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Opening our series of Lenten Addresses on What the Rule of St Benedict has to offer all baptised Christians, The Prior of the Holywell Community, Canon Mark Soady quoted from the Constitution of the Community.

It is the calling of all Christians to be Christ-like, sharing with other Christians in the baptismal mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection – and making that known in the world. Religious Communities are like the early apostles in that they share a common life. “All who believed had all things in common.” (Acts 2).

He continued, “while all Christians are not called to share ” all things in Common” we are called to make sacrifices in love. As our Bishop says in his Lenten letter this year,” The Lenten journey reminds us of our own personal schooling as we follow our Heavenly father who expressed his love by sending his son to live amongst us”.  The Holy Father Benedict’s Rule helps us in that as, in the words of the Prologue to the Rule, it is “a school for the service of the Lord”.

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Fr Mark preaching at Monte Cassino 2014

Key to Prayer is an ability to listen. As the prologue says one is invited to “listen with the ear of your heart”. If one is truly open to listening one needs to be able to set aside one’s own pre-occupations, one needs to sacrifice oneself in love to be open to hear. While all Christians may not be able to devote the time to set prayers that the Rule calls monks to do, they can set time aside in their lives to spend time in prayer. This will almost certainly call on one too sacrifice some pleasure to make room for this prayer time.

Dom Laurence McTaggart of Ampleforth  in response to the questions what is Holy? – points out that for many “the word work is synonymous with ‘toil’ (for) …work is often not seen as part of the spiritual life”. So often work is valued by how much it brings in; the focus is too much on what is done , rather than who is doing it. This was not God’s way, God humbled himself to take on human form.

As work is seen as a consequence of the Fall, it is seen as a burden or as a punishment, but long before the Fall God worked for six days to create the World. St Benedict speaks of prayer as the work of God, and set prayer times are know as ‘offices’. The Rule then shows us that God is there in our work – even if its mundane and boring – as well as in the moments of feeling great elation.

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Obedience in some quarters is an outdated concept. The Holywell Constitution speaks of it in this way:

Obedience includes listening to God, and hearing what he has in mind for the Community. By the vow of obedience members commit themselves to each other and to the Community, so they may grow in union with Christ, who sought not his own will but the will of God who sent him.

In reminding us in his Rule that sometimes God can speak to us through  the newest member or through the youngest member, St Benedict is reminding us that we are all unlimitedly under God’s authority and he can speak to us in many and different ways. Such a teaching, I suggest, is as valuable  in the pew as it is in the monastic choir stall.

In saying that in welcoming every stranger like Christ, St Benedict is getting us closer to the mystery of the Incarnation, for it brings the possibility of encountering the divine in the very day things of life.  In most of the rule St Benedict leaves wiggle room, but not where offering hospitality its concerned – and rightly so, if in turning some one away, could result in us turning God himself away. The Holywell Community Constitution reminds us that hospitality is not just about offering  food or a roof to some one, but is also about our attitude to people; are we open to other points of view or to people who are in some way different to us?  As Christians we are all called to see God in every Human being. – That can be quiet a challenge some times!”

He concluded with this challenge :

I hope this Lent’s study of the Ruleof St Benedict  will help you all think about your own rule of life, as we rightly spend this holy season reflecting on what Christ is calling us to do.

The rest of the series

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The schedule of repair and restoration work in the Priory this year is estimated to cost about a third of a Million pounds and is funded by generous donations and gifts, as well as from two legacies left by faithful parishioners .

NORTH WALK WAY

DWOyhJmWsAAZDb8.jpgAlun Griffiths Construction are working on lowering the North Walkway so as to reduce water seeping in to the Priory Church’s North wall. This scheme will also give better disabled access to the St Joseph Chapel.

Coe Stone  will build  a new retaining wall for the Garden of Remembrance, which will double up as a place for Memorial Tablets to be placed.

 

FRONT PEWS

A faculty is to be applied for the removal of the front pew so as to enable better use of the space for both concerts and liturgical acts.

