued with the singing of the Magnificat, followed by the Intercessions read by the girls of Notre Dame. Each prayer was followed by the singing of the English translation of the chorus of the official hymn for the Year of Mercy which will start on 8 December: “You should show mercy like the Father”.

As the service drew to a close, the St. Mungo Singers sang Chilcott’s lovely setting of the Irish prayer “May the Road Rise to Meet You”, before Canon McBride read the final prayer and blessing, and the service ended with the hymn “Great St. Margaret”.

The community of St. Peter’s hosted refreshments in the parish hall after the service – lots of sausage rolls, home baking, tea and coffee and chat – to round off a lovely celebration in honour of our Patron Saint.

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Canon Peter with the guests