The Flame Re-Ignites: Ad Orientem

In the abruptly-curtailed pontificate of Benedict XVI, the issue of the priest celebrating Mass ad orientem became a live topic in mainstream circles. Priests began to summon up the courage to return to the ancient practice which was so needlessly effaced from the life of the Church in the wake of the Council. Then came Pope Francis, who (not least because he is a Jesuit perhaps!) is not much interested in liturgy. This means that in practice he is content not to change any legislation on it (save for the extension to women of the optional mandatum on Maundy Thursday). This hands-off approach is actually a very traditional papal attitude. His sacred indifference has allowed those who had begun to re-align the liturgy with tradition to continue their quiet and increasingly popular work. Continue reading “The Flame Re-Ignites: Ad Orientem”

The previous post – the news gets better

A little further reading has revealed that BAC Systems, the subject of the previous post, is even more active in matters of the faith than I had thought. Though they manufacture modular storage, they have diversified into publishing devotional and catechetical works, and the building of a farm chapel in rural New South Wales which now also has a resident Franciscan hermit serving it. They also support religious sisters in Australia and a parish in Peru, as well as churches, a trade school and an orphanage in Uganda.

Is this the very model of a Catholic manufacturing firm, or is it not?! A place to visit on my next trip home.

Farm-Chapel-facing-east
The farm chapel of Christ the King, near Condobilin in rural New South Wales (Australia)
church-in-uganda
St Andrew’s parish centre under construction in Uganda

 

A monastic workplace, a commercial success

Part of the genius of the Rule of St Benedict, which quickly surpassed other, earlier rules in the western Church to become the pre-eminent monastic rule [to head off any potential pedants at the pass, the Rule of St Augustine is not, strictly speaking, monastic, nor is it as comprehensive as St Benedict’s], is that it is moderate and balanced. It does not depict monastic life as a spiritual utopia, nor monks as Christian supermen. St Benedict knows well the humanity of monks, their first fervour and later laxity, their aptness to cut corners if even from the best of motives, their capacity to annoy each other and their tendency to value more highly what they want to what they need. He imposes a healthy discipline and allows for it to be modified, though this perhaps is also its weakness: it has ever after been modified in the name of holy pragmatism. He places a high value on a demanding formation that begins with strictness in order to make the life sweeter to live in the long term (and indulgence of novices’ preferences and weaknesses has been a perpetual source of trouble for monasteries, not least today when we are so desperate not to lose our few candidates whatever their faults). Continue reading “A monastic workplace, a commercial success”

Br Choleric – RIP

To the best of my knowledge there is no monastic blogger (mogger?*) at Downside Abbey. [*I guess a clerical blogger is a clogger.] Which is a pity. For there is so much about Downside that is worthy of sharing with a wider audience on social media.

Today is the anniversary of the death of Dom Hubert van Zeller (†1984), a far-from-boring monk of Downside, whose prodigious talents have given joy to many a monk, though perhaps some heartburn to an abbot or two. He was very gifted sculptor, with a clean and distinctive style that breathes the air of Ditchling. He was a popular spiritual writer whose works are still in print. Yet for some of us who were not his immediate brethren at Downside, he is most memorable for his books of caricatures published under the pseudonym Br Choleric. Continue reading “Br Choleric – RIP”

The Rise and Rise of St Mary’s University

The Rise and Rise of St Mary’s University

Last night I was privileged to be able to attend the formal launch of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. Amazingly I was even invited to the pre-launch drinks and post-launch supper. I was privileged to see some familiar faces (Dr Jacob Phillips for example) and meet some new ones (Ben Ryan from the ecumenical think-tank Theos, and Dr Chris Altieri from Vatican Radio). It was good to be there as there a clear feeling that something good was afoot for the Church in England and Wales. Continue reading “The Rise and Rise of St Mary’s University”

Sacristans and Justice

One of the jobs yours truly has at the monastery is sacristan. For the last 6 to 9 months I have taken on washing and ironing the smaller of the sacred linens—purificators, lavabo towels, corporals and amices. The housekeeping staff do the bigger cloths for the altar and credence tables. Continue reading “Sacristans and Justice”

A Striking Chalice: Once Lost, Now Found

There’s nothing like procrastination to prompt a blog post.

Yet this post obeys the adage, carpe diem. For yesterday I discovered a chalice we had feared lost. It belonged to our Fr Terence who died last October after years battling cancer. He came as close to peace as he ever did in his last year, and he died well-prepared for his encounter face to face with Christ. As a young monk he was at the vanguard of the reformers in the 1960s, and until the end he gave short shrift to liturgical or theological recidivism. He was a Vatican II priest of a particular stamp, and his hopes had been pinned on the Council unreservedly. His faith was not feigned and his commitment was utterly sincere. Continue reading “A Striking Chalice: Once Lost, Now Found”