Monday, October 23, 2006

Blessing of an abbot

The visitation at Farnborough was completed by Friday, leaving a host of abbots an myself to wander about London on Saturday. We had a splendid visit to Westminster Abbey, where the Chapter House proved to be the highlight of our outing (though we did enjoy the fish and chips at 'The Cardinal', a pub/restaurant near the cathedral).

Sunday, we were present at the solemn blessing of Abbot Cuthbert Brogan of Farnborough, the first ever abbot of the community since its 'second founding' from Prinknash in 1947. The liturgy was almost beyond compare. Given the beauty of the church, the absolutely marvelous vestments and a congregation that could sing the Mass in Gregorian chant, it was enjoyable and moving throughout.

As Abbot Cuthbert explained, the blessing of an abbot is an ecclesial ceremony. The community has the right and duty to elect the abbot, and he begins his minstry after this election. However, monasteries are part of the larger Church, and so it is important that the vicar of Christ in the diocese examine the man elected and thence bestow on him the marks of office.

Given the history of the community, we were blessed by the presence of the Napoleon family, one of whom sat across from me. To my left was an Englishman, to my right a Spaniard and next to Madame Napoleon sat an Italian. Oddly, I became the translator, as English and French were the only two common languages. Any who have heard me struggle with French will get the irony.

It is also no small irony to be seated in such an English setting with the Napoleons a day after visiting Trafalgar Square, which commemorates the defeat of Napoleon I by Lord Nelson at Waterloo. Napoleon Bonaparte was not the friend of Benedictine or Cistercian monasteries, but history has a way of settling these old disputes. Now Benedictines are charged to pray for the repose of the soul of his gradnson and great-grandson (whose tombs are in the crypt at Farnborough), among other descendants.

In the afternoon, I rode back to Prinknash Abbey with Abbot Francis and the retired Abbot Aldhelm. Twas a pity that the weather was so typically English, for we were unable to view the beautiful Gloucershire hillsides on the way in. This morning, I can see the city of Gloucester to one side and Wales to the west. Today we begin the visitation here; I would appreciate a prayer for the visitors and anyone who reads this today.

God's peace be with you!


Joee Blogs said...

Dear Prior Peter,
Thought you might be interested to know photo's of the Abbatial Blessing can be seen on my blog:
And looking at your website I believe there's a picture of you with the comment underneath "American Abbot" - should I change that to prior then?

Prior Peter, OSB said...

Thank you for the tip! This is well worth the visit--it was a splendid day all around, rain notwithstanding.

Yes, I am (sigh) merely a prior at this point.

Joee Blogs said...

Blog updated with a link to your blog, all the best!


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