A Tide That Sings: Mother Mary Agnes & SOLI

I have started my morning by feeding the friendly robin, who bops and dances to draw my attention to his hungry plight as the snow lays thickly on the ground today here in the Highlands of Scotland. He is a joyful splash of colour, set against the stark whiteness, a cheerful chappy always guaranteed to get fed when he comes to the French windows that lead out of our kitchen to the garden beyond…and he knows it! Alfie our Persian cat stares sulkily through the glass at him, weighing up the cold wet snow and the sport of chasing robin; quickly deciding that he also enjoys many benefits from hanging around us humans with regards to his own comforts and settles back to stretch lazily and purr, almost teasing the robin from his own cosy warm mat.

During my first few weeks of recovery following major surgery, I spent a blissfully indulgent time laying on my bed, resting and reading. Reading is always a delicious treat for me, and I usually have half a dozen books lined up and waiting by the time I get the chance to put down the pen and pick up the book. Shortly after my operation I came across a gem of a lady whose four books I  then searched for and managed to purchase secondhand and to describe her work as gourmet reading hardly does Mother Mary Agnes credit! My husband and I have an almost insatiable desire to live somewhere really remote, off grid if possible, to be almost complete hermits really…and I think he found the property below on a search and sent me a link. I started eagerly exploring and found Mother Mary Agnes and SOLI. Perhaps one of you readers will buy it…if so may we have an invite please? Or maybe you will visit, or even read her marvellous books like I did and derive great inspiration from her life and work.

Mother Mary Agnes, of the diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, was born in Nottingham and grew up in a small mining town. At an early age she was influenced by the life of St Francis of Assisi and also by the Celtic Church. An introduction to Scotland added a touch of magic. After more than 20 years as an Anglican Franciscan sister in Devon, she began a new religious life as a solitary on the remote island of Fetlar in Shetland. She she was joined by other women seeking the same solitary lifestyle and subsequently formed the Society of Our Lady of the Isles. [SOLI.]

Her four autobiographical books are, A Tide That Sings, The Song of the Lark, Island Song and For Love Alone. Mother Mary still lives on Fetlar but it is thought that she will soon move to the neighboring island of Yell or Unst where there are more facilities to help her as she is now in her late 80’s. The books are the most amazing tale of vocation, mission, the twists and turns of the path that God leads us along in order to get us to where he wants us to be; and the joys, laughter and worries and questions that saying yes to God entail. So human, so evocative, these books transported me to a tiny remote island where the gale force winds whip around the eaves of a small sanctuary filled with prayer and candlelight, where ferry trips of hours are endured to get the most basic of provisions and medical care…the challenges and the rewards of living in such a place. The interaction with islanders and the establishment of her small community with her ever present cats by her side…this lady is a huge human being, a woman with a vibrant, warm beating heart that includes all she comes across and weaves all into her seamless Celtic stream of life and love of God. Here is a small excerpt from her first book A Tide That Sings…

‘Sea pinks nodded from the crevices of rock and carpeted the banks above, along with the wild violet and scabius. Soon the varieties of orchid would be out too, and all manner of other wild species of flowers. One was afraid, almost, to walk across the machair at this time of year, for fear of crushing such beauty. few people of course ever found their way here. Visitors went to the obvious beauty spots,and the islanders were far too busy, or had other lovlier beaches nearer to hand to enjoy. Anyway, this one today was all mine…

Something pushed against me, and a furry ball curled into my side. I spoke to him and he flexed his paw and purred. A ewe nearby nuzzled two sleepy lambs and moved them up on the hill. ‘Lovest thou Me?’ The Lord had asked Simon Peter, and then had said, ‘Feed my lambs…’ and, ‘Feed my sheep…’ That had been Peter’s commission. I opened the breviary I had brought along with me. I would say the Second Vespers of Easter there on the shore…

Almighty God, who through Thine only begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; we humbly beseech Thee, that as by Thy special grace preventing us Thou dost put into the minds good desires; so by Thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect. ‘

The community is now selling one of the small houses on Fetlar complete with chapel…and more details of the community and the house are here: Happy hunting!