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HEATING

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It is hoped that the new central Heating Boilers can be installed this Summer ready for next winter. These new boilers are small enough to enable us to re-open the North West Porch, this extra exit will enable us to increase our seating capacity and remain within fire regulations.

TOWER

It is planned to redecorate the ringing chamber and make repairs to the North Staircase of the Tower during the year. Bellfry.jpg

ST JOSEPH CHAPEL LIGHTS

A Faculty has been applied for to  replace the outdated lighting in the St Joseph Chapel, this will complete the Winston Memorial in that Chapel.

Commenting on these works the Vicar, Canon Mark Soady said:

We have a duty as stewards of the Priory to pass it on to the next generation both in a fit state, but also in a state that enables us to do the mission of the church in our day and age. I am grateful to all who have helped finance these projects, and encourage Parishioners to think about leaving a legacy to the PCC. Such a legacy will be spent on capital projects and not on running costs.

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HOLY WEEK SERVICES

 

HOLY MONDAY – HOLY WEDNESDAY

Monday 7pm Stations of the Cross & Holy Eucharist St Mary’s Priory

Tuesday 7pm Stations of the Cross & Holy Eucharist Holy Trinity

Wednesday 7pm Stations of the Cross & Holy Eucharist Christchurch

MAUNDY THURSDAY

7pm Mass of the Last Supper & Stripping of the Altar (St Mary’s  Priory), followed by the Procession to the Garden of Repose.

9pm – 12Midnight Watch of the Passion Holy Trinity

GOOD FRIDAY

In the morning we will join the Ecumenical March of Witness through the Town

2pm The Last Hour

7pm Sacred Concert: St Mark Passion – Wood

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From June 29th  to July 3rd the Abergavenny Floral Arts Society will mount an exhibition  of flowers  in the Priory Church to mark this years various Anniversaries.

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A display from a previous Flower Festival in 2013

Among the Anniversaries to be marked are:

  • Our Royal Patron the Prince of Wales’ 70th Birthday
  • The Centenary of the ending of Hostilities in World War 1 and the creation of the Royal Air Force
  • The Centenary of Women’s suffrage
  • The 65th Anniversary of HM The Queen’s Coronation and 70th Anniversary of HM’s wedding to The Duke of Edinburgh

and the local Anniversaries  included are:

  • 20th Anniversary of Abergavenny Food Festival
  • 30th and 50th Anniversaries respectively of the twinning with Beaupreau in France and Ostringen in Germany
  • 15th Anniversary of Diocesan Link between Monmouth and The Highveld

Welcoming the news  of the Festival the Vicar, Canon Mark Soady said:

The Priory Church down the centuries has been the place where the town comes to celebrate and to weep. I am very grateful to the Abergavenny Floral Art Society for helping us mark some of this year’s important anniversaries.

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A Memorial to former Provincial Assistant Bishop, the late Bishop David Thomas has been placed in the St Joseph Chapel of the Priory Church.

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The Lectern in Joachim’s workshop prior to dispatch

Credo Cymru decided to place the memorial to Bishop David in the Priory Church as it was the church used by him for most of the Ordinations and Chrism Masses he presided over during his episcopacy.  The Priory Church was the location of his Requiem Mass last June, following his sudden death in May.

Like the Jesse Plinth and the Altar in the Chapel the Lectern was designed and made by Joachim Tantau, an honours graduate of the Prince’s School of Traditional Art.

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One Hundred Years ago last August saw the birth of Oscar Romero, who as Archbishop of El  Salvador was Martyred, and is now one of the modern saints remembered on the West-end of Westminster Abbey.

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As part of the Romero Festival in South Wales we will host a stunning original play about his life. Romero: Heartbeat of El Salvador will be performed by the RISETheatre here at the Priory on March 13th at 7.30pm. Tickets priced £10 ( Concession £8) are available form the Tithe Barn.

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In this month’s Parish magazine, Michael Woodward tells the story of this remarkable man.

