Friday, 7 February 2014

The Priests Retreat and Pilgrimage to Walsingham

The View from my room, on the balcony of the Milner Wing, as dawn breaks over the Shrine Grounds on Thursday morning. 

'Standing on the Borderlands of the third light', Bishop Lindsay's quotation from John Donne setting the tone for the Deacon's and Priests' Associate Pilgrimage and Retreat to Walsingham. Taking the theme of Pursuing Holiness, Bishop Rowan Williams encouraged us to follow the Rule of St Benedict, where holiness is undemonstrative, suspicious of technicalities, deadpan and down to earth. The tools of holiness demand steady, regular use, but allow the beatific vision to break through. The the raw material of holiness is the ongoing ordinariness of the circumstances of our ministry.

The Packhorse Bridge in the Abbey Grounds and the Snowdrop Walk

Fr Philip North traced the journey of Holiness through the Life of St Vincent de Paul, for priests involving personal renewal, service of the needy and the pursuit of justice, and a passionate belief in the ministerial priesthood.

Another Early Morning View

Fr Paschal Worton encouraged us to take heart from St Francis of Assisi, and to look beyond the parody of bird bath Franciscanism. He spoke of Francis' love for the church, of his compassion and mercy, and of his desire to praise in good and bad. 

Remains of the East Window Arch of the medieval Abbey, the site of the original Holy House being just to the left

Bishop Lindsay reflected on Shy hands; the Shy hands of Mary, offering Jesus; the shy hands of a deacon in preparation, of a priest in offering what does not belong to us, but is essentially wrapped up with what we are. He warned us not to get in the the way of the grace given in the Sacrament, but to be be its channel.

I always find being here exhausting, perhaps its the rigour of the journey along the A17, but am immensely grateful for all I have received this week, of which I have barely given a taste, but which will sustain me for many months to come. 

In other news, the worst kept secret in the Church of England was finally announced this week, with the news that Bishop Nicholas Baines is to be the first Bishop of our new Diocese of Leeds: West Yorkshire and the Dales. May he know the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the gift of Holy Wisdom, and, whatever else our new Diocese is to be, may it be a fellowship of prayer

Loving God, pour upon us, we pray Your Holy Spirit and prepare us for the new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. We pray for our new bishop and pray You will lead and encourage us, bind us together in love and faith and open our hearts and minds to new possibilities of welcome, witness and mission. In Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Bishop in Mitre

And, in other, other news, 10 weeks of withdrawal symptons are finally over as, after a superb Rugby League World Cup 2013, the new Rugby season kicks off tonight, even if the mighty Leeds Rhinos have to wait till next weekend to begin the title challenge.