Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stanbrook 6 continued

When I was a young woman, and young in my Catholicism, I firmly believed and still do, in several things, some of which are now, astonishingly to me, a subject of apparently legitimate debate in the Church. One of those sureties of belief was/is, in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I have enough desperately worried private correspondence from people in English Catholic parishes who tell me that there are people in those communities who declare disbelief in the Real Presence and yet receive Communion every week.

Another certainty of my youth upon which all seemed to agree at the time, was that the contemplative vocation was essential to the life, health and survival of the Church. Few of us could aspire to it, but that did not mean we did not know about it, value it, and wish to see it promoted. Quite the reverse, it made us see how essential these 'power houses of prayer' (like Stanbrook) actually were/are. I think that since the second Vatican Council, the emphasis has been so much on the laity doing everything for themselves, that the earlier necessity and concentration has been almost entirely obliterated. And it is this above all, I think, that has allowed Stanbrook to fade from relevance and awareness.

In the video, Dame Julian, unquestionably a holy nun, says that the Stanbrook nuns are there for all of us, but she doesn't really explain the reasons, and how they go about it in prayer. She doesn't speak of Jesus Christ as the centre of everything for her, of the Divine Office as her major work as a Benedictine.. I'm sure Jesus is central to her, as is the Office, but we need her to tell us, and so does the rest of the world. You can watch the video and come away with a creationist, ashram sort of feel. Rather than promoting contemplative life and attempting to explain it to the outside world, the video comes over as a defence of the ecological convictions which have led the nuns to do as they have done, not as a reason for trying to follow the Benedictine vision..

Whether it is generally known now or not, Stanbrook, for the last 150 years, has been the jewel in the crown of English female Benedictinism, althought I think that St. Cecilia's in Ryde may have overtaken it and been less affected by modern trends. Ryde has stuck unswervingly to the Latin liturgy. Stanbrook has not, regardless of Dame Laurentia. Ryde is of the Solesmes group, and not EBC. They have suffered from the deaths of many of their nuns in recent years, as has Stanbrook, but they have kept up their numbers. As for Stanbrook, I pray that they will have many vocations in the next few years. Without these it is difficult to hope for a happy future for a community of whom at least half are over 60.


Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, O.S.B. said...

There is something uspeakably sad about the demise of the old Stanbrook. Would that it had been offered to one of the more thriving Benedictine abbeys of women (en France peut–être) that have kept the traditional liturgy and the usus antiquior! Such a measure could, I think, mark the a new beginning. I refuse to believe that the traditional Benedictine life for women in England is moribond, although a certain modernist revision of it certainly is. The photos of the new Stanbrook that I have seen leave me rather cold. The spareness and squareness of the architecture ("not a gothic arch in sight", said one of the nuns, almost triumphantly, in an interview) suggests something of the functional boxes of a trend that, selon moi, is already passé.

A Catholic Comes Home said...

Found these posts on Stanbrook very
interesting.My overwhelming first and last thoughts are of, the terrible loss.

Jane said...

Father Mark, thank you for making time to comment here. I agree with everything you say, but I doubt whether any of the French communities could have afforded the price.

I too was chilled by the architecure of the new place and was choked by Dame Julian's tone when she spoke of the complete absence of the gothic arch. Just plain insensitive to the MEANINg of the gothic design. Some would say she was glorying in iconoclasm.Her description of the old Stanbrook conveyed it as forbidding dark and hemmed in. Totally untrue as demonstrated by the photo gallery I put up in one post.

I'm afraid the 'revised modernist version' of English female Benedictinism is firmly in control at least in EBC houses. I don't know of any where the EF is celebrated.

For the Solesmes community at Ryde, they sing the entire office in Latin and with Chant, but I think that even they have versus populum and the NO. Fr Tim goes there occasionally. I'll ask him.

For the monks, I saw photos of Belmont yeterday and they had a 'Benedictine altar arrangement' at least when + Nichols was there to celebrate Mass for them. They have a good reputation for their music which is largely of the kind you (and I)would appreciate.

Tyburn: I think they have an occasional EF but I'm not sure.

Catholic Comes Home:
Yes I'm afraid I can't help but share your reactions.

Still tryingto get your blog on my list but will not give up!