Sunday, October 15, 2006

Greetings from Farnborough

I blog today from St. Michael's Abbey in Farnborough, Hampshire. You will really want to check out their website. It gives a good feel for the beauty of the church and grounds here. It also gives the fascinating history of this community, built as a mausoleum for Napoleon III by Empress Eugenie (click @Farnborough, Hampshire to go to their site).

Today I concelebrated Mass in Latin for the first time, which was a bracing experience. The altar here was never 'turned around' and so the Mass looks astonishingly like the so-called Tridentine Rite, complete with chant, etc. That said, while there is much on the surface that would seem to separate our communities, we are similar in many ways, including in the liturgy. We are both small communities with a basically contemplative charism. I feel rather at home here, even without coffee and showers.

On Friday, before my arrival, I made a day visit to Cambridge to visit an old university friend who has just become a lecturer there. I have previously visited Oxford, and enjoyed it, but knowing a faculty member means admission to the colleges, and so Cambridge was more enjoyable. Of particular note is the monastic history of the English college system. The colleges are cloisters, and only members are admitted. My friend Bert admits that the environs contribute to meditation and study. Traditionally meals are very much like our own: served and presided over by a superior. Special robes are worn for class and other functions, not unlike our own habits and cowls. A 'Porter's Lodge' greets you as you enter each cloister, reminiscent of St. Benedict's suggestion that the porter have a room near the entrance to the monastery, etc. If I may venture an observation, it seems that the universities, especially after the Reformation, tried to maintain monastic discipline minus many of the concomitant spiritual beliefs and disciplines. The fact that it has largely worked says a lot about Benedict's wisdom.

Peace to you in Jesus Christ!

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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