Had a great time this weekend gone at Douai Abbey, the Benedictine abbey just of the A4 in the Berkshire countryside. I was unable to get to the earlier retreat with the other men in formation, as I had to attend a family wedding, so I said to the archdiocesan director that I would go to Douai , as it is only a 30 minute drive from my office. The place is just a wonderful ocean of silence, solitude and calm. Everything the ‘culture’ is not. Much to my surprise Fr Benjamin Standish, the assistant guest master, turned out to be someone I had spent two years with at Campion House College, Osterley between 1979-1981. I didn’t recognise him at first and neither did he recognise me - it has been nearly 30 years since we met. Fr Benjamin has kept a picture album and shared it with me. There were he and I and all the other students in the two years that made up Osterley, standing outside the main house that was Campion House. When I saw the picture, I was instantly transported back to those days when we were both fresh faced 21 yr olds! Osterley was established by the Jesuits after the First World War to enable men coming back from war to polish up their basic education, especially Latin, so that they could get into seminary. It was kept going until a few years ago. As with any intense experience in life, ‘Osterley’ is very much still a part of me. I enjoyed every minute there and had some great times with the guys, most of whom will have gone forward to priestly ordination, like Fr Benjamin. Osterley –A.M.D.G!
Monday, 14 June 2010
Monday, 7 June 2010
This weekend I will be on retreat at Douai Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in the Berkshire countryside. The Archbishop expects all men in formation, and ordained, to make an annual retreat. My first year in formation is over, so no more essays/assignments/FormationDays/Study weekends/practice homilies/tutor sessions again until September! Following my end of year appraisal, Archbishop Vincent has invited me to continue in formation, so I guess that I must have been doing something right during the last year! It’s been a great year, with the opportunity to study theology and learn more about Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Church. I’ve never worked so hard at something for which you don’t get paid! Last Sunday we said goodbye to the men in the third year, who have now completed their initial formation and are due to be ordained this summer. I think for some of them it was a bit of a shock that the time had passed so quickly. I can’t quite believe that my first year has ended so quickly. I have made many new friends with men from the dioceses of Brentwood, Cardiff, Southwark, Portsmouth, Plymouth, East Anglia, Northampton and of course our own archdiocese of Westminster. If we all make ordination together, it’ll be a terrific network to advance the Gospel. The diversity of candidates is also quite interesting. In my year alone there is a professor of law at Cambridge University, a prison chaplain, financial consultants, information technology consultants, a bus driver, a retired solicitor, an accountant, a lawyer, an ex police sergeant, a hospital doctor, an ex-merchant banker, and me a health and safety consultant. God calls all sorts and is not fussy! We are nearly always joined by our wives at the Formation Days. I am of course very appreciative of the support that my wife has given me over the last year. I think they should put her on the formation team, as being a parish administrator, she knows more about how parishes work than most of them!
At the end of the first year all the men are instituted as ‘Lectors.’ This is the next step, following on from being accepted as a Candidate for Holy Orders, by Archbishop Vincent last December. ‘Lector’ is a fancy word for a reader. The difference between commissioned readers, and instituted lectors, is that a Lector is formally instituted into this ministry by a bishop, as part of his preparation for ordination. Whereas readers are commissioned by their parish priest to read the Scriptures at Mass, where there are no Lectors. I’m not quite sure how it will work out, but perhaps I might process in with the PP and the servers from time to time, carrying the lectionary – the book that contains the Scripture readings, and then reading the first or second reading. This will enable me to exercise the ministry and also to start getting used to being part of the set up on the sanctuary, in preparation for a fuller liturgical role after ordination.
Thank you to everyone who has been supportive to date with prayer and encouragement. I will remember you and your intentions at Mass during my retreat this weekend. Brian.