Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Quarr and Ryde

This morning I did make it to Vigils at 5.30, as well as the rest of the round of Offices and the Conventual Mass at 10 here at Quarr, at which there was clearly a regular congregation drawn from the area round about, as well as visitors such as ourselves.
We have continued our conferences from Fr Jerome, as well as keeping silence and reading in the guest house, and also visiting the monastery bookshop, walking around the grounds, and observing the monastery's herd of swine - Gloucester Old Spots in a variety of sizes from piglets upwards.
This afternoon we travelled into Ryde, passing on the way a very handsome Anglican church by Sir George Gilbert Scott, with a spire which is a real landmark and with a nave elevation clearly derived from Merton chapel in Oxford, and other elements from fourteenth century Lincolnshire churches. 
Our objective in Ryde was St Cecilia's Abbey, where we were welcomed by the Extern Sister and provided with tea and biscuits before going to Vespers sung by this enclosed Benedictine community of Nuns. From the north trnasept we had a good view through the grill into the dignified chapel as the sisters processed in and sang the Office with really great beauty. We were able to follow in the excellent Office books produced by Solesmes for their Congregation. In addition we had the particular interest that one of the Sisters is a former member of the congregation at the Oxford Oratory.
The Abbey's website is here  and there is an online account of the community here. Afterwards we had time to walk along the seafront, looking across the Solent towards Portsmouth before retrning to Quarr.
The retreat has been, I think, extremely beneficial. We have had interesting and insightful conferences from Fr Jerome, enjoyed one another's company, but also enjoyed real monastic silence, had time to reflect on our own lives, and participated in the life of Benedictine monastery. It has also been a break in the normal routine of life for all of us, and that is refreshing and renewing. Tomorrow we are returning to Oxford and the usual routines, but I do think we shall take something with us in our minds that will work as a leaven within us.

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