Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Elmore 2010: Last orders please

My last visit to Elmore Abbey! Things have run their course and the four monks have now sold the Abbey (to whom I know not) and are preparing the move to Salisbury. This is certainly a stressful time for them, so please pray for Prior Simon and Dom Kenneth, Dom Francis and Dom Bruce as they have to gather things together and downsize to pastures new.

Of course, they'll still be constituting a monastic community and that's the important thing. Size does not matter in the Church, though the CofE at times seems to be more inclined to put bottoms on pews than the Love of God into the hearts of folk. Four monks, no matter how old still constitute a community and their prayerful diligence in observing the Opus Dei means that the concerns of the world are still being presented before Almighty God at the hands of this little Anglican Community. There is also a sizable community of Oblates all under the Rule and spiritually based with the Elmore Quartet. Apparently, having made my life Oblation last Thursday, I was told I was to be the last. I'm sure that they could squeeze in one or two more before they go. I don't like the though of being the last, though the CofE does make me feel a relic.

We still need more monks and nuns, and we must examine our vocations in life very carefully. I do recommend reading Touched by God edited by Laurentia Johns OSB (Burns and Oates) in which ten Religious folk (all Roman Catholics) tell their stories of the call to live a life of prayer in a community. I still ask myself why I'm not one of them, but my calling to education has not yet ended.

However, one should not enter an Abbey just to "get away from it all" - that's the last thing that happens! One thing of which I'm acutely aware during my retreat is that the real world is very much part of the lives of the four monks, and they do have a tender and deep concern for all that happens. Intercessory prayers are offered daily, intensively and comprehensively as part of the personal work in the community. I know from bitter experience just how difficult prayer can be, and yet to make a life of it is a great undertaking, a noble and effective endeavour, and desperately needed by a World that is teetering over an abyss.

The challenge that these monks offer us is that we should "not despise the day of small things." While wishing otherwise, it is unlikely that these gentlemen will ever be formally canonised as saints, and yet they are trying to live the life of God not by big, obvious acts and miracles, but rather by doing little things for the Love of God.

And this is something that we perhaps all should be looking for. We should not seek to be the next Moses, Augustine, Aquinas, Andrewes or Pusey, but rather to order our lives in baptising all our little, apparently insignificant actions into the Love of God. Now that is what St Peter meant by our Royal Priesthood. If we're honestly not called to the monastic life, then this is still a discipline that we adapt for our own commitment to God.

If you're worried about doing that, don't worry - there are at least four gentlemen praying for you.

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