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.

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