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This year’s Autumn Break focused the theme of Faith and the Arts on 18th Century.
It was an intellectual and artistic feast. Haydn Lee gave us two of his musical lectures - an irresistible mix of musical knowledge, pianistic skill, superb CD selections and sheer enthusiasm. He focused on Handel and then on Haydn, and rounded off the week with a recital at our social evening on the last night.
Joyce Simpson brought to life the poets of the period, exploring Wordsworth and the French Revolution and then grace in the lives of John Newton (author of ‘Amazing Grace’) and his friend William Cowper.
Fr Dixie presented the French Revolution as the background to the artistic developments of the late 18th and 19th centuries.
Rosemary Mitchell discovered unexpected religious themes in the artists of this period, who are often seen as turning towards secular themes, and Eleanor Petch explained the ethical significance of landscape in Jane Austen.
We also had a day out: to Hornby, where Fr John Lingard’s presbytery and garden, and much of the village, preserve 18th century features, and to the superb Georgian Catholic church at Claughton-on-Brock, where Fr Anthony Keefe graciously hosted us and said Mass for us. On another day some of us visited Cartmel and found the grave of William Taylor. He was the schoolteacher who stimulated Wordsworth’s love of poetry; Wordsworth was en route to visit this same grave when, crossing the Morecambe Sands near Chapel Island, he heard of the death of Robespierre! A film of Jane Austen’s Emma was the perfect accompaniment to the talks and trips.
As usual the group was able to join in the regular Masses and daily prayer of the Community, visit the local area, and enjoy shared meals and friendship, and visits to the local area.
Next year we will continue the same theme with Reformation, Counter-Reformation and the Arts. Book early to avoid disappointment!
If you are interested, please contact SR MARGARET
Health and Salvation week at Boarbank, 11th-16th January 2016: Body, Mind and Spirit
This year we branched out somewhat with a focus on complementary therapies. These are used by billions of people worldwide, yet conventional heathcare professionals often treat them with scepticism.
Can they teach us something? Or is it all hocus pocus?
Sr Margaret introduced the theme with a couple of lectures taking a theological approach. What does our faith tell us about the scientific questions involved? And what does the Church have to say religiously about treatments that are closely associated with other religions?
In both areas, the Catholic tradition seemed to point to a prudent openness to whatever is good in unfamiliar traditions, without ceasing to value the tremendous benefits of conventional medicine.
Other speakers introduced us to concrete examples.
Sr Sue Lawrenson explained the principles of reflexology, and demonstrated on one of the participants. Dr Nuala Bent, who practises Bioenergy Therapy, explained its theoretical principles with reference to the New Physics, and again ran a demonstration session.
We also watched a Horizon documentary entitled ‘The Power of the Placebo’. Dr Jonathan Berry, a pharmacologist, provided an expert overview of questions about the safety and efficacy of both conventional and complementary medication.
Another aspect of the week was following up last year’s theme of mental health. Professor Kathryn Mannix introduced us to the principles of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, as something useful also for ordinary life. Dr Dominic Bray spoke enthusiastically about ‘Solution-focused Therapies’, which concentrate on the positive goals that someone wants to achieve rather than on their problems. Both speakers have expertise especially in palliative care, but both these methods have proved highly successful in wider practice also.
As usual, the context was one of friendships old and new, cemented by the experience of shared prayer and meals, conversation around the log fire, and exploring the local area.
We are very grateful to the priests who took part for presiding at Mass each day. One evening we watched the film ‘Lourdes’, a rather quizzical fictional exploration of a possible healing. On the free day, some people went birdwatching at Leighton Moss, while others took advantage of some rare glorious sunshine to climb Hampsfell, then return via a tea-tasting (and birthday celebration) session at the Hazelmere Cafe (tea grown in Cornwall was an unexpected highlight!) and a return walk along the promenade. The tea theme also included a cream tea when Sr Anne was able to join the group from the Nursing Home. We ended the week with our usual social evening, including Compline around the fire.
