The Sisters of the Cross and Passion here at OLC have their roots in England and we have many Sisters there. The following article was written by Sister Christine Alderson, CP, one of our English Sisters.
My most enduring image of the Queen comes from the day of her coronation, which I watched on television. My family was invited to a relative’s house because she had a television set and we didn’t. It was truly a red letter day and is imprinted on my memory. What impressed me most, amidst all the pageantry, was the moment in the solemn religious ceremony, after her oaths and anointing with holy oil, that the huge crown was placed on the Queen’s head. The expression on her face and her whole bearing spoke to me of an intense awareness of the duty God was entrusting to her and her willingness to accept. Five years before on her 21st birthday Elizabeth, already heir to the throne, had promised that her life, however long or short, would be spent in the service of her people. At her consecration as Queen this became, it seemed to me, her God-given vocation, one which she carried out faithfully and steadfastly to the very end.
The coronation took place a decade before the Second Vatican Council when ecumenism really came in. English Catholics were still very wary of Protestants and vice versa, but it always pleased me to hear of the Queen’s genuine commitment to Christ and his teaching. In later years she spoke openly of her faith and what it meant to her. Talking about belief outside of religious settings was no longer the “done thing”. There was religious freedom for all, but it was a private matter. In contrast to this, the Queen bore witness to her faith in her speeches to the nation, especially at Christmas. She had also made clear that her role as head of the Church of England did not exclude openness to other Christian churches or other faiths either. This was a huge help and force for good as Britain became more and more multi-cultural.
When the Queen began her reign, the British Empire was already disintegrating. Her father and others had already founded the Commonwealth as a group of free independent nations interested in working together for the common good. The Queen wholeheartedly embraced this cause and developed it considerably. Initially, these countries had all formerly been under British rule, but other countries were free to join and some did. The Commonwealth cannot undo the wrongs of colonialism, wrongs which have become only more obvious, but at least it has been a step in helping these countries move forward. Supporting the Commonwealth has been a service very dear to the Queen’s heart. One image that particularly delighted me was that of the President of an African country dancing with the Queen whilst Prince Philip partnered his wife. The President said he could hardly believe that the Queen would dance with him, a black man.
I personally have never met the Queen, but listening to these last few days to the stories of those who have has been a moving and inspirational experience. Like so many others I loved the Queen’s smile, her sense of humour, and her genuine interest in those she met. In one sense she was carrying out her duties, but she seemed to find joy in them as well. I admired the hard work she put into keeping herself well informed and in studying carefully the government papers she received each day. Her former prime ministers spoke so highly of their weekly meetings with her. Without question, she has been an outstanding monarch, and I feel so proud and grateful that we had her as our Head of State for so long.
Like many English Catholics, I have some Irish ancestry as well and I have sympathy for the Irish point of view. The high point of the Queen’s reign for me was her visit to Ireland. Her sensitivity in her meetings with people, her recognition of the wrongs done by Britain in the past, and her desire for reconciliation was truly inspirational. And the Irish gave her a magnificent welcome in return. I thank God that it all went so well.
Writing this has made me realise just how much I shall miss the Queen. Along with her son, King Charles, I would like to say THANK YOU. And may you rest in peace.
Sister Christine Alderson, CP