The Young Monk

The young monk celebrates Mass:

 

A young monk knees in the aisle

In the West, in the shallow 

Where the nave comes to an end. 

 

The young monk kneels in prostration

Concentrated, and with stern affirmation

He salutes Creator of earth and all the heavens. 

 

The young monk approaches the lectern

Reading, he fears nothing but goodness in the Lord

For, “the eternal light and my life is in God”.

 

The young monk speaks of St. John the Baptist

His buried head in the tomb, placed upon a dish   

And giving thanks, he casts forth a desirous wish. 

 

The young monk desires it to be true

Closing the book, he prepares what is due

At the sign of the cross taking his cue. 

 

The young monk awaits with expectation

The great coming of all the nations

Through Christ, Redeemer and our Salvation.

 

The young monk stirs at the altar

Eyes below and neck craned to the floor

The Eucharist gifts on him are restored. 

 

The young monk and his fellow brethren

In cheerful tune, and peaceful procession

Joy abounding from the inaugural passion

Return to the cloister, mercy within

Free from Sin.

 

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Treading on Catholic Ground: Monasticism in Britain

Who are the monks? Monastic life has existed in Britain since the landing of St. Augustine on the Kent Coast-line in AD 597, originating on the basis of a Rule-book, written by St. Benedict of Nursia, an Italian monk highly regarded as the Father of Western Monasticism. He fled the despotism of Rome under emperor Justinian, in his struggle to wrest the city from control of the Goths, and piously lived as a hermit until death c. AD 547. 

Saint Benedict’s The Rule was a triumph with those seeking spiritual guidance for its clear instructions on humility, silence and obedience, which form a treasury of wisdom for the Roman Catholic church. Secondly, it takes as truth not only that what motivates the committed Christian is the desire for eternal life, but also that the monastery delivers the best conditions in which to achieve complete fulfilment of those desires. This guaranteed monastic orders in England a strong position in Medieval society, home to great scholars, without whom a knowledge of feudal times would almost cease to exist. St. Bede’s The Ecclesiastical History of the English People was, and still is, instrumental in chronicling an early history of the middle ages in Britain.  

However, as sustainable as the Monastic Order became, it could not oust Henry VIII, who in 1536 began disbanding the monasteries, dissolving all rights of practicing Catholics in England as he parted from the Papacy in Rome. The Church of England as supreme ruler of the faith, under the Protestant jurisdiction, thus swept across the country, and Europe, with Martin Luther’s Ninenty-five Theses, which began in 1517, produced an onslaught of enlightenment-mode thought. Great anxiety poured out of the Vatican, and, therefore, many scientists and politicians were quick to be announced as heretics. For example, Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake in 1600 for Copernican theories, stating the sun to be the centre of the universe. 

English Catholics remained stubborn to God, persisting in their practice of faith, throughout the trials of martyrdom and exile; claiming glory in the face of death. Once the French revolution began in 1789, Catholics started to return home and campaign for the Roman Catholic Relief Act, winning the Parliamentary vote in 1829. Victorian architects, working in the neoclassical and gothic styles, pioneered new abbey churches, which emerged in most towns and cities as newly consecrated monastic cloisters attached to schools, becoming bastions of an inspired education. Monks could once again have the freedom to inspire others with their daily life of ritual and rhythmic prayer, serving as sacred places of peace during the trials of two World Wars; fought now over the powers of nations, rather than organised religion.

1471 years on from Saint Benedict’s revolutionary idea, the order remains a medallion of hope for Christian communities, and for any laity on retreat from life’s struggle. Buckfast Abbey in Devon, Belmont Abbey in Herefordshire, and Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire, all offer week-long pastoral programmes, open to everyone seeking peace and solitude, believer or non-believer. The stay is adjoined to a well-furnished guesthouse and the picturesque British countryside; monk are known to settle near the hills with fresh water and where local farmers could serve the entire valley. However, the long-standing tradition of Catholic worship is the bedrock of these activities, and whilst one hopes it can flourish with pious and good monastic reform, one cannot forget to say a prayer for the recent atrocities that have befallen the church, despite Pope Francis’s welcome apologies and ecclesiastical efforts – we know that punishment will be righteously given to those who are utterly corruptible; it will not change the faith that we have in our Saviour, Lord Jesus Christ. 

But has monastic life actually changed today? Remarkably, it hasn’t, and it continues in Britain largely unaffected by the outside world – The Rule is steadfast and meant to be lasting; with God’s command for sustaining a life of daily prayer. The British soil calls out for pilgrimage, the land is still here for Catholics, and these monasteries, in the name of the Lord, are open to guests; just remember not to tread too hard. Silence is mostly appreciated – in contemplation. 

Find out more about the English Benedictine Congregation by clicking HERE.

The Messiah

Bologna, Vitale da: The Crucifixion (detail), 1335 (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid) – painting reference. 

 

A river of water flowing. 

In the Holy land a man is baptised. 

In the desert a man cries, in the wilderness, 

The highway of God doth caress him.

 

The storm that passes before him,

And the mountains are straightened, the valleys exalted.

 

A prophet emerges,

The offering of righteousness; messenger of the Covenant. 

“God will be with us in the name of a Son, and a Virgin shall conceive.”

 

A darkness covers the earth,

A slaughter of the people occurs.

But the pitch of black doth harm the Gentiles not; 

And all survivors hath seen the light.  

Those who dwell in death have shone brightly. 

 

The shepherd in a green field keeps watch of his Lamb;

The sacrifice for our prince of peace, Everlasting Father.

The high angel approves the good tidings, for there is Joy.

A multitude of heavenly hosts, Paradise Herself singing:

“Rejoice”, pastures news and daughter, “A Virgin”.

 

Into Zion, she gathers unto her bosom, the young,

The heathen, and all they that labour, a new dawn;

Souls restored and restfulness adored.

The burden is light, and sin has been slain! Behold the Lamb of God!

 

Is he born then, spat on, shamed, laughed at, shaken,

But for he who delights in him, is delightedly awakened then!

Whence the Lamb, rebuked, rejected, despised, sorrowful, 

But for all the angels of God in worship, Him respectful,

And the charity of the preachers doth reach us;

Great was the company of the preachers!

 

The cliffs roar and the sand swells, 

But that the Lord God therein dwells; 

At the feet of those, preaching words unto the end of peace. 

 

Rise up doth the nations, enmity asunder;

Rulers against the Lord God Holy thunder.

The sea a wreck of devils cast ashore,

The lands a wretched pit of snakes, Demons more and more.  

 

They of Satan are held in derision;

For the Lord shall laugh them to scorn.

Mockery is cast forth unto enemies. 

And the Kingdom of this world is restored;

The Kingdom of Our Lord and of His Christ,

Never a mortal king, but King of Kings,

Our Lord Jesus Christ,

Hallelujah!

 

Death hath no sting,

For in heaven, there is Eternal Spring.

There is victory unto death, the Redeemer

Liveth in the strength of sin;

For sin is the law of death, and death be swallowed-up triumphantly. 

 

The throne is worthy of the Lord’s Kingdom,

For the Lamb that was slain, sitteth unto Him within.

Land of infinity, body, and blood, Glory,

And power be unto his blessings, and Honour for Eternity.

For us, not against us, forever and ever,

Hallelujah!