Thursday, 20 January 2011

Singing the Office on Retreat

On Sunday we accompanied the community to the main island of Stronsay for Mass with the local island population and were delighted to be included in the schola for a Missa Cantata.  (Whilst the F.SS.R. await full canonical status, the Bishop of Aberdeen has given them permission to offer Mass on Stronsay in addition to the Monastery on Papa Stronsay).

Papa Stronsey Retreat
A nun at prayer after Mass at Stronsay Chapel

The Office of the Hours are sung mainly 'Tonus Simplex' by the F.SS.R., except for Feast Days and Sundays, using the traditional Roman Breviary.  As Fr Michael Mary said, they are not a monastic community and their charism lies elsewhere.

Mark joined the community for the Office whist Alan and I, being Benedictine oblates, requested we  be allowed to follow the Benedictine Office.  Not only was this approved but we were given permission to use of the Holy Sepulchre Oratory which the Sons of The Most Holy Redeemer had converted from a cow barn.  The interior was almost complete with furnishings rescued from a convent in Belgium including a wonderful altar, choir stalls and stations of the Cross.  One brother commented how wonderful it was to know that prayers were being offered  to God simultaneously in both chapels of the Monastery.

Papa Stronsey RetreatTabernacle in Holy Sepulchre Oratory

Under the expert leadership of Alan, the schola director of St Margaret's, I began to chant the Office using my Monastic Diurnal, Alan meanwhile using his Monastic Antiphonale.  All went well for the first few days with Alan being most solicitous in assisting me with the psalm tones and antiphons.  Disaster struck in the form of me losing my upper register from what can only be described as overuse on Wednesday.   From 'singing like a linty' (a linnet [linty] is a small finch once very popular as a cage bird because of its melodious song), to singing like a bull frog.  

For me this was heartbreaking as well as voice breaking, and so for the remainder of our retreat I had to sing sotto voce - another great lesson in humility! However this is the wonderful thing about retreats insofar as finding your spiritual strength through external and internal exercises.  I for one would not change these opportunities in experiencing humility, charity and fraternity for anything.

More soon.

Monday, 10 January 2011

A Retreat to Golgotha Monastery

Following the unforgettable day at Bellahouston during His Holiness's Visit to Scotland, what better way to finish off such a memorable occasion than to engage in another.

Safely home for one night to repack my luggage it was off by train to Inverness early next morning to join up with my two fellow retreatants who were driving up from Edinburgh.  Three hours later I meet up with Mark and Alan for breakfast then hopped into Alan's car for the four hour journey to the North to get the afternoon ferry from Gill's Bay to St Margaret's Bay on the Orkney Isles.  This part of Scotland's countryside is beautiful  but bleak, with nary a wood or even tree in sight.  Wild moorland where life is hard and luxuries are few yet rich in God's splendour and grandeur.

Papa Stronsey Retreat

 On the good ship Pentalina we were very pleasantly surprised to see a number of religious quietly reciting the Office - yes, the contingent of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer who had made the pilgrimage to Bellahouston were also making their way home to Papa Stronsay.

 After arriving in Orkney it was time for another ferry from Kirkwall to Stronsay before boarding the communities little yawl for the short crossing to Papa Stronsay.  So, after a journey comprising of a train, car, two ferries, a bus and finally the wee "Alphonsis" we arrive safe and sound at Golgotha Monastery some 10 hours after setting off.

Papa Stronsey Retreat
Papa Stronsey Retreat

 In honour of the Papal visit to Scotland the community loyally flew the papal flag throughout his visit.  Was this the most northerly flag in the U.K.?

Fr Michael Mary soon had us billeted into our cells.  Imagine my shock to be shown the "Bishop's Suite" complete with en-suite facilities and grand piano!  Alan and Mark meanwhile were given monk cells within the quadrangle.  So, my retreat subject matter was already chosen for me - Chapter 7 of The Rule on Humility.

A Mass of thanksgiving, Vespers, a light supper, compline then to bed.

More soon.