Next year’s Health and Salvation will be from 9th-14th January 2017 and the theme will be ‘Healthcare and Time’.
More details to follow. If you are interested, please contact Sr Margaret
Very many thanks once again to John for the photos from the week.
The theme in 2016 was ‘Health, Wisdom and Tradition’.
Unfortunately, our original speakers were unavailable at short notice for health reasons. (We very much hope to invite them back when they are fully fit again.)
Dr John McKay, who works as a hospital GP, and is also very involved in his parish, kindly stepped into the breach. He spoke about ‘Wisdom for the Next Generation’, and provoked much thought with his comparison between the NHS 25 years ago and now, and with his wonderful slide of an overburdened donkey!
Fr Dixie Taylor used the Wisdom books of the Old Testament to reflect on the importance of experience, community and truth in wisdom and tradition.
Sr Margaret Atkins used the original Hippocratic Oath to identify enduring fundamental principles for healthcare professionals and to consider the challenges they pose today. In a final group discussion we shared our wisdom in pondering the most important values, practices, ideals and principles to pass on to the next generation, and how we might best succeed in doing this.
The programme provided the opportunity to share Mass and the Prayer of the Church with the Boarbank Sisters, to walk in the local area and to share conversation and social time as well as personal quiet. As always, many of the most important moments of the weekend came during the free time.
We plan to repeat the retreat on the same weekend next year.
To book or for further information, please contact SR MARGARET
held between 9th and 13th November 2015
A full group gathered with much enthusiasm for this new venture in November. Haydn Lee got the ball rolling with a musical presentation, ‘The Vocal Millennium’ on Monday night. He brought his lectures to life with his brilliant piano playing, singing and musical excerpts. His passion for his subject was infectious and he had great difficulty packing everything in that he wanted to include!
Following another inspiring lecture from Haydn the next morning, we heard Bernardine McCreesh on ‘Christianity in Medieval Icelandic Literature’. It was a subject that few of us knew anything about but Bernardine brought vividly to life how Christianity incorporated some elements of previous Icelandic sagas. She excited our interest in her subject.
On Tuesday afternoon we had Maureen Calnan on ‘Writing Icons’. She illustrated her talk with beautiful examples of her own work. According to Maureen, you don’t pray to icons, they talk to you. Despite the hours of painstaking work involved, she gives her icons away to those who need the help.
In the evening Jonathon Pritchard spoke of his role in the architecture of the chapel and oratory at Boarbank. He spoke with great commitment about his work which was clearly done with love and has given visitors greater access to our devotional places.
Wednesday was the free day. In the morning at eleven am we observed the two minutes silence in memory of the victims of the First World War and those killed in conflicts since. We watched a short film about the handcrafted poppies made to commemorate each soldier who has died. Although the weather was not very inviting, some people ventured out, including a group of bird watchers.
Late afternoon we had a reading on the death of Lord Marchmain in ‘Brideshead Revisited’. Members of the group took different parts with spirited performances and then a lively discussion. In the evening many of the group watched ‘Au Revoir Les Enfants’ considered one of the best films ever made about childhood.
The film is about the protection of some Jewish children in a French Carmelite boarding school during the Second World War and their eventual betrayal together with the head master who has protected them.
After another riveting musical presentation from Haydn on Thursday morning, we listened to Neil Curry on Christopher Smart.
He spoke about the poet’s joy in God’s creation despite a very troubled life which included being committed to an asylum by his wife and his eventual death in a debtor’s prison.
His gentle, affirming poems about childhood were a refreshing contrast to the harshness with which children were treated at this time.
Late afternoon Fr Patrick Clarke spoke about his work to help the poor of São Paulo at the heart of commercial Brazil.
When he arrived there he was confronted by such extreme poverty that he felt overwhelmed and helpless. Nevertheless, he has created a flourishing school, a cultural centre, with the help of three sisters and a few priests. Here pupils learn to read, receive meals and have produced beautiful works of art.
It is a difficult balance because of the danger of infringing on the interests of the ruthless gangsters and the corrupt police. He showed shocking photos to illustrate the immense gap between rich and poor and then the wonderful art of the children.
