May 2020. News from Douai Abbey .
Fr Abbot told us at the start of the lockdown, that now we can be proper monks and not go travelling out. Mother Abbess of St Cecilia’s Ryde, wrote in their Chronicle that the abnormal has now become the normal and the world at large has joined the nuns in observing enclosure. One of the younger monks goes out once a week to pick up prescriptions from the surgery and do any necessary shopping. The front of house seems strangely quiet without any guests or visitors, and there are no retreats or talks to prepare and give. Most noticeable is the absence of people at Mass, especially sad for those few elderly people who make great efforts to share the daily Eucharist with us, and those who like to come into the church during the day to pray. The Triduum was particularly forlorn without the usual retreatants. We followed the bishops’ instructions exactly, so there were no processions, foot washing or watching on Maundy Thursday, no blessing of the fire or water at the Easter Vigil, but at least we celebrated it as well as were able.
We recognise that how much better off we are than many people who are unable to go to church, or who live in high rise flats in inner cities and have no gardens to enjoy, and so we must be thankful for our blessings.
Father Gervase Holdaway OSB
The tenth National Retreat for Benedictine Oblates will be held at Douai Abbey
2nd to 4th October 2020
Led by Sr Laurentia Johns, the Sub Prioress and Oblate Mistress of Stanbrook Abbey
Cost £180 for single ensuite room
Cost £144 for sharing an ensuite room
For more information email Neil Zoladkiewicz on
‘Life with St. Benedict’ by Richard Frost (Bible Reading Fellowship)
ISBN: 9 78057 468130
Richard Frost is a Reader in the Church of England and an oblate of the Benedictine community at Alton Abbey in Hampshire. His recent book provides reflections on the daily readings from the Holy Rule and is prefaced by an excellent short introduction to Benedictine Spirituality and a useful glossary.
The subtitle to this volume is ‘The Rule re-imagined for everyday living’ and that is exactly what the author has achieved in his reflections on each daily reading from the Holy Rule, which explore relationships, the workplace, our own church and our attitudes and actions towards others in a modern context. The reflections also include searching questions for the reader to think about and there is also a short prayer at the end of each section.
Overall this is an excellent introduction to the Holy Rule and the author bridges the gap between a 1,500 years old spiritual document and modern lives. It helps the reader to get into the habit of trying to apply St Benedict’s teaching to their own life, that process of daily reflection which is so essential to our progress on the Benedictine way. It is therefore an ideal volume for the novice oblate and all who are beginning the Oblate life. I certainly wish Richard Frost’s book was available when I took my own first steps towards becoming an oblate. It is also an ideal volume for the busy oblate of whatever experience!
NEIL ZOLADKIEWICZ (EALING ABBEY)
9th UK OBLATES NATIONAL RETREAT AT BELMONT ABBEY:
On October 14 2019, 23 oblates from across the UK assembled for the annual UK Oblates retreat, which took place over three days at Belmont Abbey near Hereford. Bishop Richard Moth of Arundel and Brighton diocese (and himself an oblate) was meant to lead the retreat but sadly he was ill. Father Alexander George, from the Abbey, though originally from Downside, agreed to lead the retreat at very short notice.
Father Alexander gave four talks on the nature of Benedictine Spirituality, Community Life, Silence and Prayer. All the talks were highly comprehensive, challenging, encouraging and ultimately uplifting.
He was able to link the daily experience of a monk to that of the oblate, showing an acute awareness of the daily challenges of leading the oblate life, suggesting that we are all seekers of God and we all need space to grow through solitude and silence. He also suggested that community life is an art form and has its own challenges, connecting these to those the oblate may face in the workplace, marriage, relationships and friendships. In his talk on prayer he clearly delineated the differences between intercession, meditation, contemplation and mysticism and in his talk on Silence, the differences between silence of speech, of thought, of the will, of desire and of the unconscious. Silence is God’s language and therefore we should speak only out of silence and act only out of stillness.
The 2020 Retreat will take place at Douai Abbey in October. Please see the UK Oblates website for details in the New Year.
Neil Zoladkiewicz (Oblate of Ealing Abbey)
Treasurer of the UK Oblates Team.