“Once guests have been announced, meet them with all the courtesy of love.” It is possible, of course, to make community out of “our kind of people,”out of people who look like us & think like us & have the same backgrounds as we do. But that is not the kind of community the ancient Rule has in mind or a Monastery of the Heart sets out to be. & with good cause. When Benedict of Nursia began his new way of living in wild, licentious, sixth-century Rome, he turned the world upside down. He took his monastic community the rich & the poor, the slave & the free, the young & the old, artists & craftsmen, peasants & noblemen. It was a motley crew.& then, as if that weren’t enough, he opened the doors of the monastery to anyone who came, at any time, to anyone who knocked, no matter who they were or where they had been in life along the way. Most of all he made of their coming a royal affair. Guests were to be met by the entire community “united in peace,” with prayer & always with the kiss of peace. Benedict’s community met everyone, whoever they were, with friendship & trust & honour. The pilgrim, the poor, & the stranger all became new royalty at the monastery door. ”Jesus, “the Rule teaches, “is to be welcomed in them.” For the sake of welcome, community silence was broken, the table was set, & the abbot ate with the guest. “Great care & concern are to be shown, “the Rule goes on, “in receiving poor people & pilgrims because in them more particularly Jesus is received.” The point is clear: the guest, to the Benedictine, is much more than simply another social contact. Guests, the unknown& the wandering other, are the final & authentic addition to any Benedictine community. Without them, the very notion of Benedictine community is suspect, is nothing but more of the same. Without the guest we make the community life all about us alone. Families that concentrate only on themselves do not build up the entire human family. The Benedictine, on the other hand, is actually on the lookout for guests – for their needs, for their wisdom. Like Abraham, whose desert tent was open on all four sides for fear a traveller might be missed, the Benedictine community takes special care to make itself available to the needs of the world. The Monastery of the Heart by Joan Chittister OSB.
The IICSA hearings into child abuse continue in London until Friday; the focus on Ampleforth has now moved onto Downside, & then the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Please continue to pray for the victims & survivors, & all those affected in any way by the failures in child protection. We will continue to hold two periods of silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, on Mon & Thurs this week. Four or five have attended our four sessions so far, with a profound sense of the few representing a far wider body of the Parish family, as we unite in thought & prayer with our Monastic Community. Our St Benedict’s Primary School Christmas Fair, held in the Parish Hall last Sunday, proved to be a resounding success in which Joanne Wood and her parental fundraising team raised £1103, which will be well used within the school for the benefit of our children. We are most grateful to Joanne & her team for all their work up to & on the day, & to many of you who visited the Hall & contributed to this outstanding effort. The Village Advent Carol Service will be held on Sunday week, 17th Dec. After discussions with Rev Catherine Reid, we have decided to hold a three Station Service, meeting at OL&SB at 7pm for 20 minutes of reading, reflection & carol, before moving on to the White Swan for a second Station, again with reading, reflections & carols, before completing our journey to the manger at St Hilda’s for a final Station, finishing around 8.15pm. Please encourage others to join us as we try to welcome at this holy moment those who have no contact, or may have lost contact with our two faith communities. Could I please bring to your attention the opportunities for Reconciliation before Christmas, particularly on Tues 19th Dec between 7pm & 8.30pm. With love & prayers, Fr Bede.