Last year marked the centenary of the birth of Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, Archbishop of El Salvador, who was murdered whilst celebrating a quiet Mass on 24 March 1980 in the Chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence, San Salvador. His martyrdom was the culmination of a life spent in the service of God and the poor. It ensured that throughout the world Archbishop Romero became known as an exemplar of authentic Gospel spirituality in the face of grinding poverty, exploitation and persecution perpetrated by a corrupt and violent government on its own citizens. He paid the ultimate price for standing up for the suffering people – mostly poor rural farmers – and defending fellow priests struggling against the oppression of an oligarchy which systematically massacred catechists: to be caught carrying a Bible was a death sentence. Many fled their homes and villages. RISE Theatre have produced a riveting play called Romero: Heartbeat of El Salvador which tells his story. It is coming to the Priory Centre on Tuesday, March 13th. Performed by a talented young cast, the swiftly moving plot depicts the Archbishop’s development from a boyhood marked by an early desire to become a priest to that moment when, as Archbishop, he was pierced by an assassin’s bullet at the altar. John Bosco is an extraordinary stage presence, communicating Romero’s journey and dilemmas with energy and subtlety. The play, with its contemporary soundtrack and images, not only captures the chronology of events, it also depicts the political and social turmoil which gripped the country. This was not a unique situation in Latin America at that time, but it was particularly marked in El Salvador, with its escalating cycle of political murders and disappearances, and where the ‘security services’ had become death squads. The civil war in El Salvador, which lasted from 1977 to 1992, claimed some 75,000 lives: to their shame the USA funded the security forces at $1million per day. Oscar Romero lived through this developing storm as priest, as Bishop, and from 1977 as Archbishop. The play makes clear that he was not, at least during the earlier stage of his career, a man who liked taking sides. His superiors recognised his gift for thoroughness and administration and appointed him to posts where he could diligently exercise it. Gradually, as his duties brought him into deeper contact with extreme poverty and suffering, widespread, violent persecution by the security services, and the priests struggling at local level to address these challenges, Romero evolved into a Bishop and Archbishop for whom quiet respect for the status quo was no longer an option. Romero was particularly touched by the murder of his friend Fr Rutilio Grande, a pioneer of empowering the faith of the poor by encouraging the formation of small Christian communities. This happened days after Romero’s installation as Archbishop. Increasingly ‘Monsenor’, as he is universally known in El Salvador, applied the Gospel to his daily experience, and began to speak clearly for the voiceless, quickly becoming the nation’s principal defender of the oppressed. In his Sunday homilies, broadcast to the nation, he implored a change of heart on the part of the authorities, reviewing in meticulous detail the violence and murder committed during the previous week. This was not a message the authorities wished to hear spoken, but neither could they rebut it; a team of young lawyers and activists corroborated each case. Bombing the radio station just led to imaginative re-routing of broadcasts via Costa Rica. Like Jesus, towards the end of his 3 years of prominent public life, Romero knew that he had become a marked man. Since his martyrdom, Archbishop Romero’s renown has spread far and wide; he is a Christian leader and teacher who belongs to everyone. His life and fate are relevant to our own disturbed world, where the wickedness which convulsed El Salvador in 1980 is still with us. His statue is above the West Door of Westminster Abbey, and he will very likely be canonised soon. This play is strongly recommended for all those interested in applying the Gospel to our lives, and anyone wishing to learn more about Romero’s life and times.

“An awesome and inspiring performance from Rise Theatre.” -—The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Norwich

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LENT PREACHMENTS

The Relevance of the Rule

What’s Benedict got to do with me?

During Evensong at 6pm during Lent we will look at what the Rule of St Benedict has to say to the Baptised.

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February 18th

Benedict for all The Prior

February 25th

Benedict & Holy Scripture – Fr Jonathon Wright (Scriptologist)

March 4th

Lay membership & the rule – Lay members of the Holywell Community

March 11th

Benedictine Prayer – Fr Richard Simons OSB (Belmont Abbey)

March 18th

Benedictine Community -Fr Sam MacNally-Cross (Oblate OSB)

 

 

 

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