[See www.centroculturalvilaprudente.org.br which is in Portuguese and English]
We enjoyed our social evening and buffet that evening. Haydn’s lively piano recital, including some audience participation in singing a joyful Alleluia, was a fitting end to a stimulating course.
Next year the planned theme is 'Faith and the Arts in the 18th Century.'
If you are interested, please contact Sr Margaret.
This year we took advantage of our local connections and chose the theme ‘Furness and the Cistercians’.
On Saturday, we visited Furness Abbey on Saturday with a talk by Gill Jepson, a children’s author. One of the highlights was hearing about the recent uncovering of the body of a 14th century abbot, holding his crozier.
The top of the crozier, decorated with a golden St Michael, can be seen in the Abbey museum.
(If you get a chance, do visit this site - it is wonderful and far too little known. CLICK HERE for the English Heritage Furness Abbey page).
Later that day Joyce Simpson led us through an excellent session on Furness Abbey in the poetry of William Wordsworth. In the evening the group watched the very powerful film about the Cistercian martyrs in Algeria "Of Gods and Men" and the next morning enjoyed a session on Aelred and friendship, putting practice into theory!
As usual, the group shared in Mass and Daily Office with the community - including Night Prayer around the fire.
On the introductory social evening Haydn Lee gave us a piano recital and told us some of the history of the piano as he did so. As usual, it was lovely to welcome old friends and new, and to give everyone a chance step out of the busy world of academia to pray and talk about the fundamental purpose of study and teaching.
The theme of friendship proved so rich that we have decided to take it for our main theme next year.
If you are, or have been, a lecturer, and might be interested in joining us, please email Sr Margaret
Sr Ruth reports:
Our course on 'Faith and the Arts' during the first week in August here was wonderful with a delightful group of enthusiastic, young professional people who joined in everything.
We watched the film 'Babette’s Feast' on Sunday night and Sr Margaret gave fascinating input on the story of ‘Babette’s Feast' and the philosopher Kierkegaard the next day. This motivated us all to think about the meaning of this poignant yet inspiring story by Isak Dinesen with its relevance to our lives and experience of faith. Discussions were ensuing long into the day!
The week also included input on the auto-biographical book ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ from Fr Dixie. We had a lecture on ‘Icons’ from Fr Martin Ganeri and ‘Faith in Pre-Raphaelite Art’ from Rosemary Mitchell. Maria Hall spoke on ‘Music in the Catholic Tradition’.
One of the architects of our chapel, Jonathon Pritchard, gave an animated talk as to how the present chapel at Boarbank was re-created to be open to the needs of both visitors and the nursing home in the 1990s. His enthusiasm for the project remains undimmed. He brought to life the spiritual and practical achievements of the construction of our devotional places, including a commentary on our beautiful oratory which was created in 1986 by architects Benson and Forsyth in honour of the 1600th anniversary of the conversion of Augustine.
There is a wonderful BBC programme about the Oratory made in 1991. It lasts about 10 minutes but is well worth taking the time to watch. CLICK HERE for the link.
Our group enjoyed a cheerful pub supper in Cartmel on Wednesday night and a walk near Coniston or up Coniston Old Man on Thursday.
Options for Thursday also included a boat trip with a visit to Brantwood House, home of John Ruskin.
On Friday, we had an inspiring expedition to a Tudor house in Preston where Edmund Arrowsmith, one of the Lancaster martyrs, celebrated his last Mass before capture. Our friend Maria Hall grew up there and lives there still. The house is curious by our standards with low ceilings and a tree supporting the kitchen. For Maria, it has the significance both of its spiritual import and her childhood memories. The small upstairs chapel still resonates with the closeted atmosphere of devotion, fear and sacrifice that surrounded Arrowsmith’s last Mass. Fr Martin celebrated Mass there and spoke about the martyr.
In conclusion, the group and members of the Community enjoyed a buffet supper and social evening that night. It was enlivened by some of the music the informal choir, ably coached by Maria, had been practising during the week.
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