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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Community Spotlight: St Cecilia's Abbey, Isle of Wight

I decided to start a new section called 'Community Spotlight'. We have these huge lists of communities but I want to give individual communities a chance to shine. My plan is to select a variety of charisms, apostolates and locations so that everywhere gets a fair chance to be selected. Honestly though, a lot of my information is naturally going to come from the community's website so if that doesn't have much then I can't give you much either.

Order: Benedictine
Gender: Women
Charism: Contemplative/monastic
Eligibility: Women up to 40 years old
Formation: Approx. 9 months postulancy, 2 year novitiate, 3 years temporary vows, solemn vows
Vows: Stability, Obedience, Conversion of Life
Practices: The community prays the Divine Office in Latin and also has the Mass in the Latin Ordinary Form. They practice Lectio Divina and they have a particular focus on the Gregorian Chant, a mark of their heritage as part of the Solesmes Congregation.

History:  The community is dedicated to the Peace of the Heart of Jesus (Pax Cordis Jesu) and was originally at Ventnor as a foundation of a Belgian community. The nuns of Sainte-Cecile in Solesmes were exiled to England from France due to anti-religious laws in France at the time and they and the exiled Solesmes monks developed a close relationship with the Ventnor nuns, who had already been in England for some years. The new abbey in Ryde was named after the abbey that the nuns left in Solesmes and modelled on it. The Solesmes nuns were eventually able to return to their motherhouse in France and the nuns of Pax Cordis Jesu took over the abbey. The community was aggregated to the Solesmes Congregation in 1950.

The Spirit of Solesmes - Sr Mary David Totah (Available on Amazon here)
Sister Mary David is the current Novice Mistress and an absolutely wonderful woman. I have read some of this book during my various visits, sadly not all. The book is mostly extracts from the writings of the three great founders of Solesmes: Dom Prosper Guéranger, Madame Cécile Bruyère and Dom Paul Delatte.

Other books about them are available via the abbey here. Of particular focus on the abbey are "A Day in the Cloister" and "In The Heart of Christ". I have read "In The Heart of Christ" and it is amazing, the history of the community and the troubles it has faced are quite incredible.

The abbey also sells CDs and and cassette tapes of their Gregorian Chant. You can listen to it on the website here and it is truly hauntingly beautiful. You can purchase the CDs or cassettes here.

Website of the Solesmes Congregation: here.

As of August 2012, I have spent a few weeks on a live-in with this community. They are a truly outstanding community and I strongly encourage anyone interested in Benedictine life to contact them. I can say sincerely that I think St. Benedict himself would be proud of the way these sisters live out his Rule. They accept international applicants.

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