Thanks to a generous donor, we have commissioned two paintings by Nicholas Mynheer (who sculpted the Resurrection Altar in our church) to go in the St James’s Chapel on either side of the altar. They show scenes from the life of St James, and according to the wish of the donor are to be in memory of our former Superior Sylvanus Berry CR. To install them, we need legal permission in the form of a Faculty. The following link takes you to the public notice that we have to make available for 28 days.
Our dear brother Aidan CR passed away in peace on Friday 17th September.
Aidan was in his 91st year and the 58th year of his profession in the Community.
The Requiem Mass for Fr Aidan will be held in the Church of the Resurrection, Mirfield, at 11.00am on Friday 8th October.
If you would like to attend the service please email our guest office, the brethren CR hope that you will be able to stay for refreshments afterwards.
For those who are unable to attend in person, you can access the service as it is live-streamed with this link: https://www.facebook.com/Mirfieldservices or you can find a link on our streaming page:
This notice comes with our continuing prayers for peace and consolation from God for all who grieve.
Thank-you for your prayers for all the Community.
The brethren CR.
This content is reserved for Mirfield companions
CR’s Charity Auction took place on Saturday 4 September, after months of planning and organising we are pleased to say the event was a success!
The Great Hall was packed full of wonderful treasures, and bidders came in great numbers looking to grab some bargains! It was a wonderful happy day and we thank all who attended – you showed a great amount generosity, goodwill and good humour!
The auction has raised around £14,000, with further amounts expected once Gift Aid has been processed. The sapphire ring, the Mouseman lamp, the rocking horse and the Kashmir rug were the star items on the day.
We would like to thank everyone who donated, we couldn’t have held the auction without your generous donations! Thanks also to brethren, Companions, College, staff, volunteers and friends who assisted with the auction.
Special thanks to our auctioneer George Gribben for his expertise and great sense of humour, and his brother Fr John CR who worked tirelessly to make the day a success. He continues to amaze us all with his energy!
Welcoming guests and offering hospitality is an important part of monastic life and we are delighted to be able to welcome more and more guests and visitors to the site after a difficult 18 months.
You may be aware of our upcoming programmed retreats. You can, of course, also stay here as an individual guest at a time that suits you, joining the Community for prayer and meals. As well as residential stays, you can even book a private room and lunch for an occasional Quiet Day. The Retreat House has a Common Room with a small library which can be used by individuals or groups of up to 20 people. We also have an art room, if you feel creative, and acres of natural beauty in our spacious grounds to enjoy.
Please note: To ensure the safety of brethren and visitors we still have some covid restrictions in place. We advise you to speak with a member our hospitality team for full details before booking.
For more information please contact 01924 483346 or email email@example.com
To view our retreat and events calendar please click here.
Mark 7: 1ff – Pharisees
Some years ago I was preaching Holy Week in a very Anglo-Catholic parish. The worship was magnificent – elaborate, colourful ritual combined with superb music. Every service seemed to take us somewhere near heaven; angels and archangels hovered just off stage. It was very easy to believe God was present; yet, where God is, the serpent usually appears too. So it was in Eden; so it was in this lovely church. On Easter Eve there was a major row. The servers wanted the Vicar to wear the lace alb on Easter Day. The Vicar refused. The lace alb was old and tacky; he would wear his own very nice one. The servers were adamant. If he wouldn’t wear the lace alb they wouldn’t turn up to serve on Easter Day! Clearly they had got their priorities wrong. Liturgy can be very fine. Good vestments, good ritual can bring one into the presence of God. But none of it is God. God, Christ and certain Christian values like love must come before everything else.
It’s easy to see how wrong those servers were, yet all of us lose our sense of proportion over silly issues. Some people won’t come to mass if the priest does wear a lace alb. Barbara Pym is so funny about church life because what she writes actually happens. Yet Anglo Catholics are not alone: hymns, candles, flowers, tea making, guitars. The list is endless of things that perfectly nice Christian people will fall out about. We all understand why Jesus criticised the Pharisees for elevating hand washing and food rituals above caring for parents or for the poor. We all condemn the Pharisees for missing the real point of the Law Moses had given them. Yet we all do similar things. How often in monastic life do we use the rules of our life together, the conventions of monastic obedience to escape a demand of love. I do it, often. I expect others do as well. There is a Pharisee in each one of us. Rules are good; rituals are good; hand washing, clean pots, silence rules and laudable customs are all good. They help us live peaceably together. They create safe structures and large spaces in which we find God. They point often towards God and yet they are not God. That is the mistake we make. Love comes first because God is to be found most surely in love. Jesus doesn’t want us to spend our time arguing about hand washing, church rituals or any of the other distractions of Christian life. He wants us to discover love. He wants us to find the God to whom these rituals point. How can we do that?
