Tag Archives: Benedictines

March 20: A Sandwich for Saint Cuthbert

_Cuthbert.Durham

March 20 is the feast of St Cuthbert, who died on this day in 687. There is a story that one Friday, the bishop of Lindisfarne, Saint Cuthbert was welcomed into an isolated farmstead by a woman who offered to feed him and his horse. ‘Stay and eat’, she said, ‘for you won’t reach home tonight.’ But Cuthbert would not break his Friday fast, so he rested a while, let her care for his horse, and pressed on his way. It got dark well before he was in sight of home so he found shelter in a tumbledown, empty, isolated shepherd’s hut.

Here his horse began to pull down the thatch of the roof to have something to eat, but even Cuthbert could not see thatch as food for a man, however hungry he might be. The horse carried on attacking the roof, making the best of what was available in this wild place. As it pulled at the thatch, a packet fell to the floor; when the good bishop opened it he found bread and meat, the meat still warm. He shared the loaf with his beast as he gave thanks to God. How did the meal get there? Was it concealed by the hospitable woman as she tended his horse back at the farm? Cuthbert did not know, but he was happy to eat what was provided after his day of fasting had finished – for like the Muslims at Ramadan today, he would have counted sunset as the day’s end.

In Muslim countries today, many Christians will observe the fast in solidarity with their neighbours. So  let us enjoy our sandwiches – yes, even in this season of Lent – to thank the Lord who provides the food, as Cuthbert did, and to share in the ministry of hospitality, like the woman on the farmstead.

Cuthbert in a wall painting at Durham Cathedral.

Please remember in your prayers Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB, sometime Abbot of Quarr, who died on January 16, 2017. He was from Saint Cuthbert’s diocese and was ministering there when he fell sick and died.                         Will T.

Photo from thepelicans.org.uk where you can read Abbot Cuthbert’s obituary and an address he gave for the Missionaries of Africa to whom he remained close. http://thepelicans.org.uk/obituaries/obits24.htm#pjohnson

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10 February: From Canterbury to Dallas

From Canterbury to Dallas (event)

As I left the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral today, I was drawn into the treasury room. Often there is one precious, ancient object to gaze upon. Today it was something old, something new.

The Church of the Incarnation in Dallas has commissioned from the Canterbury Cathedral glaziers, new windows taken from old – eight hundred years  old – windows in Canterbury. A selection is now on display including this panel of the sacrifice of Isaac, the angel risking his hand and wing to withstand the blow Abraham is about to deliver.

The new windows, made using mediaeval techniques, are vibrant and unmarked by the centuries of weather and pollution that have damaged the originals. Unlike the old monks of Canterbury, the ministers at Dallas will be able to bring every detail of the windows to the scrutiny of viewers using modern IT. The monks would have embraced IT, of course, as an aid to spreading the Good News – as Agnellus Mirror does in our own small way.

I shall return more than once before the windows are parcelled up and dispatched to Texas: they are on display here until 22 February, closing at 16.00 each day.

MMB.

 

Read and watch more at these links:

Canterbury to Dallas 1

Canterbury to Dallas 2

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21 January: Saint Agnes

benedictxvi-pallium-442x640

Pope Benedict XVI wearing a pallium, and a mitre  with the Good Shepherd and his sheep.

Catholics will be familiar with Agnes’ name since she is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer as one of the great early martyrs. She suffered death in her early teens. It seems unlikely that we would respect a modern teenager the way the Church has celebrated Agnes for 1700 years; perhaps we have something to learn from our ancestors!

 Agnes was from a noble family who were too prominent to avoid attention in the early fourth century persecutions. When she was arrested, she was steadfast in saying that she was a Christian. It is said that she was desired as a wife or mistress by one of the magistrates. No doubt this would have enabled her to escape execution, but she did not yield.

She was to be burned alive but the wood would not light; instead, Saint Ambrose tells us, she was decapitated with a sword.

There is a special tradition linked to Saint Agnes. On her feast day two lambs are brought from the Abbey of Tre Fontane to be blessed by the pope. When they are shorn later in Spring, the wool is woven by the Benedictine nuns of Saint Caecilia’s Abbey to make Palliums. These special collars are given to new Archbishops by the pope on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Carrying lambs’ wool on the shoulder reminds the Archbishop that he is to be a good shepherd to his flock.

