On this day in 2004, with the approval of the Holy See, we received our formal decree of canonical erection as an autonomous Benedictine monastery from Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth. What a lot has happened since then! We are now in the diocese of Cardiff where circumstances mean that our once pioneering internet outreach has had to change form a little, though we hope it is still of service to the Church and the wider public. Today will be spent giving thanks for the blessings we have received and in praying for all our benefactors, living and dead. I daresay there will be a celebratory treat or two as well. Slightly against my better judgement, I’ve agreed to take part in this morning’s edition of BBC 1’s Sunday Morning Live — so a prayer for that, too, wouldn’t go amiss. Thank you.
Yesterday in the monastery we celebrated, if that is the right word, two events: the death of our beloved sister in Christ, D. Teresa Rodrigues, in 2010, and the entrance into monastic life of Bro Duncan PBGV in 2008. D. Teresa’s death was unexpected and came as a terrible shock; Bro Duncan’s arrival was also unplanned but proved a huge delight to D. Teresa and the rest of us. All very well, you may say, but how do they connect with the Presentation?
When Jesus was taken to the Temple and ‘bought back from God’, so to say, it was a day of joy and gladness for his family, a celebration of the new life with which they had been entrusted. But it was also a day with a darker side: an acknowledgement that God might ask infinitely more than they could ever dream or imagine. What we call the Presentation was a kind of opening out to the mystery of God’s purposes, an assent to whatever the future might hold. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that the journey which began in the Temple would lead to Calvary and beyond; that it would be marked with great suffering; and that the story is not yet ended, for the Church is not yet complete. The small dramas of our own ordinary, human lives are caught up in this bigger story of redemption and salvation. To an outsider, the death of a nun or the arrival of a dog are events of little consequence, but to the community concerned, they mark the passage of the years and the unfolding of the history of God’s gracious dealing. They are simultaneously trivial and tremendous.
The feast of the Presentation would be a good day to look back over the events of your own personal or family history and trace the course of God’s dealing with you. For some things, you will want to give thanks; for others, where the pain is still raw, you will want to ask healing and perhaps forgiveness; for others again, understanding. The point is, whatever we have or are, whatever we do or experience, lies within the mercy of God. At baptism we were not so much bought back from God as bought back for God — and to Him, even the death of a sparrow matters.
Day of Prayer for Consecrated Persons
This is the politically correct title of the day of special prayer for religious — monks, nuns, friars, brothers and sisters, etc.— which is held today. Please pray for us, and those who are discerning a vocation.