It’s not rocket science. Jesus tells us to stop fussing about the rules and look at the evil in our lives: “evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” Now I suppose none of us is guilty of all of these, but if we are honest we can all tick off a few that will need to appear in our next confessions. Sadly, our society is guilty of all of these. Any newspaper will tell us that. What is our reaction to that? To read about it with shocked delight? To watch films about it on Netflix? Or can we simply turn away from it? That is what Jesus asks us to do – recognise that all that stuff is simply bad and turn away from it, have nothing to do with it. But if we are going to turn away from this where do we turn to? Jesus doesn’t really answer that question in today’s Gospel, but James does in the epistle we heard before. James gives us two very useful pieces of advice. The first is: “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” That means, Listen properly; don’t talk till you know what you are talking about; don’t get angry. Or at least, don’t talk when we are angry – or write emails! We say very stupid things when we get angry and usually create more trouble than we started with. The old advice about counting to ten before speaking is really important. How much sin and stupidity would we avoid if we did that!
The second piece of good advice from James is this: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this; to visit widows and orphans in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Well, keeping ourselves unstained from the world means turning away from every evil as we have seen. To visit widows and orphans really means to do everything we can to help those who are suffering, especially when they are helpless. Who are the most helpless people in our society – refugees, asylum seekers, people escaping from Afghanistan? Those are the ones I think of. Perhaps there are many other kinds of people who need this help. But what is important here is the fact that James puts this activity at the very heart of what true religion means, even before avoiding sin. Helping the poor, the weak, the people with no rights. We cannot love God unless we do that. And the more we do of that the more our love for God grows. Christianity is not complicated. It is very simple. It is based on a few small and simple rules. They are just difficult to do all the time. But if we do them our lives are changed. It may seem that doing the rules will be hard, unpleasant work. It turns out to be quite different. God is in this work and so the work becomes a joy, full of the love of God.
So I want to finish with a story from my own life: a very small event in my life which changed everything.
Many of you know that I grew up in Zimbabwe, in the days when Zimbabwe was a racist country, and I was a racist. As a teenager I saw this was wrong and tried to change. That is not an easy thing to do. Then one day when I was about 19 I was staying at St Augustine’s Mission. I was sitting on a veranda reading a book and I could hear that unmistakable sound of small kids playing. I looked up and saw they were African kids. “Good heavens, I thought. They sound just like ordinary kids.” Then I realised what a terrible thing that was to say. I had never seen African kids as ordinary kids. The world kind of turned in a moment and I began a journey which changed the course of my life and brought me here. I have to say, it has been enormous fun!
I am sure each of you has events like that in your own lives, events which changed your life. Something happened that brought you into the Christian faith, or made ordinary religion suddenly serious. Something that made you look differently at God, or people around you. Something maybe that makes us realise that refugees are not faceless creatures messing up our lives, but men and women just like us, with the same fears and hopes; the same care for their children, the same longing for peace. We need to look for those events in our lives and see if they are still operating, still bringing us into the love of God. That’s a good thing to do on a pilgrimage weekend like this.
ASSUMPTION OF THE BVM 2021 (HR)
Song of Songs 2:1-7; Gal. 4: 4-7; Luke 1: 46-55.
‘Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.”’
May it be given to me to speak in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Today we thank God for Mary: the girl, the woman, the mother, the disciple, in the keeping of a feast that places her identity, her obedience, her discipleship, her generosity of spirit, and the grace of her abiding faith in total relation with her Son in the presence of the Father. The assumption – forasmuch as we may get hung up on its place in theology – does essentially what it says on the tin, to put it crudely. Mary’s vocation, her giftedness and givenness are today perpetually integrated within the Godhead for which she offers herself in the completeness of the “yes” who is made flesh within her.
As we emerge from the pandemic, Mary signifies the hope we each so desperately need to encounter and to befriend in a society in which the values she embodies and from which she lives appear to be at a premium. Or at least that’s what the rhetoric would have us believe. I suggest, however, that COVID teaches us different – that we have seen in the past year and a half in fact a reworking of the assumption of the mighty and meek, as their narratives are also integrated into Mary’s canticle, in a proclamation and witness that attest powerfully to upturned expectations and the transfiguring of life itself.
