Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Right, said Cedd

In the Spring of 2003 a young Anglican paid his first visit to Newman House to enquire about accommodation. At the first hurdle he fell (‘Are you a Roman Catholic?’, asked the friendly face at Reception) but he was not to be deterred. He persisted and became not only a Catholic the following Easter, but one of the ‘cardinals’ of the Chaplaincy community for three years. Those of us who lived with Ian Mannion learned very quickly that here was a man of rare intellect (he speaks more languages than should be permitted), a rich spiritual life, great warmth and modesty, not to mention a quite incredible wit!
Newman House days: sleeping through one of Fr Peter's Instruction sessions?

During his time at Newman House it became clearer to Ian that the Lord was calling him to the religious life and, his studies completed, he left us to begin his postulancy and then novitiate at Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire.
With pilgrims from Newman House in Rome, December 2004. Also in the picture is David Wingfield, now a seminarian at the Venerable English College in Rome.

A merry band of pilgrims made their way to Yorkshire to join in the celebration of his First Profession. After negotiating first the Friday traffic on the M1 and then some of the ‘subtleties’ of SatNav, we arrived at Ampleforth just in time for Vespers. As we waited for the signal to enter the Abbey Church, the familiar figure, though now clothed in the monastic habit, emerged from the cloister to greet us.

Brother Cedd with some of his Newman House friends in the grounds of Ampleforth

Ampleforth has several guest houses scattered around its extensive grounds, and we were billeted comfortably, and fed extremely well. Our grateful thanks must go to the Abbot and the whole community for making us so at home. On being told that we had felt so welcome i
n the community, the Abbot is reported to have interrupted, ‘but they are welcome!’

Early to rise for Matins at 6am for a brave few, with Lauds followed by breakfast and a leisurely walk through the Abbey grounds. Many will know that Ampleforth houses not only a monastery but also a school of some renown, and the grounds are extensive, stretching a
cross the valley. It was a perfect location not only for a little exercise of the limbs, but of the vocal cords: Sr Brid’s cries of ‘Father! Father!’ were familiar echoes to us, but probably a new experience for the monks.

Back to the Abbey Church for the Profession Mass; gathered with the Community were Ian’s family, friends from university both at York and in London, and your merry band of pilgrims from Bloomsbury.

The Abbot’s homily struck a powerful, beautiful note. After detailing some of the responsibilities of a monk, he addressed the family and friends who had come to be with Brother Cedd, as Ian is now known, for this unique event. People often think of a monk as leaving everything behind: Abbot Cuthbert told us something quite different. As Brother Cedd was now joined to the community of Ampleforth, so are we. We are all brought with him, and have become part of their lives, and they part of ours.

A monk makes the vows of conversatio morum (conversion of life), stability and obedience.

After the homily, Brother Cedd read out his profession document, which was witnessed and signed by the Abbot and the Secretary of the Council. Simple profession lasts for three years, after which the solemn (permanent) profession is made.
The newly professed Brother Cedd with Fr Peter and the Abbot of Ampleforth, Dom Cuthbert Madden OSB

It was intensely moving to be a part of this day, even with its bittersweet edge; there is a sense in which joining a monastic community is a departure, which leaves a tinge of sadness. This can only be understood, however, from within the context of our intense pride that one of our own has had the courage to take this step. Above all, however, there is a profound joy to see someone so completely happy and excited about their journey to God.

With the Abbot’s encouragement in mind, then, we continue to pray for Brother Cedd, and rejoice in his vocation, always remembering that he is praying for us and that we are at once proud but humbled that we can call him our friend, and our brother.

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