Friday, August 12, 2011
St Benedict's Priory Salisbury 2011
You can't keep a good Monastery down! The little Benedictine community formerly at Elmore has relocated to a converted vicarage near Salisbury Cathedral.
It's not the most monastic looking building, and it's not exactly in the usual remote setting that Benedictines usually favour for the necessity of contemplation and peace. The Oratory is half of a converted sitting room and there is nowhere where the monks can really separate themselves from visitors.
This might be rather negative sounding, but it has to be realised that the monks are much happier now that they've been allowed to settle. Any skepticism from the neighbours appears to have been resolved: these monks are not going to wake you at 05:30 with their chanting the Venite!
What has been rather ingenious is how the Monks have managed to integrate their Officium Divinum into their new environment. They now incorporate Lauds and Vespers with worship at the Cathedral and celebrate Sext (or rather "Midday Prayer" in the modernist vernacular) with Sarum College. Whatever views one can take on this, and I suppose one can be very "What would St Benedict say?" if one wanted to be, the fact of the matter is that the monks are engaging with their Christian community at large. Consequently, they are, after just 11 months, very popular within the cathedral precincts.
The whole set-up reminds me, and perhaps it should remind Anglicans in particular, that there are different facets of the Church and that sometimes these facets need to coexist.
The Catholic Church is essentially divisible into Parochial, Religious, Theological and Hierarchical quarters comprising of the parishes, monasteries, seminaries/universities and the cathedrals. Each adds a distinctive colour, a vital nuance to the life of the Church. Most people will only ever really meet Parish ministry and that's all they think the Church is. However, the body of Christ has organs - not all absolutely defined and definitive - but quite clear in their function.
The Parishes form the coal-face ministry with the secular world; the Religious, like lungs, seek the spiritual health of the Church; the seminaries and universities engage with the intellectual and theological aspects, training people for coal-face ministry, while the Cathedrals espouse the leadership and the figurehead of the Church.
If the Church is to survive, then it must make sure that all four of these organs are functioning at full capacity and fully integrated. The focus of attention should not just be on the whims of the Parishes, or the directives from the Cathedrals.
Let us pray for our Religious folk and our intellectuals that they may flourish in good, orthodox, catholic faith.