Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stanbrook 6: Why, when and how

First, an extract from "The Religious Orders of Great Britain and Ireland" by Peter Anson (1949 published by Stanbrook Abbey. I bought my copy of this classic, circa 1961, at the old CTS bookshop opposite Westminster Cathedral. It carries a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, and has a Dedication to the Abbess and Community of Talacre Abbey, now at Curzon Park, Chester. I probably paid about two shillings for it. only lists two available copies, the cheapest at £100; lists it as currently unavailable)

"The Abbey of Our Lady of Consolation was founded at Cambrai, Flanders in 1625...was promoted by the newly restored English Benedictine Congregation. ....the first Abbess was Dame Catherine Gasgoine.............the actual foundress was DAme Gertrude More, through whom the community is linked to St. Thomas More.

"On the outbreak to the French Revolution in 1793 the nuns were..........imprisoned at Compiegne . Here they remained for eighteen months, in daily expectation of sentence of execution, which their companions, the Carmelite martyrs, actually received. Four (of them) died in prison. When the rest were released, they were broken in health and almost destitute. The community managed to reach England...................

They took refuge first at Woolton in Lancashire and then at Salford Hall Warwickshire where they spent 31 years, before finally, and with some subterfuge, buying Stanbrook in 1938. In his Stanbrook entry Anson refers to the Abbey's connection with the restoration of plainchant, but he doesn't date that, nor does he acknowledge the valuable work of Dame Laurentia McLachlan. the latter omission was probably due to the fact that until recently, if a nun authored a published work or did anything of scholastic, artistic merit, she was only named as 'a nun of Stanbrook'. This habit, was probably in place to protect humility, but it makes things very difficult now, it one is trying to assemble proof of the vast contribution made by Stanbrook Abbey not only to musical scholarship, but to other areas of study. There is a site that lists 'Stanbrook Contributions' but I should think is far from complete.

'In a Great Tradition', now generally acknowledged to have been penned by Dame Felicitas Corrigan, appeared in 1956 as being by the Benedictines of Stanbrook. It gives a detailed account of Dame Laurentia's contribution, and her connection with Abbot Gueranger and other Solesmes luminaries.The book is a must-read for students of chant and its history. It is now out of print
but several used copies are available at Amazon's two English sites. (cheapest £9.50 and for the US $16.50) Dame Felicitas who died on the Feast of the Holy Rosar in 2003, was no light weight when it came to writings about the history of female Benedictinism and Stanbrook itself.. Google her name for access to several obits. that appeared in the British press at the time. Whilst you're at it try the same with Dame Maria Boulding, who went to her reward in 2009 not long after the move to Wass. Between 1985 and 2004, she had left the Abbey for the eremitical life, but was requested to return and prepare the the Stanbrook Library of 40,000 volumes in advance of the move.

I mention all the above out of general interest, but specifically because a certain nunly modesty may have prevented the significance of their work from being more widely known amongst Catholics. I'm sure it played a small part, but there are other reasons, which I am sure are leaping into the minds of my readers. I will mention them briefly after supper before going on to say what I propose to do about it all..

To be continued later this evening.

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