Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Our Lady's Assumption

What a joy it was to celebrate the Assumption (actually on the 15th August!) in the wonderful atmosphere of the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady, Fontgombault, in the Province of Berry, France.

Having arrived in a Cessna 172 single engine plane at Le Blanc airfield the first visit to the Abbey was for Solemn Pontifical First Vespers on Saturday evening, presided over by His Lordship the Abbot.
Saturday brought with it the celebration of a Pontifical High Mass at the Throne, preceded by Terce and a procession around the cloister. it was a privilege to participate at Mass from the Transept and therefore have an un-restricted view of both the Throne and the Altar.
Later that day there was again Pontifical Vespers this time with a procession of Our Lady and around the Church itself along with various Marian devotions, followed by benediction.
Fontgombault was the venue for a liturgical conference in 2001 which was presided over by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The monks celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite but include the Universal Prayers / Intercession (in Latin) and omit the Last Gospel.
The singing of the Gregorian chant is sublime and the whole experience is surely a foretaste of heaven!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Northern Lands

Family affairs took me to the North East of England last weekend. Whilst there I was able to visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the ruined Cistercian Abbey at Rievaulx in the North York Moors.

The Monastery at Lindisfarne was founded in 635AD by St Aidan a monk of Iona. It lies on an island just off the Northumberland Coast and is connected to the mainland by a causeway across the sand except twice daily when the tide isolates the island.

1 The Abbey 2 St Cuthbert 3 Sculpture of Monks Carry Cuthberts Relics

Aidan's monastery is now ruined but has many interesting features including architectural details on pillars that are very similar to those in Durham Cathedral. Lindisfarne was for a time a dependant house of the Abbey at Durham.

St Cuthbert was once prior of Lindisfarne and lived on the island as well as at his hermitage on a small island of Inner Farne, now know as St Cuthbert's Island. He became Bishop of Lindisfarne before returning to the hermitage to die. His relics were later transferred to Durham where the current magnificent Cathedral was raised in his honour.

Many other saints were formed at Lindisfarne and there prayers were invoked for the ministry of the Church in the North.

The nine saints of Lindisfarne are:
  • St Aidan
  • St Finan
  • St Colman
  • St Tuda
  • St Eata
  • St Cuthbert
  • St Eadberht
  • St Eadfrith
  • St Ethelwald
Some of the great missionary saints also had associations with the monastery in their time:
  • St Chad
  • St Cedd
  • St Wilfrid
St Egbert, a monk of Lindisfarne influenced the apostolate of:
  • St Wilfrid
  • St Wigbert
  • St Willibrord
The Anglican parish church of St Mary the Virgin stands in the grounds of the monastery and I was able to fulfil the SSIM obligations there and in the abbey itself as well as praying for the current (Titular) Bishop of Lindisfarne, the Rt Revd John Arnold, Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster.

1 Nave looking East 2 Shrine of St William

Rievaulx Abbey, situated near the lovely market town of Helmsley, was founded in 1132 and was the first Cistercian house in the north of England. It's third Abbot was St Aelred (1147-67) when the community had 140 choir monks and up to 500 lay brothers and servants. Graves of some of the monks are extant in the Narthex, Choir and Chapter House. The abbey also houses the shrine of St William, the first Abbot (1131-45).

3 Cloister

Both sites provided perfect opportunities to exercise the apostolate of our Society.

Saints of the North; Pray for us!