Magnus reflects on his recent trip to Spain where support for Mary’s Meals is growing. 

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow
Founder and Global Chief Executive

Back to all stories | Posted on 06 Jul 2018 in Blog

Marta Manen, executive director of Mary’s Meals Spain, knows how to prioritise.  First stop during my hectic four-day trip, not long after landing in Barcelona, she has me visiting some of our most passionate and important supporters here. We ring the doorbell of the house adjoining the church and are told to come in and wait while our hosts finish their lunch. We stand in a bare parlour until, after a few silent minutes, some large shutters open revealing a wrought iron grill. Behind the grill, some smiling faces begin to appear: faces framed by the distinctive white habits of nuns – a dozen of them – belonging to the centuries-old Carmelite order, who have chosen a life dedicated to prayer and contemplation enclosed behind the doors of their convent.

They thank us profusely for coming to visit and tell us of their love for Mary’s Meals, how they have read my book to each other over lunch, and how they pray for us every day. I thank them, telling them that they are an essential and beautiful part of our mission. One of them, with a young, beaming face, steps forward from the shadows shyly and tells us that she had first learnt of Mary’s Meals a few years ago when – prior to being an enclosed nun – she had attended the youth festival in Medjugorje. We talk for a few more minutes, our conversation punctuated by lots of laughter, and then they ask me a favour. To the side of the grill a little turntable creaks and begins to revolve (their method of passing items in and out of the enclosed convent) and a slightly worn copy of my book appears with a request for me to write a note on it for them. I do so and send it back the way it came. Another creak, and an envelope appears in front of me, which I discover later contains an incredibly generous donation. 

Open quote mark And so, a very beautiful movement grows here around our simple vision. Not everyone who joins the Mary’s Meals movement is a person of faith, but those who chose to pray for Mary’s Meals continue to play a very special part in this work – as they have done from the beginning. Close quote mark

I leave feeling very blessed by the encounter, which evoked memories of some Carmelite nuns I knew growing up. They were dear friends of my grandmother and sometimes we used to visit them together and later, when we first began to drive aid to Bosnia, they prayed and prayed for us. We depended on them a lot.

Our mission statement mentions prayer as one of the gifts people can offer Mary’s Meals and often, when I am speaking about our work, I describe it as ‘a fruit of prayer’.  Recently I have met a startling variety of people praying for our work. Just a couple of weeks before my visit to these nuns I had been invited to speak to a youth prayer group in Versailles. A group of 60 or 70 gathered in a crypt below their parish church, as they did every week, to praise God. For two hours they sang praise songs and danced for joy. Trendy teenagers, dancing without inhibition and not a drop of alcohol to be seen: just a faith that seemed to fill them with immense joy. Back in our Glasgow office – a place of incessant hard work and where the pressure of supporting this ever-growing global movement can sometimes weigh heavy – some staff gather each morning at around 10am to pray together, with colleagues all over the world joining them at the equivalent hour in their own time zones. And just across the road from my Shed, in Craig Lodge Family House of Prayer, the little community spends hours in the chapel each day and make the Mary’s Meals Prayer part of their daily devotions.

The Spanish trip was an incredible success. Many hundreds of people came to our events and many learnt about our work for the first time. Large numbers of them came because of another remarkable congregation of nuns, The Little Sisters of the Lamb, who live a life of poverty dependent on the charity of others. They are also extremely good at persuading people to do things – such as joining the Mary’s Meals movement! And so, a very beautiful movement grows here around our simple vision. Not everyone who joins the Mary’s Meals movement is a person of faith, but those who chose to pray for Mary’s Meals continue to play a very special part in this work – as they have done from the beginning.