Posted on the 6th Apr 2017 in the category News
In the autumn last year, ten intrepid seekers (male and female) made their way to York from varying parts of the country to take part in a Taster Day sponsored and organized by members of RooT, and to listen to the stories of three members of communities – two monks and a nun – telling something of what it might be like to become involved in such a call. One of those seekers shares his experience of the Day:
The Hollies have it:
Perhaps not from the writings of one of the great Church Fathers of ages past, or a theologian of the contemporary church, but the Hollies have it! The Christian journey is never a straightforward one, but neither is it dull or uneventful for indeed God, as Gerard Hughes SJ tells us is a ‘God of Surprises’. One such surprise was an advert posted onto my Facebook page:
Intriguing. Could this be talking to me, a priest of the Old Catholic tradition? In some small way, I have always had perhaps a romantic idea in the back of my mind, that to live in community would be a lovely, idyllic, prayerful, and serene life, bathed in the hushed tones of plainsong and holiness. So, could that be me? Here was the question for real. I got in touch with Louise, who was coordinating the event, and so following an e-mail from Fr Peter CSWG, I was soon headed off to York. It occurred to me whilst on the train, how “other” our brothers and sisters who live in community can seem to be. Not in any negative way at all, after all many of us, whether on retreat or pilgrimage, will have come across these holy enigmas, but how often do we really get to share on a personal level or in community the story of their vocation, and indeed to explore if we are being called to such a life?
The venue was the beautiful 1470’s medieval hall of Jacob’s Well. Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by an assortment of robed figures, hospitality abounding and hot drinks flowing. As our numbers grew, so did the conversation, and with ease and genuine joy our band of pilgrims readily settled in, and once assembled, +Glyn gathered us all together in welcome and prayer, and so our Taster Day began.
Introductions next and how extraordinary it was too. No less than 8 communities represented. Re- enter The Hollies. ‘The road is long…….,’ but how inspiring it was to hear the personal stories of some of our brethren. How they encountered God’s call to the religious life, and how reassuring it was for me and I’m sure for my fellow pilgrims, to hear that seldom was there ‘a Damascus moment’. God, although full of surprises, is a God of subtle and personal conversation, the still small voice of calm. Our conversation opened up and with remarkable generosity, we learned much. Missionary work, education, social work, hospital work, pastoral care, retreats, spiritual direction along with daily communal worship and private devotion, were just some of the aspects we spoke about of a life lived in community. Questions flowed and were answered, leading us to The Angelus, and Sext. Whether by design or good fortune, it was the feast of S. Thérèse of Lisieux, herself a model of religious life; surrounded by such charisma, the need for food became apparent.
Lunch followed, hearty and simple, +Glyn once again joined us, and so our fellowship continued, allowing us opportunity to mix more freely, to swap notes and to form new friendships. We seemed to respond organically to the idea of community after our meal, each without direction assuming a role to ensure everything was tidy and nothing was left to fall on the shoulders of those who had provided such a wonderful lunch. We gathered once more, this time in smaller groups for a more intimate time with our brethren and each other, allowing a deeper, more personal discussion about our own journeys through faith and how we might respond to our vocations, for as Christians we each have one.
At 3pm we headed just around the corner for Holy Mass to the Parish church of S. Mary, Bishophill joined with S. Clements York: a glorious building spanning the ages and orthodox traditions. The warm and friendly Anglo-Catholic congregation and clergy also play host to the Greek Orthodox congregation of Ss. Constantine and Helen, and the Russian Orthodox congregation of Ss. Constantine and Helen. Fr. Andrew celebrated and preached, offering his insight into the role of religious in the contemporary world. After Mass, we were invited for tea and cake, a final opportunity to spend time together swapping numbers, and compare notes. A final presentation from Louise by way of huge thanks to those who fed and watered us, to +Glyn, Fr. Andrew, and of course the very dear brothers and sisters who travelled far and wide to be with us. Our final joy was to be thanked too for our being there and sharing our journey. After a final prayer of thanksgiving and the blessing, we each received a gift and an Invitation: “Come and See. You are invited….. “. An invitation I know is open to all! .
After all, as the Psalmist writes, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Or…. As The Hollies have it (forgiving the non-inclusive language). ‘He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother..!’
Fr Mark Dunning