November 2023

We ae delighted to learn that our Benedictine sisters of Santa Escolstica, Buenos Aires, Argentina, have been invited by Pope Francis to form a monastic community in Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican Gardens. Six nuns will begin their mission of supporting the Holy Father in his care for the whole Church through prayer, praise, adoration and reparation in January 2024.
Stanbrook has a particular connection with the monastery of Santa Escol
stica which was founded from Santa Maria, So Paulo, Brazil, itself founded from Stanbrook in the early twentieth century.

11 July 2023 Sr Therese Murphy made her Simple Profession today. Deo Gratias. 

Simple Profession of Sr Therese Murphy, 11 July 2023: Feast of St Benedict

As Sr Therese said in her speech of thanks before lunch at her Simple Profession, quoting something she had been told in her novitiate, 'delay deepens desire;. After fourteen years of patient waiting for this day, Sr Therese was able to affirm the veracity of that statement. And such a wait surely also deepens joy, as was evident throughout this day of grace, not least on the face of Sr Therese.

Weather-wise, the day showed a gradual flowering which in a way matched the trajectory of Sr Therese's monastic journey from mist and grey skies in the early morning to sunshine and light rain by Midday, opening out into a lovely summer evening.

Guests began to arrive about 10.45am with Tribes Murphy and Martin well represented. It was lovely to see a handful of children in the congregation, including Grace Hoyte, Sr Theresees young cousin, who joined her for the Offertory procession, re-instated for the first time since Covid.
A particular joy was that, thanks to the generosity of the staff of Apley Grange, D. Hilda was able to be with us for this special occasion.

Mass of St Benedict, celebrated by our oblate, Revd Canon Christopher Jackson, opened with 'Hearken my Son' by Tony Milner, a piece originally written for the 1500th anniversary celebration at Westminster Cathedral of St Benedict's birth. Concelebrants were Fr David Goodill OP, a longstanding friend of Sr Therese's, and Dom Cuthbert Elliott OSB of St Louis.
The ordinary of the Mass was Missa de Angelis which was taken up with gusto by the assembly.
The first reading, proper to the Feast (Proverbs 2: 1-9), was read by Jack Murphy, Sr Therese's younger brother.
Fr Chris preached a wonderfully rich homily setting the monastic vocation alongside the vocations to marriage and the ordained ministries all within the wider context of the Church. The celebrant brought out the centrality of Christ in the Rule of St Benedict which is echoed in the Gospel of the Feast (chosen by the professura), the Beatitudes from Matthew 5, a portrait of Jesus. We too are called, said Fr Chris, to follow the pattern of Christ in living the Beatitudes in our own way, growing each day into the unique work of art of God has created us to be.

The rite of profession itself was eloquent in its simplicity. Sr Therese spoke her responses and vows very clearly and audibly.

Three moments stood out for this chronicler:
-  an unexpected frisson from the choir as Sr Therese read out her profession chart, stating her place of origin as New Westminster in the Canadian Province of British Columbia -  a fact unknown to many of the community.
- a tricky moment in the pinning of the veil as Abbess Anna tried to avoid using the professed's head as a pin cushion!
- the radiance of Sr Therese's joy at the kiss of peace on the omphalos.

The comprehensive Bidding Prayers included the whole Benedictine Confederation as well as D. Andrea on her profession anniversary, Patricia Kelly-Evans who was making her oblation for Stanbrook in Pennsylvania, and a heartfelt intention to St Benedict, Patron of Europe, for peace in Ukraine.

The communion chant, 'I will sing to the Lord all my days' by Fr Cyprian Smith OSB of Ampleforth, encapsulated the essence of the Benedictine vocation to which Sr Therese is now vowed (for three years).

The celebration continued with a delicious buffet meal provided by the Murphy family (who had also sent magnificent flowers for church) and prepared by D. Josephine. This included Coronation Chicken, salmon, new potatoes, a variety of delicious salads, exotic breads, home-made brownies and fantastic, locally made ice cream from Helmsley. Most people were happy to stay inside, though a few ventured into the garth and many repaired for coffee to the Conference Room for the best part of the afternoon, making occasional visits outside to see Jack Murphy's puppy, Dixon.

An abiding memory is of the recessional hymn, 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind' by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92) sung all together by community and congregation in a spirit of real synodality. The lyrics of the final verse make it a prayer very much for our times:

...Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace...

Amen. Deo gratias!

From the House Chronicle.


COVID UPDATE The abbey church and bookshop are open. There is no longer any requirement to wear a face mask but if you, or a close contact, have tested positive for Covid or are experiencing Covid symptoms, we ask that you postpone your visit. Thank you.