MMB

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6 January: Epiphany

 

moon-bow

Even those of little faith are predisposed

on Christmas Eve for wonder, I suppose,

as night grows late and great with child.

Those shepherds of so long ago had trained their eyes

on earth: too much of gazing up at skies

and sheep go missing in the wild.

 

Thus shepherds don’t discourse with angels as a rule.

Nor I.  But I am keen on tidings yule

and probably disqualified.

Still, hear me out: I went about my routine tasks

with eyes on earth before the midnight mass,

expecting bread and wine to hide

 

not less – or more – than mystery.  Outside the door

the night was lit.  I stopped.  I’d not before

known midnight give a bird its note

as though at dawn, but softly as a lullaby –

and earth become all ear, with no reply

but something catching in the throat.

 

But if you think the wonder of the bird and song

the marvellous epiphany, you’re wrong.

It was the sky – no other place.

Susceptibility in me won’t sink so low

as claim a real miracle – oh no.

Yet, as I gazed at outer space,

 

I saw full mother-moon and off-spring aura bright,

and a second aura capture light from light –

with light-years singing in between:

Hosannas heaved.  I heard them.  Not with day-time ears,

but night-ears heard their music, calming fears

of aeons. So: epiphany.

 

I took it back inside with me as I returned

to routine tasks with thoughts of heaven.  I’d learned

to train my eyes on high surprises.

SJC

 

 

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Mary, Mother and Queen

Dear Friends,

On this feast of the Mother of Our Lord  I pass on this story from the Missionaries of Africa about a new

Benedictine Abbey of sisters in Zambia.

Let us pray for them and our own sisters at Minster.

Mary Queen and Gate of Heaven, pray for them.

Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, pray for them.

Saint Mildred, pray for them.

Lord God, we ask you to bless these your servants and keep them dedicated to you. Amen.

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25 December: Christmas

acrobats 

 Can he who hurls the lightening from the top

and swirls the rain,

disarm us with a baby’s grin and stop

earth’s spin?  Then start again?

Can he be like a jester – on his head –

quite turned around?

Or is it us – bewildered thoughts unsaid –

who’re upside down?

 

Of course, the problem’s us and not with God.

We think we Know.

We think our view is true – and his plain odd.

But he’s below

so far is he above.  He is a mite,

so vast is he,

so full of life as to become finite –

a non-entity:

 

an infant God.  And poor, do not forget.

So strange, this tale.

We hear it year by year and love it, yet

we simply fail

to follow footsteps leading down.  We fall

instead – yes, all –

which is as well because the paradox, recall,

is this: God’s small.

SJC

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Interruption: Advent

hlaes-pla-single-star

Sister Johanna sent us her Advent poem a couple of weeks ago. It’s taken me too long to get to work on publishing it, but savour it – and spend a few minutes out in the dark, even if, like me, you can manage that in the evening instead of Before the day breaks.

WT

 

 

 

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Advent

dawn

that long solemn moment called Before –

Before the dawn, when deepest darkness reigns,

I rise from sleep in blackest night once more

content without sun’s reassuring flames.

 

I like to be awake to see the mild

rays begin – gently – lifting the sleeping night.

Just so, the father lifts the sleeping child.

Just so, their advent fills my sky with light.

SJC

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26 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XIX In the Back of a Thanet Taxi

car-lights

The fact-finding agents of the Ossyrian Confederation would have loved to stay at the monastery in Minton much longer but ‘T’ had a dental appointment back at Margate to have a crown replaced the next day. Fond farewells were said by all and promises made for a speedy return. Immediately after vespers a taxi was called and what seemed to be a very contented man with two Chihuahuas rode the flat expanse of the Thanet landscape apparently in silence, but actually in intense telepathic conversation.

‘Have you ever seen a dik-dik, ‘T’?’ Ajax continued to be fascinated by the notion of a diminutive deer no larger than himself. ‘Can’t say that I have,’ The director yawned, ‘but, then again, I’ve never been to Africa and, by all accounts, that’s where they live.’ ‘T’s never seen a dik-dik because there is no such thing!’ Alfie snorted, at which point an over-sensitive (and most likely overtired) Ajax burst into forlorn (telepathic) tears. ‘Don’tflags-welsh be so certain, little guy,’ the Director’s tone was mild but the set of his jaw boded ill for quarrelsome Chihuahuas. ‘Who would have believed in a pint-sized dog your size before Columbus discovered America?’ ‘Right,’ Alfie still wasn’t convinced, ‘And I suppose that somewhere there are dragons and maybe a herd of unicorns? (he had found a book of terrestrial fairy tales in one of the monastery guest rooms). ‘Have you ever read the Book of Job, Alfie?’ ‘No,’ beamed in a stubborn whisper. ‘Then listen carefully,’ the Director said,

         ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

         Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand; things too wonderful for me which I did not know.

         Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask you and do you instruct me. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees you.  

Job 42:3-5

The one truth, nevertheless, tells itself in many ways,’ the Director continued, ‘like colour or a sound; like a hot day or a cold night, like one bright star to rule the day and a hundred billion madly dancing to rule the night…and, make no mistake, my dear Chihuahuas; noble legends may contain truths inaccessible to newspaper reporters.’ ‘Well,’ Alfie beamed (but the fight had left him), ‘I still don’t understand.’ ‘But Alfie!!’ It was the Director’s turn to laugh, ‘recognizing that is the beginning of understanding!’

Postscript

thanet-parakeet-480x640

A week after the return of ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas from their visit to Minton, the city council of Margate- elected on promises to curb immigration (among other things)- advanced an ordinance aimed at detaining and deporting every parakeet in Thanet since, clearly, they were not native to the British Isles and, certainly, had not entered the country legally. Thankfully, the ordinance was quickly overturned due to popular outcry and it is possible to visit Hartsdown Park on All Saints Avenue for a parakeet safari (best done in the late Autumn and Winter) to this very day. dik-dik

Editor’s note: Hartsdown Park on All Saints’ Avenue: this sounds suspiciously like the territory  of a deer – perhaps the legendary and holy Boanerges?

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23 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries XVI, An Inland Foray.

 

dogs.shortPsalms

Near Margate there was a small picturesque village called Minton and at its heart was a very old monastery occupied by Benedictine nuns. ‘T’ thought it might be a good idea to pay a visit in order to both soak up some of the local history and also gain some perspective on what the residents of the place got up to all day long. Plans were made and early one blustery morning what appeared to be two Chihuahuas and a middle-aged man boarded the fast train for St. Pancras at Margate, changed at Ramsgate, and detrained near their destination just a little while later.

autumn-leaves-1

As the trio trekked through the quiet streets of the village, each was impressed by the autumnal beauty. ‘I just love the smell of falling leaves!’ Alfie, ever the romantic, exclaimed. ‘T’ gave the Chihuahua a strange look and cocked a half-smile. ‘You know, you’re right, Alfie, but in my human persona I would never have thought to put it that way. People might notice the sweetly musty smell…but it’s the colour, texture, and sight of exuberant movement as the bright leaves swirl in the wind that thrills the eye rather than the nose.’ Both Chihuahuas snorted good-natured derision, marvelling- not for the first (or last) time- at the amazing eccentricities of the human race.

The gate opening to the wonderland of garden that fronted the ancient monastery was invitingly unlocked and the visitors slowly made their way up a narrow tarmacked path heading for a stone chapel where, inside, they could hear faint strains of lyrical chanting. ‘Look!!!’ Alfie’s tone was filled with wonder, ‘a parakeet…and we’re not even on safari!’ It was true. Not one but a pair of iridescent green feathered missiles tipped with ruby red streaked across the wide space above the dewy landscape as the awe-struck travellers looked on until, with a chatter of dismissive squawks, they were gone; most likely to gorge on sunflower seeds in a nearby field.

‘Will they, you know…’ Ajax gulped, remembering the keen sense of rejection felt when the Chihuahuas were denied entrance to Westminster Abbey, ‘allow dogs inside?’ ‘Well, we can only try,’ the Director murmured; attempting to sound soothing, he also had some doubts. As the inter-planetary fact-finders, disguised as a tall man and two very diminutive dogs, tiptoed through the great oak door of the chapel there was no one present to hinder them and soon they were reverently seated and awash in the strange, achingly beautiful harmonies of voices, both plaintive and exultant, raised in chanted prayer. Among the dozen or so nuns situated in their stalls in the sanctuary of the small building one or two did notice the rapt canine presence and a few feminine eye-brows were raised…yet, when all was said and done, and since it was patently obvious that the Chihuahuas were well-behaved, their presence was permitted (if not acknowledged) and the makings of a great convocation of creatures, those with two feet and those with four, was discreetly accomplished without any fuss at all.

To be continued

 

 

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