John was not the only student at seminary who enjoyed mowing but he favoured this monster while my preference was for the heavy green model with the seat over the roller. I could switch off from daily cares whilst cutting smooth pathways through the rough grass that John left behind. Fr H used the boundary path to pace up and down saying his breviary, we met regularly during my afternoon working hour.
When Fr P asked why he did not see me in chapel very often, I told him it was about the most distracting place in the premises, with continual creaks and groans from the benches and the floor, which had been a NAAFI (Military club) dance hall during World War II. I was better able to meditate behind the mower.
I have a feeling that my poor physical co-ordination was cancelled out by the power of the mower, removing one source of anxiety, and the constant noise of the engine was paradoxically quieter than the chapel, which Fr P thought of as silent. Well, there’s no going back; the place was demolished years ago.
Dead, too, is Fr Marcel, who received a ribbing when he could not find the spark plugs on the college tractor, used for the football pitch. His turn to gloat came when ‘my’ mower lost its grip on a sloping lawn – the motorised roller was a weak point – and landed itself and me in the goldfish pond. Marcel came along with the red tractor to haul the mower out. I splashed some oil about, checked the filters and all was well.
Why remember this now? Well, the afternoon of my writing, Thomas Quartier OSB was talking about saying the Divine Office when not in community. ‘My car becomes my oratory’, he said, ‘and incidentally my driving improves.’
Let’s allow silence to find us wherever we are.
Fr Thomas was speaking at Saint Stephen’s Canterbury’s celebration of the anchorite Dame Loretta, who was enclosed at Saint Stephen’s Church in the year 1221 by Archbishop Stephen Langton. Follow the link to hear the day’s talks.