Before there was St George, there was St Edmund, King, Virgin and Martyr, whose feast falls today. St George was a soldier saint from the region we now call Syria (what little of it remains intact notwithstanding). He was a decent chap and a worthy saint, but he did not become England’s patron saint until the fourteenth century. He was brought back by crusaders and had been favoured under the Norman occupation because he was neither Anglo-Saxon—and thus a potential emblem for resistance among the subjugated English—nor a Norman—and thus likely to be rejected out of hand buy the English. Before him St Edward the Confessor (on whose feast my birthday happily falls) had been widely considered the national patron of England, though even he was not original. The first saint we call the patron of England was St Edmund, the patron of my monastery, and the raison d’être of the great abbey and town of Bury St Edmunds. Continue reading “A Patron Saint”
Thesis writing and the various thrills and spills of the vita monastica have caused me to neglect the blog. Maybe that is a good thing. A series of events, not with an ominous air when seen together, have challenged any sanguine approach I might have had towards the current state of play in the Church and the world. The dismal presidential election in the USA, the hideous new presidency in the Philippines, the aggressive posturing of Putin, the demonic embodiment that is IS/Daesh, exhortations to “celebrate” the tragedy of the Reformation, the recent radical reformation of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and a series of earthquakes in Italy that have destroyed the basilica in St Benedict’s home town, Norcia – all these militate against optimism. Continue reading “A changing church – part 2”
It is has not been a year of abundant blogging, and certainly not recently. Easter at Douai is a busy time if one is simultaneously sacristan, cantor and shepherd: lots of liturgical services to set up for, sometimes single-handedly; lots to sing at those same services, and to practise for naturally; and it is lambing season.
The last lamb popped out during vespers on Friday, the reluctant mother Hildegard finally conceding to Mother Nature. She gave birth to this year’s only single lamb, Ambrose (Samson, though now a single, had a sister at birth who sadly only lasted a day). Our much reduced flock of six ewes has had ten lambs, which is a more easily manageable number. Of those ten, eight are rams and only two ewes. Their father, Spitfire, has not interrupted the ewes’ tendency to produce rams. Is this a subtle accommodation to the cloister in the domain of which they live?
Over at the New Liturgical Movement one can find a rich resource for charting the changes that liturgical reform has brought to church architecture and liturgical vestments. Very few churches go through life without being modified in some way to meet new circumstances, or as a result of war or disaster. Some changes are good; some are woeful. Even Douai Abbey‘s relatively young and humble abbey church has seen a good deal of change, nearly all of it before my arrival here. Nevertheless our photo archive affords a glimpse into the changes that have been made to our church in its near 80 years of existence. It fascinated me, and perhaps some others will find the photos of interest. They will enlarge on being clicked.
Part 2 to come in due course. Pax!
Time for a less serious post. Photos of the lambs are piling up, over a week’s worth, and drowning will soon ensue. Every now and then I was able to get a shot of the lambs at play, in particular when they leapt. The leaping of lambs is one of those sights that brings a smile to the stoniest face. The photos, taken at a distance with a point-and-shoot camera, do not really capture their sheer exuberance and joie de vivre. Nevertheless, it makes for the occasional cute photograph.
So in chronological order some leaping lambs from the past week. As always the photos get bigger if you click them, but they are of varying quality.
Changing pace for a moment, a few pictures from the sheepfold, in particular our 8 lambs. After the daily feeding for the adults (in which the lambs are now taking an increasingly vigorous part), the adults tend to wander off, and the lambs take their afternoon nap, mostly in the shelter. As the sun fought its way through a day-long mist, bestowing a pleasing warmth, it was a rather soothing scene. As usual, clicking a photo will take you to its larger version.
**WARNING** – the following photos are not for the hard-hearted, as they contain explicit schmaltz and gratuitous cuteness.
The title is literal not metaphorical. Two more lambs were born today, twin girls to a first time mother. One, an all-white lass obviously to be named Bianca, has been accepted by mother. Disturbingly, mother is not so keen on the other, letting it feed but then ramming it quite hard to keep it away from her. Shortly, if I can get some help, we will try to cover the little one in some of mother’s smell. But I have that sinking feeling…
For the time being we have 8 lambs, and I would put money on one more ewe being pregnant so we may get up to 10! Anyway, meet Bianca and Non Nominata.
Plans for another blog entry have had to take a back seat after the birth on the same day of 4 lambs, twin boys and twin girls. Having expected none this year after our old ram’s summer death, the 6 lambs we now have are quite the surprise. There may be another ewe or two pregnant. Obviously our little boys, all only just turned 1 year old, have been able to fill their father’s hooves.
So, now that the tail rings are on, I can think about that blog post.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
(Matthew 16:24-25 ESV)
Strip me of all but the mark, thumb crossing on forehead, that I might let mingle my spiraling soot with His blessing ashed. The burned arm of palm once so green now tendered free of want joins as one the wind-tunneled trail from which I came and the long road down which I travel invoking darkness seeking light: I'm listening.
(A Prayer for Ash Wednesday, by Maureen Doallas)