Something for Vocations Sunday 2016

The oratory at Howton Grove Priory, Eastertide 2016
The oratory at Howton Grove Priory, Eastertide 2016

I wonder how many people today will hear a homily that speaks of the wonder and joy of a vocation to priesthood or consecrated (old-time, religious) life? How many will hear one that speaks of the importance of marriage or family life, of the beautiful but often difficult vocation of those called to be single, or indeed anything beyond a dutiful bidding prayer that somehow mixes up sheep, shepherds and labourers in vineyards? I ask because I am convinced of the supreme value of knowing, loving and serving God and would like everyone to find joy in the things of the Spirit and in the fulfilment of their unique call from God.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is a good day for reflecting on our own own vocation and, in addition to praying for others, thinking and praying about how we ourselves have responded to God’s call in the past, and how we should respond in the future. Have we helped or hindered others in following Christ? Is there something more that the Lord asks of us? Are we ready to listen, or do we want to turn a deaf ear?

I myself am a Benedictine, and a very happy Benedictine at that, yet part of me wishes I had been graced with the vocation  of a Carthusian or hermit so I could live ‘alone with the Alone’. I say that without any rose-tinted misconceptions about the demands of the eremitical life. I only just scrape by as a coenobite and would never manage as a hermit. But God is, and I pray always will be, the most important person in my life — which is why I am a nun, why I am enthusiastic about monastic life in general and the life of this community in particular, and why I want to share its blessings with as many people as possible.

Sometimes a visual image can help, so the photo at the beginning of this post shows the altar-end of our oratory while the one below shows the choir-end. Our oratory is a plain and workman-like space, as monastic life itself is plain and workman-like. There is careful attention to detail, but nothing fussy or superfluous. It is the most important part of the monastery, and I think it is eloquent of how we understand Benedictine life and try to live it. If it is a terible thing to fall into the hands of the living God, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, it is also, as the saints assure us, the most delightful. May God draw many to experience his love and mercy, to savour the sweetness of the Lord and be his true disciples.

The choir-end of the oratory at Howton Grove Priory
The choir end of the oratory at Howton Grove Priory

I give below links to a few previous posts on vocation which, together with the information on our main website, ( for small-screen devices) and our Facebook page, may prove helpful. I hope so.

Some Posts about Vocation

Praying for Vocations

Vocation and Reality

Further Thoughts on Vocation

A Few Thoughts on Discernment

Always Discerning, Never Deciding

Vocations Sunday

A Gap in the Market for Meaning: Vocations Sunday 2015



On Not Celebrating St Valentine’s Day

St Valentine does not appear in the revised monastic calendar. His place is taken by SS Cyril and Methodius and a series of dull, but worthy, Office readings about the importance of Church Slavonic and unity. Just occasionally, belonging to a global church has its longeurs. While we dutifully ponder the feat of developing an alphabet to cope with the Slav dialects, the rest of the world is eating over-priced chocolates to the accompaniment of sentimental music and the scent of wilting red roses — which, to my way of thinking, is probably worse. But for every joyous couple celebrating their love for one another, there is someone for whom St Valentine’s Day is an awkward reminder that they are no one’s True Love. For them, this is a day (and even more, an evening) to be spent miserably alone, lamenting what they lack. Encouraging talk about being precious to Christ cuts no ice. The lonely are lonely, and there’s no getting away from it.

If there is no getting away from the fact of loneliness, perhaps we can turn it round and embrace it. God never asks what he does not give, but we do not always understand the Giver or the gift. What we see as a lack is sometimes the only way in which we can truly become what we are meant to be. The single vocation is not often recognized for what it is: a unique way of being a disciple, and one that requires more courage than marriage or community life because it is lived alone. Lived stingily, it can turn one in on oneself, making one constantly harp on what one has not; lived generously, it can make one a source of blessing and encouragement to others. Today, let’s pray especially for all the single men and women who enrich the lives of others without claiming anything for themselves.