The pandemic after all has realised for us in real terms, what Mary knew 2000 years before: the disconcerting, yet sure truth that God magnifies the lowly, exalts the humble and breathes the life of his divinity into the humanity of those forgotten by kings and governors. Our lady is just what she was born to be: vocation and response and entire offering for such as these to whom the Kingdom of her Christ and ours rightly belongs.
Mary’s very essence as woman, as mother and as universal human type is today a refreshing focus for the whole of Christendom at a time when it is sorely needed; when the future of the Church Catholic would be manipulated and placed in jeopardy at the behest of policy wonks and empire builders, whose only thought seems to be, as the psalmist recognises, that ‘God does not matter’ except according to the narrow limits of the latest document devised by last year’s sub-subcommittee. And when was the last time they emptied a bin, boiled a kettle, cleaned a toilet or held a flailing hand? But perhaps they learned to give the peace in Sign during lockdown. Perhaps.
The hope of Mary, the joy of Mary, the love Mary both conceives and is assumed into by today’s feast, remind us that she has done all this ever and again in the free offering of her very life – her very ordinary, unremarkable – indeed unassuming life for her baby boy, her gift in utero – the same Christ who is her earthly annunciation of “yes” and “amen” for the life of the world – that the least of us may have life abundantly; life whom we will hold in our hands and taste with our lips a few moments from now. – All thanks to the incorruptible givenness of the “yes” she let be “yes”. And not so that we escape death, but that we may perceive eternally the power of resurrection and the hope it carries and forever offers to greatest as to least. Mary’s soul and body enshrine for us that hope and all its potential joy and sorrow met in the life of the triune God.
Today, we are assured once again that life is gifted to us in this clement, sweet, loving everywoman. It is in Mary’s way that the kingdoms of the world can become kingdoms rent topsy-turvy by Magnificat, mothered into risen life by the Theotokos who bears Godself for their sake to magnify and enrich them. “My soul magnifies/my Spirit rejoices”; continuous present. He magnifies me and lifts up my brothers and sisters that in their like simplicity and total personhood, they may inherit the earth by entering its heaven, receiving to themselves the perfect life of its God and King here and now.
Here is truth in God’s own canticle; here is the veracity we can also choose to enshrine today; the righteousness in which we too are at home.
So do we re-enter the restrictive rhetoric of pre-Covid times, as it begins once again to limit human potential and flourishing and entomb personhood in the narrowness of politicking? Because this is neither the Marian way nor that of the Church her Son Is seeking for his bride.
Today, we are assumed into the infinite potential of entire, whole and perfect response to the call of the God who is the vocation of us all: Mary shows the Church our vocation. Dare we say with her, “Here am I the handmaid of the Lord; let it be with me according to thy word.” If we do believe with her what is told us by the Lord, we begin to delimit and dissolve wrangling and strictness and the zeal God will not own, and magnify and rejoice instead in the infinite wideness of the mercy come down from the heights and lived out in the lowest and lowliest places.
Those, like Mary who live there, live in God and God lives in them. For this place is none other than the heavenly court – the habitation of love. And his presence – his soul – is revealed in it and within all who strive to enter it. We’re invited with her today to rise and adore and welcome others with mothering arms and gaze as children, Paul reminds us, upon the mystery of love.
Dare we not say with Marian faith and fear, “Be it unto me according to thy word,” that we too may rise in her wake to adore that mystery, leading others to gaze upon the face of God? He that is mighty has magnified us too, and in looking to the heart and soul of Mary, we see the fullness of God borne in the Christ who conforms all things to Godself, that the kingdoms of this world may be transformed and minds and hearts made new.
Mary, mother of us all, pray for us to your Son, that like you, we may be made worthy of such transformation and of the reception of so sweet a guest for our good and that of all the children of God. AMEN
Auction starts at 1.30pm
Friday 3 September between 10.30am and 4.30pm
Saturday 4 September between 10.30am and 1pm
Extra Viewings – We are offering extra viewings during the week leading up to the Auction.
Extra viewings will take place from Tuesday 31 August to Thursday 2 September between 2pm to 4pm.
As many of you will already know, the Community’s Auction will take place in the College refectory on 4th September.
This year we are extending our viewing times. Bids can be made in the usual way in the refectory on the day of the auction, we will be able to take some bids by phone and the greater viewing time will allow more time for people to leave commission bids. The quality of items remains high and there are lots to suit every purse. Star items include a gorgeous antique rocking horse, a 1950s Mouseman standard lamp an antique silver French ciborium 18/19 century and some really beautiful antiques from China. There are vintage Dinkeys, coins, stamps and collectibles of every sort. Oh yes, on a personal note, I will be donating a large section of my comic collection and cinema books.
