Friday, August 15, 2008

They Love Guests

Apart from this parish, the place I love most is Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight. I first went there in 1974 just before being received into the Church. The place has bugged and haunted me ever since. Having decided I was called to the secular priesthood I didn't dare go back until my ordination retreat. Throughout my first years of priesthood I kept thinking that I should be a monk. Eventually, in 1999 I became postulant there, which was such a good time but it became apparent to me that I needed a parish.

What I now know I was searching for, was an environment in which I could formed by the liturgy.
The place is beautiful, the lands have the ruins of the ancient monastery on them and go right down to the sea. The incredible building and the location, together with the kindness of the monks make this an incredibly prayerful place.

I remember the community when it had over thirty monks, now it is down to nine. The liturgy has lost some of its elegance, it is sad Fr Matthew is now in Pluscarden and the wise Liverpudlian John Bennet is at Ramsgate and others have left too but I sense there is a change under the Prior Administrator, Father Finbar, who seems much loved and bringing about a new sense of hope at Quarr. What they really have going for them is that they love one another, that is not always so in communities.

Father Gregory, the Prior, asked me to recommend the new guest house, they are Benedictines therefore they love guests (male guests). The new guest house is very splendid, though I miss the whirring and ticking of the clock in the old one. There are very splendid stone bowls in each of the rooms, a contrast to the tin ones in the monks cells, there are excellent showers, nice firm beds, the rooms are clean and airy, guests are not charged but it is suggested they normally give a donation to cover food, laundry etc. so it is heaps cheaper than most hotels or guest houses. The only disadvantage is the chairs in the guesthouse are the most penitential in Christendom, even with pillows! I always fall asleep if I do my spiritual reading prone, hence on my first evening I fell asleep and almost missed supper. However Fr Nicholas, the guest master thinks something might be done soon.
Contact Fr Nicholas the Guestmaster:
I want to bring a group of parishioners down in the autumn.


gemoftheocean said...

Thanks for sharing the photos and telling us about this.

From reading your blog my guess is you bring the interior dedication a Benedictine has to the life of your parish.

In my own county of San Diego, there is a fine Benedictine community, Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, and the guest house is available for both men and women. The church is also open for daily Mass plus the liturgy of the hours.

I think of all the orders the Benedictines seem to have the sense of "via media" down the best. Such a balanced life between prayers, rest, and manual (and other) work.

Anonymous said...

Thank-you Father for this, wow, last i heard was 9,, whats going on? and now an English Congregation Prior too boot!hhmmmm...
i too am still in discernment, and it seems always a toss up too btwn Quarr (i love Solesmes and speak French), and Pluscarden.
One young man told me, if he could have the Liturgy/observance of Pluscarden, but moved to Quarr......well thats idealism for you!.

anyways i may have sent you this Quarr Video before?

Ches said...

I thought John Bennett was from Oldham, growing up on the street next to mine, and being received into the Church at St Mary's, Failsworth.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Ches, You are right I am sure, I'm an old fashioned southerner the urbs of the North is Liverpool.

PJA said...

Speaking as an IoW hotelier, I should like to remind your readers that we don't wake you up with bells and we have a swimming pool! ;-)

Seriously, I hope the community increases as it is an important place for Catholics, both on and off the island.

Anonymous said...

An insightful piece. Thank you.

I love the IOW - but have never visited Quarr. I would love to go to St Cecilias but l probably won't because l'm terrified l'll end up as a nun there..!.. even though l've never been.

Why does the guest house only admit men? Most monasteries or convents I know of of these days allow either sex to stay in their guest houses

Fr Ray Blake said...

They don't have the facilities, and there is St Cecelia's.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the chairs are a trial, even with pillows. Worse, alas, are the bell recordings used instead of the real bells in the tower. Hopefully a new generation of novices will soon arrive to ring them, or a generous donor will fund motorising and electronically programming them. Quarr is a wonderful and deeply significant place for so many. Things can only get better.

the hound said...

I HATE prerecorded bells. I remember a funeral in Ireland where the recording went wrong and we had to endure a slowed down out of tune pealing until someone had the sense to turn the machine off. They should be banned!

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