Today we celebrate the Feast of title and a wonderful solemnity for us. Usually our Conventual Mass is at 6.30am, but this morning we celebrated at the decadent hour of 8am! Our feast day is an opportunity to greet all our friends, and also to bring you up to date with our news of the summer, which we will do in the next days.
Our Abbot Cuthbert and Brother Michael visited Brother Michael’s family in Slovakia. They went to the cathedral at Nitra to visit the places associated with the ancient Benedictine saints Andrew Svorad and Benedict the martyr. The bishop invited them to lunch and presented them with the gift of relics of these saints in his private chapel in a gallery looking down into the cathedral. We were delighted to welcome these saints to our monastery, and the abbot was delighted to meet some of the clergy of Nitra, who afforded him a very warm welcome.
During the same visit they were pleased to encounter the Benedictine nuns of Trstín. They are living in a little village together in order to prepare for the move to their new huge monastery, to which they took Fr Abbot and Brother Michael for a visit. The advance party consists of two Germans and a Slovak. The nuns were very pleased indeed to have some Benedictine company for the day, especially when they are so far from their own mother-house in Italy.
We are often described by local people as an ‘oasis’ in Farnborough. As the town has grown around us, we remain a very green area. Geographically speaking we are at the heart of the town, though we probably fulfil the role of its lung more than anything else! We are blessed with a number of helpers and volunteers. Recently the ‘Blooming Marvellous’ group from Rushmoor Volunteer Services returned to do more clearing and tidying of our woodland. They were joined by staff from ‘Enterprise’ car hire, who came to help as part of their company’s interest and investment in the local community. A day of hard, solid, work brought good results. Fr Abbot gave our visitors a tour of the church and crypt at the end of the afternoon.
We were pleased to welcome another group of young people from the Slovak Mission in London for a weekend of prayer. Young Catholics from the parish there have made us a ‘second home’ in the last couple of years.
Four of us attended the Mass and the reception which followed. Bishop Arnold was the celebrant, with a good number of priest friends of the community supporting him.
Fr Abbot has just returned from St Cecilia’s Abbey, Ryde, http://www.stceciliasabbey.org.uk where he preached the annual retreat. His theme was the Christian Altar, using the rites of dedication as a peg on which to hang various themes of monastic spirituality and practice.
A visiting priest recently asked if we were ‘twinned’ in some way with Ryde!
We are not ‘twinned’, but we do enjoy a strong friendship with the community there. Our abbot has received the last two Solemn Professions, we have collaborated on several publications, and support each other with prayer and such mutual help as we are able to give.
Fr Abbot and Dom Michael attended the four hour Mass of Dedication of the Abbey Church of Saint Michel de Kergonan in Brittany. Farnborough and Kergonan have many historic links as well as modern bonds of friendship. Five years ago the Abbey Church of the nuns burnt to the ground and had to be completely rebuilt. The liturgy was a model of what one might call the new Liturgical Movement. It was utterly monastic. Four hours of chant, of lavish ceremonies, processions and profound symbolism. The bishop was clearly at one with all that was happening, and carefully drew on the richness of symbolic fare in his homily.
It was interesting to see that some ceremonies absent from the modern rites were included. For example, the Bishop traced Greek and Latin alphabet in sand (Kergonan is by the sea!) on the pavement before the sanctuary.
There were abbots galore and nuns from everywhere! Monks and nuns alternated the chant. Our abbot was pleased to see so many old friends from the Congregation of Solesmes, as well as abbots of other orders and Benedictine congregations. We are looking forward to seeing the DVD which was filmed on the day. We know that some of our friends will be amused to see the concelebrants’ vestments , prepared for some of the abbots.
Le Barroux – Farnborough – Fontgombault. Les Francais!
Three of the brethren attended the ordination to the sacred priesthood of Frs James Bradley and Daniel Lloyd of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in St Patrick’s, Soho Square. Bishops Hopes, an auxiliary bishop in Westminster, presided and Mgr Newton preached.
Brothers Michael and Anselm had the honour of being in the sanctuary serving. Our community has done its best to welcome and support those Anglicans who have taken up the Holy Father’s generous initiative.
We have had some lovely people passing through our portals in the last month or so. Dom Aidan Bellenger, abbot of Downside dropped in for a fraternal visit. Lord Nicholas Windsor dropped in with another friend of ours to say hello to the abbot. Major works in the monastery have obliged to us to limit guests at the moment, but we were able to accept a small group of retreatants for Holy Week.
Fr Aldo Tapparo, an ‘old’ (no offence Father!) friend of the community, came for lunch in the Easter Octave with Fr Nicholas Edmonds-Smith of the Oxford Oratory.
Brother Michael cooked a superb lunch of poached salmon in a Martini, walnut and French bean sauce with halved grapes.
We also were delighted to offer hospitality to two ordinands preparing for ordination. Chris Seiler (pictured below), of the North American College, in Vatican City, came to prepare for his ordination to the Diaconate. Also we welcomed Deacon James Bradley for his priestly ordination retreat. Deacon James deaconed our Conventual Mass beautifully. He is a member of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which enjoys full communion with the Catholic Church, but which brings with it Anglican patrimony. An English seminarian also spent a few days of retreat with us.
Please pray for these two in the early days of their ministry as priest and deacon in God’s holy Church, and pray that many more will respond to the Lord’s call to the priesthood and the religious life.
Our flock of Wiltshire horn sheep has increased tremendously this year. Eleven lambs were born in the octave of Easter, including a set of triplets. Mothers and babies are doing well. They were not affected by the Schmallenberg virus which has been causing birth defects in lambs in other parts of Hampshire. Two lambs had trouble with their feet and were walking on their knuckles, but the abbot put a splint on them and they are now fine.
The bees have come back to life. We have twenty-five colonies. First inspections showed them to be good and strong and healthy, but the weather changes often throw them into confusion at this time of year. The photographs of the sheep and bees were taken by Brother Michael, probably with a long -distance lens for the bees!