Community on retreat 22-30 July. Services open; shop closed.

Candlemas Celebrations


As Abbot Robert Igo of Ampleforth reminded us in his ample homily, today we celebrate at least 3 things:

The Feast of the Presentation or Candlemas
The first of our shared 400th anniversary celebrations
The annual Day for Consecrated Life

We had chosen this feast to invite our local friends from Ampleforth Abbey and Thicket Priory partly as they would be more likely to be able to get here should the weather turn wintry. In the event it has been a very mild, dry day.
Prioress Ann Dodd and four of the Thicket nuns arrived about 11am while c. 21 of the Ampleforth brethren came across a little later but in good time for the Mass and Procession at 11.30am.
It was lovely to have the cloisters full – the brethren in the glass cloister, Thicket and ourselves in St Joseph’s, and full of the new light of February enhanced by candlelight: both grace and nature prophetic of Spring.
As the bell tolled the cheerful sound of encounters and logistics gave way to a profound silence.
Sr Thérèse, bearing the Evesham Cross, led Abbot Robert, looking resplendent in mitre and the Jesse Tree vestment, and the two man concelebrants, Fr George Corrie and Fr Oswald McBride, to the crossing for the prayers and blessing of the candles before the procession set off.

Two of the Thicket nuns, Sr Rosemary and Sr Thérèse proclaimed the lessons, while the Gospel was proclaimed by the Prior of Ampleforth, Fr George.
Fr Abbot’s homily betrayed his time in Africa (Zimbabwe) both in its content and length but was very lively and engaging. He highlighted ‘encounter’ as a key theme of this feast and reminded each of us of the personal encounter with Christ which was at the root and heart of our individual vocation. A dominant role of consecrated religious is to share this encounter with others: the consecrated life is always missionary.
Abbot Robert later brought out the way Mary and Joseph safeguarded the quality of amazement which characterises, or should characterise, our life of faith as we consider the marvellous works of God.
We were exhorted to lives of gratitude and joy for all we have received over the past 400 years and to courage for the future in the spirit of our foundresses. All of us as religious have a special role in the Church as places of prayer. Abbot Robert remarked on God’s Providence in that our 400th Jubilee coincides with the Year of Prayer which Pope Francis has inaugurated as preparation for the Church’s Jubilee Year of 2025: ‘Pilgrims of Hope’.
D. Philippa composed and read the Bidding Prayers.
The voluntary played by D. Peter brought to a close the first part of our celebration.

Part two began with drinks in the refectory and cloister. Before lunch M. Abbess, whose feast-day this is, said a few words of welcome and thanks and brought out the particular links we have with both Ampleforth, especially via the contribution to our spiritual and material well-being of Fr Laurence Shepherd (Chaplain to Stanbrook 1863-85) while of course the shared experience of prison in Compiègne is a strong link with our Carmelite sisters. Those of Thicket have shown extreme kindness to us ever since we moved to our respective new monasteries on the same day, 21 May 2009 – the anniversary of our first abbess, Dame Catherine Gascoigne (1600-76).
Grace followed the applause from Anna’s speech and the serving hatch was opened revealing D. Josephine’s latest culinary creations:
Salmon with a light, optional, curry sauce, stuffed peppers, Spanish potatoes, green beans, salads, bread rolls, olives.
Desserts included meringue, Christmas pudding ice cream, individual sticky puddings, cheese biscuits grapes and chocolates.
There was much fraternal exchange as the meal progressed, including of gifts – individual candles and an amazing gift-wrapped ‘Gorilla Cart’ as an aid to portresses from Thicket who took home some goodies for those sisters unable to attend today.

In writing on Jubilees St Aelred mentions ‘a very pleasant joining together of many minds’ * – and this was certainly the case for the first community celebration in our Jubilee year. Deo gratias, and Jubilee blessings on all who took part in person or spirit.

* Mirror of Charity Bk III, Ch. 6.