News from the Monastic Community
I hope you have all had a happy start to this new year. Over the last month we have been regularly blessed with good weather here in the valley (a rarity for January in North Yorkshire!) giving all of us here at Ampleforth the opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the valley to the fullest.
It seems a distant memory, but in fact it was less than a year ago – June 2019 – when the monastic community moved back to the refurbished monastery. This has been an impetus for us to seek a renewed sense of community and purpose, reflected even in some of the ‘routine’ aspects of daily life in the monastery: more fruitful times of recreation and, more recently, time set aside to have tea and coffee with some of the lay staff with whom we work on site.
Christmas in the monastery, too, has a ‘family’ feel to it and some of our traditions involve celebrations with our neighbours. The community from Stanbrook Abbey joined us for Mass and lunch on the Feast of St Stephen (26 December), and the clergy of Middlesbrough Diocese joined us on 30 January.
As you may be aware, the Catholic Church in England and Wales is celebrating ‘The Year of the Word’ in 2020, and the Hospitality team has scheduled a series of monthly study days reflecting on different aspects of God’s Word. Fr Henry opened the Year of the Word with a talk entitled ‘Why bother with the Bible?’, and a number of monks will be leading study days throughout the year. In the school, too, Fr Ambrose has introduced a number of initiatives. The Catholic Truth Society has also published Fr Henry’s 'A Year with the Bible: 365 Daily Reflections, a commentary on 365 scripture passages.' Copies are available in the Abbey Shop.
A focus of all our work is and must always be enabling an encounter with God: ‘Come and See’, as Jesus tells the disciples in John’s Gospel. Fr Kevin and his team in Hospitality have a busy schedule of forthcoming retreats in the pastoral programme, and I would encourage all Society members to join us, either as part of an organised retreat or to make a private retreat of your own. If you are making a passing visit to Ampleforth Fr Kentigern and our volunteers are always on hand to welcome Society members to the Visitor Centre, located in Alban Roe House (old Junior House).
Work continues further afield, too, in Zimbabwe, at the Monastery of Christ the Word; and with the monks serving in parishes in the Diocese of Leeds and the Archdiocese of Liverpool, as well as those local parishes in the Diocese of Middlesbrough served from the Abbey. I am often struck how in the past priests working away in our parishes were called the ‘Mission Fathers’, with all those connotations of “mission territories”. In today’s society each one of us has a mission, a role to play. To quote Saint John Henry Newman, whose canonisation we celebrated so wonderfully on 13 October 2019: “God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have a mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good…”. Let us pray that each one of us may carry out their mission in proclaiming the Good News.
A highlight for the community over the last year was the clothing of Br Edmund in August. Under the supervision of Fr Chad as Novice Master, he and a postulant have continued their discernment of monastic vocation. We ask for your continued prayers for vocations to, and for the life of, our monastic community as we journey together in faith.
I look forward to updating you on more strategic developments within the Ampleforth Abbey Trust in the next edition of The Diary, until then the community will keep the Ampleforth Society in our prayers and we hope to see many of you here at Ampleforth or at one of the many Society events in coming months.
Prior Administrator and Acting Religious Superior, Ampleforth Abbey