In this year when there has been a large drop in revenue a really good auction would be very welcome. You could help in many ways. Come along and enjoy the day. You might find something really useful or beautiful. I do need publicity so share this news with friends and with any dealers near you. And pray for all who will be involved in making the auction a success.
At the beginning of the month Thomas and Adele and I were walking through Wakefield from Westgate on our way to Linda’s funeral at the Cathedral. One of the first places we passed proclaimed in bold, confident, shiny letters a single word: ‘Truth’. I think it is a rather expensive NightClub.
The owners clearly believe the name will have appeal – will draw people looking for an experience that will take them out of themselves, enlarge their lives, be memorable.
So that got me thinking.
On the day we renew the dedication of our lives in what Michael Casey calls ‘truthful living’, what are we looking for?
Truth? Yes. Truthful living. But what is this that draws us?
Is this a quality, something that can be more or less, a practice in which to excel? With the goal of becoming Olympians of the Spirit? A training in virtue?
Or something that is quite distinct, that radiates attractiveness, beauty, splendour? Like the allure of the nightclub. Something perhaps always just unattainable, but a real treasure to be won?
The central moment in the scriptures when St James and the other apostles hear the word, the moment when the word ‘truth’ is encountered in the middle of the city, comes as Jesus tells them – and us – “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
What grips the lives of the apostles and of so many through the ages even to us in this Church today is not an ideal, shiny and bold,
and it’s not a quality to gain.
It is a ‘relating’ – a ‘being in relationship’. Truthful living is the human living Christ Jesus lives in loving response to His heavenly Father. Demanding, wrong-footing us, incomparably attractive, a relating that – utterly improbably – turned the values of the ancient world upside down. (Perhaps you can tell: I’ve started reading Tom Holland’s Dominion – and he waxes lyrical on the subject: the scandal of the God who is not Caesar, not King Herod, the God who associates with the lowly, the suffering, the crucified criminals. The God who sees and attends to all the layers that comprise human kinship.)
And this is relating which turns lives upside down in our world today, as Abbot Robert reminded us on Festival Day.
I wonder if it isn’t the allure of being in relationship that draws clients into Wakefield’s nightclub ‘Truth’.
Then the next place we saw walking through Wakefield to Linda’s funeral had the name ‘Hogarths’. I think it’s a bar, strap-line: ‘We love all things gin’.
Somehow Hogarth’s picaresque vision of human lives equally has something to do with truth. Earl Squander, Tom Rakewell and the many characters who tumble out of Hogarth’s paintings inhabit a world not unlike that of the parables. They point a moral, but our delight is in the stories they enact and the attentive love with which Hogarth depicts and skewers them.
Hogarth surely invites us, his viewers, drawn in by these colourful exaggerated lives, to find ourselves there too – and our society.
One of his paintings is entitled: ‘The Sleeping Congregation’.
When just before Chapter the monastic taster week was taking place, we talked together about the vocational journey and how we discern the work and call of God’s Spirit in our lives. We didn’t exactly suggest our lives are a Rake’s Progress, but we did recognise that the vocational path doesn’t follow a map. It’s mazy. Perhaps we take wrong turns. Maybe there is no single road. But we agreed that, wherever that takes us, God does not stop relating to us, with the fully loving relating to all things human we know in Christ.
The participants found that helpful. Our lives, so far as we lead them in God, will necessarily be marked by Resurrection – life from death.
‘Truth’ and ‘Hogarths’. They’re next door to one another.
And I found this helpful as we went to Linda’s funeral – Linda who always wanted it told plainly, who didn’t give up on serving others with love.
And so to our patron saint, St James.
If we’re tracing the pathways of lives, why did our Lord call James?
As an apostle, he does not seem to have accomplished much.
Churches founded? Books written? Or letters even?
He was always there, in the Synoptics, with Peter and John, and always seems obtuse. The careful preparation our Lord gave him led to an end at the swing of a sword a few chapters into the Book of Acts– a quick death, and without even a story like St Stephen’s to colour the bare fact.
Perhaps St James can show us that truthful living does not depend on accomplishments – or colour – or depth of understanding.
His life was lived on one note: – Christ called and he followed. “They left everything and followed him”, as St Luke puts it.
And the after-life of St James, Sant Iago, has drawn sufficient crowds into the mazy path of pilgrimage to suggest our Lord knew what he was doing.
And has drawn us too.