Times of services



Seeking Byland: poems through the Seasons from Stanbrook Abbey
by Laurentia Johns, OSB. Gracewing, 2020, 74 pp., �9.95, ISBN: 9780852449653.


'My people, are weary of Winter/Long enough their eyes have fasted on bleak greys and paleness.'

Although most of the poems in Seeking Byland pre-date the three lockdowns occasioned by a pandemic spiralled out of control, one may be forgiven for reading the poem 'Divine Stratagem' through the collective lens of a plague-weary humanity. 


This recourse to tonality, suggestive of a Bach fugue, as humanity convalesces, illustrates that behind a 'divine stratagem' dismissed as wildly impractical,  lies God's 'hidden hallmark, the secret sign of [His] strength'.


When the community of Stanbrook Abbey departed from Callow End for land skirting the North York Moors National Park, they were engaged in both the laying down of a new foundation and a return to monastic roots. Situated in a part of the country given to breath-taking drops and green vistas of seemingly endless countryside, they are now embedded in a northern landscape that has borne witness to no less than eight Cistercian monasteries. Seeking Byland attests to the presence of one of these medieval houses: Byland Abbey. Built in the 12th century, the monastery is a majestic ruin now in the protective hands of English Heritage. A victim of the Suppression of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, with its small museum housing the original Deed of Surrender signed by the then Abbot and his monks, it is, to borrow from the poem 'Last Post', a 'very present absence' and its survival, while lacking wholeness, a sign of 'hope's registration'. 

 The poems in this volume attest to a wholly Benedictine presence. The subtitle 'poems through the Seasons from Stanbrook...', may be read as possessing a dual meaning, one that alludes to both the climatic and the liturgical where heaven and earth intersect. Here, attentiveness to the natural and celestial spheres is mutually inclusive, as in 'A Spring Hailstorm'. Invoking the subtle hiss of sibilance, the assaulting hail is 'sudden, shrouding Spring, a shock, a sting', causing its observer to wonder fearfully, 'Winter again?' But the perception of the storm as malign is revealed as illusory. Rather than a portent of the pain of Winter's return, the storm is both precursor and necessary reminder of that 'hope reborn [sounded by the] maiden's 'simple, shining, solid ''Yes''.'

 Trees, most notably as noble bearers of the four realms of the Kingdom, the shock of colour attended by flowers and birds (for example, Illustrius, the ravishing peacock that once graced the enclosure at Wass) are recurring themes. The lily so favoured by artists down the centuries in portrayals of the Blessed Virgin appears in 'Lily-Crucifix' which attests to 'two lives without parallax/ wedded, strange bliss on a flowering Crucifix' calling to mind that, theologically-speaking, depictions of Mary must never be dissociated from Christ. Here, the lily and the cross recall artistic recreations of the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Pieta all conjoined. Elsewhere, daffodils, the 'diminutive' snow-drop, sunflowers ('summer's ensign'), the medicinal and aptly named 'Self-Heal', poppies and harebells are skilfully re-imagined as foci for the contemplative eye. Among the most arresting are the poems 'Moonlight Sonata' and 'Poppies' where, respectively, they appear as a 'moonglade [of daffodils]' which 'plays in the dark 'ghost-notes of light' and, most hauntingly, in the guise of the poppy where the open petals 'unmask caldera pools, like eyes, blood-red, kohl-black, streaked as if weeping all war.'

 Colour, too, is accorded its place. From the tonal backdrops of sky, lakes, plains, trees and crescent moons imaged as 'Bleak greys', 'paleness', 'pain' and 'silver', to 'garlands of rusting gold', a 'haze of angled gold' or the juxtaposed silver light of Mary's lunar to [Christ's] 'solar gold', russets, reds and scarlets as in the cascading of autumn leaves or as a fiery 'tongue of searing flame', a 'holy conflagration'.

 The collection in Seeking Byland includes D. Laurentia's sensitively wrought translation of a Welsh medieval poem on the Birth of Christ by Madog ap Gwallter. It also contains a sequence entitled, 'Cadentine Rites' which apportions a poem for each day of Holy Week from 'Palm Sunday' ('a pre-dawn mist hovers/a Rothko block of pink') on through to the 'Eighth Day'. Previously printed as a limited edition of elegant simplicity, its publication was intended as a thanksgiving for the Stanbrook community's safe passage from Worcestershire to N. Yorkshire. Among its meditative lines is this from 'Cadentine Rites' for Maundy Thursday which presages the chaos unfurled by the crucifixion: 'Dawn's chorus breaks the silence: rooks tumble, a chiff-chaff saws; still life fills with animation, throbs with the pulse of our High Priest'.

