Thursday, 27 July 2006
Mass at St Cecilia's
Having said the old rite at St Mary's, I said the new rite yesterday morning at the Monastery of St Cecilia which is also in Ryde. The photo above is taken from the public part of the chapel. The grille on the right of the sanctuary marks off the enclosure. So the priest saying Mass faces the community with the visitors to his right.
The feast of St Joachim and St Anne is a special day for the community because it is the anniversary of Dom Prosper Guéranger's taking his vows. Guéranger founded the original Ste Cécile community of which St Cecilia's in Ryde is a direct descendant. To be honest, I find it terrifying saying Mass for the sisters. The view from the sanctuary of the community in choir is most impressive: as indeed is their execution of the chant. The standard of their Liturgy is so perfect that I feel a bit like a country bumpkin parish priest lumbering into the Papal Court. They are always very kind, of course but I made an awful hash of intoning the Gloria which was from Mass X.
At St Cecilia's, the entire Office and Mass is chanted in Latin. The enclosure is strictly observed and the way of life of the sisters does not compromise in any way with the "spirit of the age". Hence, as you would expect, they are thriving, with several novices and regular "nibblers" who come to see more of the life.
(If you did not expect this or are in any way surprised, you need to catch up a bit on what has been happening in the last 20 years in the Church.)
The sisters have produced a number of CDs which can be ordered by post. There is a list on their website but it is not easy to find. From the St Cecilia's homepage, click on "Visit the Abbey" and then "Gregorian Chant books and CDs".
After Mass, I get the chance to catch up with one of the sisters who was a contemporary of mine at Oxford. This time, I get the big parlour which has enough room for all the community to gather if someone is giving a retreat conference or a talk.
Sister reminds me that she made her profession in the same year as my ordination. 22 years ago!
In my sermon at the Mass, I referred to Guéranger's description of the monastic life as an image of the incarnation. The religious community makes Christ present in the world through their faithful carrying-out of the work of God in the liturgy, the community life and daily work. I reminded them that it is a consolation to us in the parish to know that there are these communities, "powerhouses of prayer" who are interceding for us constantly.