Posted on the 18th Jun 2019 in the category Events
RooT will have a stand at the 2019 Glastonbury Pilgrimage - Do come and say hello and find out more about our work!
For more information about the pilgrimage: https://www.glastonburypilgrimage.com/details.html
Posted on the 1st Jun 2019 in the category News
The Union of Monastic Superiors is an organisation which consists of all the superiors of communities which follow the Rule of St Benedict in the UK and Ireland. Anglicans are full members and the constitution states that there must be an Anglican member on the council. Mother Mary Luke CHC is at present the Anglican member and last year was approached by the Abbess of Stanbrook who invited her on behalf of the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum (International Communion of Benedictine Women) to attend a symposium being held in Rome in September 2018. It is held every four years. She had been invited twice before but had been unable to go so this was third time lucky.
Mother Mary Luke writes: I flew to Rome on the 4th September, two days before the symposium began as I wanted to go on the optional trip to Monte Cassino on the 5th. Most people probably know that the monastery, which is the one where St Benedict wrote most of his Rule and where he died, is on the top of a hill and was almost completely destroyed in the last war because of its strategic position. In the 1950s the abbey was rebuilt as an exact copy of the one destroyed by the bombing, complete with fabulous mosaics and tons of gold leaf. The most holy place is under the altar where both Benedict’s and his twin sister Scholastica’s remains are enshrined.
The participants in the symposium were housed mainly in the Pontifical Athenaeum of St Anselm which is an international Benedictine university on the top of the Aventine hill. The symposium proper began on the 6th September with an introductory address welcoming us all by the Abbot Primate of the Benedictines, Gregory Polan OSB. The theme of this symposium was “Receive everyone as if they were Christ”. As our main work apart from worship is hospitality it was a theme dear to my heart. There were five official languages represented: English, Italian, French, German and Spanish. Translators were there to translate from any one language into another. On this first day the official language was English but at None each day a minority language was used so we had Offices in Swahili, Polish, Swedish and Korean.
On the 7th September the speaker was the former Abbot of Einsiedeln in Switzerland, Martin Werlen, who asked us to differentiate between Tradition and traditions. In the discussions in our groups afterwards it became clear that different countries have different traditions but the underlying reality was the same. We are to welcome those who don’t fit in: we have to live in tension and be open to visitors but have regard also to our own situation. Guest are not to be regarded mainly as a source of income.
The 8th September, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, was the high point of the stay for me. Two buses took all the participants to the Vatican and once there we passed through a security check and then waited until an official called us through and we climbed up many stairs to the room where Pope Francis was to give a Papal Audience. Just after 11am there was a flurry of activity and the Pope arrived. He gave an address in Italian of which we had been given a translation into English beforehand. He encouraged us to find new ways of evangelization in our monasteries, to pray for those who suffer, to contemplate the marvels of creation, administer God’s good gifts and to continue in our work of hospitality, so showing a communion in diversity that expresses God’s hope for the world.
We had been warned that when we went up to the Pope we were merely to shake his hand and move on, but the Pope had other ideas. He spoke to each sister individually and then gave her a rosary which he had already blessed. In his introduction to the Pope, Abbot Gregory mentioned that there was an Anglican and a French Reformed presence, so when I went up I said firmly: Anglicana. At this the Pope beamed and pressing my hands asked me in English to pray for him. I replied that we did so every day at Mass and also prayed for Christian unity. I had taken with me a rosary which was one that had been given to the sisters in 1959 by Pope St John XXIII (see the obituary for Sister Mary Michael) and so that has now been blessed by two popes.
Sunday was a free day so I got a taxi and went to Mass at All Saints, the Anglican Church in Rome. I was made very welcome by Fr John Kilgore and the resident members as well as meeting Anglicans from all over the world. After the service we had refreshments in the tiny garden next to the church. After lunch and a short siesta some of us set out for St Paul’s without the Walls by metro. It is staffed by Benedictines and one of the resident monks gave us a tour. It is fairly certain that St Paul’s body is buried there and there is a stone taken from a sarcophagus with the words: ‘Paul, Apostle and Martyr’ carved into it. We were allowed into some areas not open to the public such as the sacristy and saw beautiful vestments and church plate. We joined the monks for Vespers before catching the metro back to St Anselm’s.
Monday 10th was a quieter day with the symposium in full swing. Two sisters from Spain and the Philippines gave addresses on ‘Hospitality within the Community’: ie relationships with the sisters. These led to lively discussions afterwards. After lunch one of the resident monks gave us a tour of Sant’ Anselmo which included the sacristy, library and the new building work. On Tuesday there were further addresses on ‘Hospitality to those outside the Monastery’ given by sisters from Brazil and South Africa.
Leaving Rome at 7.30am on Wednesday we arrived at the Abbey of St Scholastica in Subiaco at 9am and were warmly welcomed by the monks there who showed us round this very interesting monastery. It was twice destroyed by Saracens in the 9th century but was restored and became very rich and powerful. The monastery is arranged around three cloisters and in one area you can see three arches each in a different style: romanesque, gothic and renaissance. We had Mass in the abbey church and all renewed our vows there, which was powerful. After a meal at a local restaurant we set off in a bus up the hill in a series of breath-taking hairpin bends to the Abbey of St Benedict and the Sacro Speco or Holy Cave.
The monastery of St Benedict is built into the side of the hill and there are three cave chapels, the lowest of which is the oldest and where St Benedict lived as a hermit for three years having been disgusted by the loose morals in Rome where he was studying. The cave complex is decorated with frescoes dating from the early 12th century including a famous one of St Francis painted in his lifetime when he came to Subiaco. There was far more sense of being on sacred ground than at Monte Cassino as it has escaped destruction by invading armies.
On Thursday the 13th I had to leave the symposium a day early as I wanted to be back home for Holy Cross Day on the 14th so I said my goodbyes to all the people I had met and set off for the airport to catch the flight back to Gatwick. So many wonderful memories which I will treasure in my heart and I thank especially the organisers of the symposium for inviting me. I was a guest and they welcomed me—an acted parable of the theme of the meeting. I also thank my sisters for letting me go to the symposium and for keeping going in my absence.