 It is commonplace and not unreasonable for poets to be 'grouped' with those who share similarities of context, poetical devices or 'voice' but I would hesitate to file D. Laurentia's poetry under a single heading or category. Even the arrangement of the poems on the page is singular. Take 'Hourglass', a spare and beautiful poem wherein the 'skeins of time/ encased in an hourglass / narrow(ing), empty(ing), fill(ing)' are a metaphor for life and, in the process, translate out on the page as both word-and-image. Elsewhere, perceptions are checked by the 'sanctification' of leaves, the concept of gold as being vulnerable to rust, of the 'weightiness' of grace. In just 74 pages (including appended notes and references), this collection is filled with poetry so finely distilled and original that, at times, it recalls one to a sudden pause for meditative stillness. Charged with the rhythm of a vocation that measures time through that of the liturgical year, Seeking Byland witnesses to the reality of Easter in Ordinary and, in its stunning cover photo of Byland Abbey,  wreathed in shadows, reflected forward and backwards, refracted light made visible, recalls us to there being hope in giving utterance to the visible and invisible to which all things point.

Susanne Jennings


Published in Stanbrook Benedictines, No. 19, Pentecost 2021.
Seeking Byland is available from the abbey's bookshop:

Tel: 01347 868927





























There are many icons of Jesus being held by Joseph, but an image of Joseph cradling the baby as is possible in our crib scene and I find particularly powerful.  Joseph the faithful protector holding Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world who through the incarnation is, at this stage, a helpless babe dependent on his parents, like all other babies, for everything.

The way Joseph holds the son entrusted to him is pure tenderness and love. Jesus is not a possession to be clutched but life to be revered.

Undoubtedly Joseph was initially taken aback to learn that Mary was already expecting a baby and was challenged as to how best to handle the situation and yet Joseph seemingly did not look back once he was reassured in a dream by the Angel that his was God's doing.

When Joseph dreamed, he was given clear instructions but for him to be able to respond with such confidence tells us, that like Mary, he was a man of prayer, always waiting on the Lord and ready to respond.

Consequently, he was able to keep faith with Mary, to marry her, to trust his instinct and dreams, that whatever was happening, however strange, was of God.  Joseph knew he was in the presence of something much greater.

Why Joseph? Scripture describes Joseph as an 'upright man' a good man, in good standing with God. However, it is Joseph's actions that perhaps provide a more helpful descriptions of why he was chosen by the Lord and entrusted with the task of providing a home for Jesus to grow up and mature.  He took his responsibility for the care and safety of Mary and his son to his heart, and so they became his life.  This meant letting go of any plans he may have had of his own. The gaze of Joseph on Jesus suggests nothing of disappointment or frustration that he was not his biological father.  There is nothing lacking because Joseph was open to receive a different fullness and fulfilment in accepting the Father's will.

Pope Francis makes much of this in his Apostolic letter 'Patris Corde' in this Year dedicated to St Joseph.

We have another statue in the monastery. It is Joseph holding hands with the boy Jesus.  Both figures are carved from the same piece of wood with Jesus looking up at Joseph and Joseph, looking down at his son. The gaze of Joseph at his son is one of unconditional love and wonder at the boy entrusted to his care.  A man of few words but this gaze surely communicates so much more.

In the holding of hands is the delight at being with one another, which again speak of a genuine loving tenderness and care in their relationship. It is testimony to the home Joseph and Mary provided in which for Jesus to grow up.  A home that for all the challenges of family life was clearly filled with a superabundance of love. 

It is most likely that Jesus learned something of his father's trade as a carpenter, but he learned much more from Joseph than practical skills. In these years Joseph surely imparted to Jesus what it truly means to be a father. 

Joseph a man who listened carefully for the voice of the Lord amid all the competing clamours of the world and in his own heart.   Jesus was growing up in a home where fidelity to his Heavenly Father's will was a lived reality.  Both Mary and Joseph made their 'fiat' to God, just as he would do in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Obedience to the Father's will is what led Jesus to accept his Passion and death for us all.  That confidence in the face of challenge to God the Father, Jesus witnessed in both of his parents.

In this special Year of St Joseph Pope Francis invites us to reflect upon the life of this hidden saint a man who laid down his own plans for marriage and family to embrace the will of the God he clearly knew and trusted.  Pope Francis in focusing on St Joseph has highlighted the world's need for fathers who imitate the qualities and faith of this saint.

The world and the Church need men and women today to imitate his quality of listening and dedication to prayer so that we too may be ready to receive and accept the tasks entrusted to us.

Almighty God and Father, who entrusted to the watchful care of blessed Joseph the Virgin Mary and her Child, grant that by his prayers your Church may be a faithful guardian of the mysteries of salvation.