Here we are on St James Day, asking to be renewed in our following,
to undertake again in fellowship and with good zeal our truthful living,
gripped by the humanly unsurpassable living Christ Jesus lives in loving response to His heavenly Father.
Pledging that we are able to drink the cup that He drinks.
May he keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, united in prayer and the breaking of bread, and one in joy and simplicity of heart, in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sermon for VII Sunday after Trinity, 18th July 2021
Gospel: S. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
What can be said about the scene in the Gospel we’ve just heard? The disciples had been busy in their proclaiming the good news to the kingdom of God, their missionary witness to all the people they encountered. Only last week did we hear of the beheading of John the Baptist and the disciple’s task of burying him. We can only imagine the need for some respite from their labours so when they meet Jesus he tells them to go to a place by themselves, a lonely desert place and rest. So they set out on a boat to a desert place, and doubtless thought that they would be on their own away from the crowds—after all they spent much of their time teaching, preaching, and healing in the name of Jesus. But it wasn’t long before they would be recognised by the crowds who managed to get to the desert place before them.
Imagine the look on their faces when they arrive at their oasis where they would be on their own, a place where they could rest and relax but it was inhabited with crowds of people. This was supposed to be their time away from the hustle and bustle of encountering the multitude they couldn’t even eat in peace. Not only did the crowd recognise the disciples but Jesus as well. Yet Jesus saw all these people as virtual wanderers appearing like lost sheep and he had compassion for them. They knew he had the power to heal so they didn’t waste any time in letting others know. Think of being right in the middle of a busy market square—-hordes of people are milling around—going about their everyday business, in the middle of all this seemingly orderly day, you see men and women carrying or dragging stretchers to the centre of the market square—there are people on the stretchers: the blind, the lame, the deaf, the deformed, the drug addict and alcoholic, the outcast and possessed, all the attributes of human suffering. Jesus had compassion for the crowds who pursued him and his disciples for healing and teaching. Jesus’ compassion to instruct was to bring openness and a guiding hand to those who were bewildered and lost.
Jesus tells us to come away, to a desert place, by ourselves, and rest awhile. By coming away—leaving behind modern technology and social media that would otherwise interfere with our complete and utter surrender to God; a desert place —- ideally a place which is virtually uninhabited by others; by ourselves—hermit like, alone, and rest awhile—without distractions, deadlines, meetings. Simply resting awhile—not something that is on-going but temporary.
One of the things we have experienced during lock-down during the past year was the absence of our guests and we know that guests are an important aspect of our ministry within the Community. We want them to share in our life. S. Benedict points out that all guests should be received in the monastery alike Christ. It is part of our vocation within the monastic tradition. Guests come to Mirfield for all sorts of reasons: sharing in the prayer life and worship of the Community, a time away to be spiritually refreshed and renewed, to engage with brethren for spiritual direction, confession or just to have someone to talk or listen to. All of these and much more we welcome. In today’s Gospel the crowds had come to see Jesus, to be nourished by Him in spirit, soul and body. They came for healing, physical as well as spiritual and they listened to what He had to say. In a sense we can see the multitudes of people, like the crowd, coming to a desert place such as Mirfield—where they feel welcome, safe, leaving behind their daily routine—for a day or several days. During a session in chapter we spent time on the implications when restrictions on lockdown have been removed and we return to some sort of normality. One of the challenges that face us will be the restoration of monastic hospitality and the impact it will have on us as well as our guests, but we believe are necessary if we are to sustain the life to which God has called us. I am sure that our guests and extended CR family will appreciate that we brothers also need some time to ourselves as a Community.
Just as the disciples needed a desert place where they could go and rest awhile away from the crowds, we need to find a place to recharge our own spiritual batteries from time to time and to take stock of our life together as Sons of the Resurrection. If we don’t make space and time for ourselves, how are we to care and minister to others who we are called to serve?
I’d like to end with a poem inspired by Psalm 49, written by Father Malcolm, our Retreat Conductor, for it reminded me of those who come to share our life, here in this place, as fellow pilgrims on a journey, our visitors and guests:
Where Christ Himself is there to welcome you then you are home, wherever you may fare and Christ will keep your inner compass true, though the world is rushing everywhere, this way and that before the winds of fear, between false hopes and premature despair. But you can hear a different tune. You hear the strong song of his love. Open your ears to hear his parables. The foolish veer, between their fatuous desires and fears, with fickle fortunes that they fear to share. Keep your security in Christ, who hears the slightest murmur of your smallest prayer, and do not be afraid, but trust in him, your hearts in heaven keep your treasure there. Amen.