A Word to an Anonymous Northerner

The last few months have been hectic, demanding, occasionally rewarding, often dispiriting but generally productive. At the end of August, (to twist the Preface of the Dead) my life was ended not changed when I was appointed bursar of the monastery. My day had been structured, for most of my almost-18 years here, principally around the monastic liturgical horarium. Now it revolves around another sort of office, with computers and files, income and (always-greater) expenditure, staff crises and, most recently, storm damage to the abbey church. Some days I spend up to nine hours in the office. I am out of practice for a “normal” nine-to-five sort of job.

Sometimes I manage to use my downtime not in wallowing in problems but in recognizing that people can be surprisingly, and very cheeringly, good. In the past year I have received often surprise gifts of books, fountain pens, handkerchiefs, a bottle or two of something heartening, a floor-standing bookstand, and no doubt things I cannot recall at this very moment. Such gifts never fail to bring encouragement and cheer, and so often they come just when I could do with some! Sinner though I am, I do try to ensure that I manifest my sincere gratitude as directly as possible to my benefactors.

Continue reading “A Word to an Anonymous Northerner”

More that was not lost

It’s been a busy day so just one piece today in the series on Douai Abbey’s Ward vestments. Today it is the cope.

The cope was another significant piece of the set that was ready in 1896, though in that year the morse for it had not yet been made. It is essentially easy to describe: the orphreys on the front show the 12 apostles grouped in pairs. Continue reading “More that was not lost”

Not all was lost

In the 1890s our priory (Douai became an abbey only in 1900, along with the other ancient EBC houses) in Douai, Flanders, was blessed with a series of generous benefactions from Edmund Granville Ward (1853-1915), of the Isle of Wight, son of the Tractarian convert to Catholicism, W G Ward. Mr Ward had discovered Douai on his way to Rome in 1894, and in 1895 he gave £100 for the library. The next year he funded the building of a new cloister, which came to be named after him, as well as the development of  cricket oval and tennis courts at the monastery’s villa down the road in Planques. A little later he funded a new lavatory block (not named after him) and a guest wing. The great tragedy is that in under a decade the community would have to abandon its newly-embellished monastery and school in the wake of the French government’s 1901 Law of Associations, a law which saw a mass exodus of monastic houses to Britain, including Solesmes to Quarr and La Grande Chartreuse to Parkminster. Continue reading “Not all was lost”

Benedictine Bling

For most Benedictines today is the greater of the two feast days of our founder, St Benedict. Today honours his passing to eternal life; 11 July commemorates the translation of his relics to Monte Cassino (or was it Fleury? Depends who you ask!). That we are in Lent does not dampen our celebration in any way save for the absence of the A-word.

This evening at pontifical vespers the abbot will wear our patronal, or Malvern, cope. It comes from our (Douai Abbey’s) short-lived foundation at Great Malvern, which was founded in 1891 has a ready refuge in case of our expulsion from France. When expulsion did indeed come in 1903, we settled at Woolhampton at St Mary’s College, the Portsmouth diocesan minor seminary, which the Bishop of Portsmouth kindly handed over to us. Our school and the seminary combined to form Douai School (which closed in 1999).

One of the patrons of the Malvern priory was the Douai monk and Bishop of Port Louis in Mauritius, Archbishop Benedict Scarisbrick OSB. He endowed Malvern with some lovely items for use in the opus Dei, not least this wonderful cope. The striking damask is not of English origin, possibly Belgian as our other striking vestments from that period were made by Grossé in Belgium. The embroideries, which include our patrons St Benedict and St Edmund, as well as a hood showing the Good Shepherd—represented to all Benedictines in the person of St Benedict—were probably made by the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus in Southam in Warwickshire. Continue reading “Benedictine Bling”

A Patron Saint

Before there was St George, there was St Edmund, King, Virgin and Martyr, whose feast falls today. St George was a soldier saint from the region we now call Syria (what little of it remains intact notwithstanding). He was a decent chap and a worthy saint, but he did not become England’s patron saint until the fourteenth century. He was brought back by crusaders and had been favoured under the Norman occupation because he was neither Anglo-Saxon—and thus a potential emblem for resistance among the subjugated English—nor a Norman—and thus likely to be rejected out of hand buy the English. Before him St Edward the Confessor (on whose feast my birthday happily falls) had been widely considered the national patron of England, though even he was not original. The first saint we call the patron of England was St Edmund, the patron of my monastery, and the raison d’être of the great abbey and town of Bury St Edmunds. Continue reading “A Patron Saint”

Missals in the Monastery Cupboard—2

Sorry – another mega missal post, but the last, so—courage. [As usual, if you click the photos they will open in full size.]

First from the cloister haul is this example of a missal I had not come across before: a Missal-Vesperal. Many of the 20th-century people’s missals began to include vespers and even compline, as a way of bringing the life of Christian worship out beyond the confines of Mass and to imbue daily life with the spirit of the liturgy.

Continue reading “Missals in the Monastery Cupboard—2”

Missals in the Monastery Cupboard—1

This will verge on a megapost. There was quite the variety of missals in the cupboard. As a great lover of the old hand missals I found these of special interest. If the old missals do nothing for your adrenalin levels then this post may not be of interest to you. There is no particular rationale to the following sequence.

The first is a representative of the high-water mark of the hand missals for the laity that were one of the great fruits of the authentic liturgical movement.

It has an intrguing inscription. Either Christopher is something of an indian giver, or Judie is very possessive.

Continue reading “Missals in the Monastery Cupboard—1”