Collect for the Feast of St Joseph

Sr Josephine




Perhaps you've heard of the recent spectacular discovery made by a four-year-old when walking with her father on the beach at Barry in S. Wales: a dinosaur footprint estimated to be 220 million years old! It looked so pristine it might have been imprinted in the sand yesterday.  Reflecting on this can help put our current situation in perspective - will there even be history books in which COVID-19 features in 220 million years' time? At the same time this find reassures us that nothing is lost in God's creation. For us, dinosaurs are extinct creatures whose remains are only to be found in natural history museums, but to God everything that he has created remains as fresh as that beautifully preserved footprint. And if this is true for dinosaurs, how much more for his dear children who bear the imprint of his beloved Son?

We may not be able to receive ashes this Ash Wednesday, but we can take time to think of ourselves as mortal: fragile as a footprint in sand and yet, bearing the image of Christ, infinitely precious to God. Maybe we can handle some earth or sand to remind ourselves of this double reality of being a human being on the journey to God.

Our Lenten observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are meant to help renew this image in us. In prayer, spending time with God, it's as if the image becomes more deeply etched in our being. Fasting from things which perhaps silt up or obscure the image needs some thought. This will be different for each of us and I suggest that this year we should be gentle on ourselves as we have already had rather a Lenten year. Maybe we can try to fast from undue anxieties, cares and pre-occupations which can betray a lack of trust in God.

Almsgiving - I mean giving of oneself rather than financial giving - can prove a challenge in lockdown but I know so many of you are already doing great things and little things with great love. Ask the Lord what he wants you to do.

Then there is our lectio which is a most effective way of washing away what 'gums up' the image of Christ in us and helps us to reflect that Word more fully.

And whatever we do, let's keep our sights on Easter as St Benedict wishes us to do. The spring flowers and lengthening days ('Lent' comes from 'lengthening') will help us in the Northern hemisphere while for those who live south of the equator the autumn season perhaps indicates the fullness of God's mercy in Christ.

Sr Laurentia

'The Way of Benedict: Eight Blessings for Lent' by Laurentia Johns OSB, pub. SPCK, is available from the Stanbrook Bookshop, �9.99 plus p.& p.
Contact Sr Benedicta:
Tel: 01347 868927

'Seeking Byland: Poems through the Seasons from Stanbrook Abbey' also by Laurentia Johns OSB, pub. Gracewing 2020 is available from the abbey bookshop, priced �10.00 plus p.& p.

17 July, on the completion of Dame Andrea Savage's 12-year term of office, Dame Anna Brennan was elected the new abbess of our monastery. 

News & Photo Archive

Summer News

27 June 2019, Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Sr Marian Sweeting-Hempsall made her Solemn Profession of Vows and thus became a full member of the Stanbrook community. 

19 July, we celebrated the Requiem Mass of Dame Agatha Backhouse (1937-2019) who had died peacefully at Apley Grange, Harrogate, on 12 July. R. I. P.

News of a collaborative venture between our own Sr Philippa and Mirfield's Fr Nicolas Stebbing. 

These two veteran monastics share their vast experience of monastic life in a way that should be helpful to all Christians. 'Making space for God: an invitation', published by Mirfield. ISBN 978-0-902834-48-9. �6.50. Available via Stanbrook Abbey bookshop: A poem of D. Laurentia's, 'Mary Reflects', formed part of the programme of 'Carols from King's' on BBC 2 on Christmas Eve 2018. 

Links below: 

The video download (just as an fyi): 

The pdf of the booklet:

Photographs of Stanbrook.

Aerial footage of Stanbrook Abbey
Made by students of the Kent School of Architecture

The monastery won a national RIBA award in June 2016.

In November 2016 we were awarded the Presidents' Award for new church buildings.

The abbey church has also won an award from the Wood Trust for 'excellence in architecture and product design in the world's only sustainable material.'

For an article about Stanbrook in the Yorkshire Post April 2016, please click on the link below:


Deo Gratias! The abbey church was duly and solemnly dedicated by the Right Revd Terence Patrick Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough, to much rejoicing.
For a full photographic record, please click here


The inaugural Mass in the new Abbey Church took place on Sunday 26 April 2015, thanks be to God and thanks to all our kind benefactors.
Read more by clicking here

 Right: Choir of the new Abbey Church (still incomplete)
Below: Inaugural Mass: the Gospel is proclaimed at the ambo

 Archive: The project since the start of the build:

Click here for Blessing of the East Wing site 6 February 2014
Deo gratias, building work began February 2014
Click here for March 2014 update

Work in progress, Spring 2015

Inside the Blessed Sacrament Chapel

March 2015
Much activity inside the church which it is
hoped will be finished by the end of April.
So one more Easter in the Chapter House...

August 2015, the new chairs for guests arrive! Many of these have been sponsored by kind benefactors.

West-facing view of the church

East-facing view of the church