May 2024 Digest - Mucknell Abbey
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May 2024 Digest

Welcome back to Mucknell Abbey, and to the beauty of May. Spring has very definitely sprung, and we are loving all the evidence of new life around us. This seems appropriate as we’ve moved from Eastertide back to the ‘green and growing’ season that is Ordinary Time. We’ve been kept on our toes liturgically this month, with 5 solemnities (Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi and The Visitation) giving us lots of music to practice, and also a fair few treats along the way too. We said goodbye to our alongsider, Virginia, at the start of the month; we remain grateful for all she has given and taught us during her time here.

The Great Outdoors

The Estate and Kitchen Garden are both looking lovely at the moment, and we remain grateful to the various friends and guests who help the community to keep them that way. In the Kitchen Garden we’ve had a slight setback as birds – we strongly suspect the partridges – have been shredding the leaves of our bean plants. We’re hoping that a few gentle deterrent measures will keep the plants safe going forward. Our tomato plants seem to be growing a foot a day in the greenhouse, and the herb spiral is gradually being populated. It seems to be falling into a balance of perennial plants like thyme, sage, and the oregano and tarragon I managed to successfully overwinter, with the seasonal additions of (currently) chamomile, parsley and basil, and maybe some coriander too.

On the Estate, the trees are pretty much in full leaf, and there are plenty of birds busying about the place. The first swallows returned on April 14th, and a cuckoo was heard by several of us on May 7th. Br Adrian and others have been busy on the tractor mowing the various paths around the Estate, including some new additions on the slope on the north side of the Monastery, to encourage exploration. I took a walk down to the hedge that was laid earlier this year; it’s looking beautiful, and is confirmation that, brutal though the laying process may look, it does encourage growth!

Last month, I wrote about the geese that were nesting by the Hermitage. We can proudly report that they hatched out 5 goslings, who were seen walking across the estate with their watchful parents on 16th May. We haven’t seen the goslings since then however, and suspect that “nature red in tooth and claw” may have run its course.

CoSA reflections

As we mentioned last month, we were very blessed to have Erin and Shena staying with us for 4 and 3 weeks respectively during April and May. They are part of this year’s cohort of the Community of St. Anselm, based at Lambeth Palace. It’s been great to hear more about their church experience in two very different contexts: Erin is from Canada, and Shena from Pakistan. Following their visit, they each wrote a short reflection on their time here at Mucknell:

From Erin: When I first visited Mucknell Abbey in January, I had a sense that it might be the right place for me to come back to in the spring for my month-long retreat. The peace, rest, and fellowship I enjoyed were all good reasons to return, but ultimately, it felt like the Lord’s invitation to spend the month at Mucknell, and I’m so glad I did. I appreciated being included and invited into the life, prayer, and work of the community, as well as the ample space and time I was given for solitude and personal study. I enjoyed the balance of helping in the incense workshop and garden as well as getting to read and reflect quite a bit. While the community’s rhythms are not exactly the same as those of CoSA and Lambeth Palace, there are still many things that felt like home: the way we settle into the psalms during the offices, the ‘well-oiled machine’ of everyone clearing up after meals, and the simple enjoyment of tea and conversation. I think it all comes down to genuine care for each other, and it was a privilege to be welcomed into this during my time at Mucknell. I will remember my stay with much fondness!

From Shena: God’s love for us is immense. It is God only, who loves mankind and understands their needs the most. I must confess this was God’s love and concern for me that took me to Mucknull Abbey in January 2024. It was my first visit, I had no idea about this place and the rhythm of monastic life before. When I went there, I was not in good health: both mentally and physically. I had a one week retreat there. I just fell in love with this place. It brought a positive change in my life. I really enjoyed their offices and silence. It was the unconditional love of all the brothers and sisters as well as the calmness of this place which convinced me to visit them again. Then I decided to have a three weeks retreat at Mucknull Abbey in May, 2024. They all were the reason behind this decision. I got to know about a living sacrifice with the full compassionate heart which they are doing while living a monastic life. I was really impressed by their simple and real talk. They have unconditional love for each other and for us as well. I felt the same pain when I was leaving this place, which I felt when I was leaving my family and country. On my last day I just said a few words to them with tears in my eyes that I will miss you all :(. If anyone wants to spend quiet time with God and want to experience a simple and realistic monastic life, it is the must visit place for you. 

Painting Week

We spent some time earlier this month busily decorating various parts of the Monastery. On the list this year were Room 6 in the Guest Wing, Br. Adrian’s cell, the kitchen store and also treating various pieces of outdoor furniture. These latter are now back in situ around the courtyard and estate. Since photographing paint dry is even less interesting than watching it dry, we weren’t exactly busy with our cameras. We did however take an occasional break for coffee and snacks, and one favourite was a peanut crunch recipe I found in one of our folders. Here’s the recipe; it’s very easy, delicious and moreish! It should be about right for a 12″ x 9″ tin.

Ingredients

3 ozs light brown sugar

9 ozs golden syrup

1 tsp vanilla essence/extract

6 ozs smooth peanut butter [we use Meridian]

4 1/2 ozs rice krispies

11 ozs salted peanuts, chopped if you prefer smaller pieces or left whole if not.

Method

“Mix” rice krispies and peanuts in a large bowl

Melt sugar and syrup in a pan, and bring to the boil

Remove from heat and add vanilla and peanut butter

Add this to the rice krispies and peanuts

Turn into a greased or lined tin, and flatten down well.

Leave in a cool place to set, then cut into squares.

Recent Sermons

I have been a bit remiss in uploading our Sunday sermons onto the website recently; I managed to get a whole batch online earlier this week, so here are the links:

14th April, 3rd Sunday of Easter: “…because what [Mary Magdelene] and all the apostles are called to next is to step out into the unknown, into a new form of discipleship in relationship with a new form of Jesus.” Abbot Thomas

21st April, 4th Sunday of Easter: “In today’s Gospel reading, though the resurrection is still to come, Jesus too is finding the right words to prepare the disciples for the unprecedented, preposterous possibility that he will both die and live: that instead of life and death being an either/or state of affairs, it can be both.” Virginia

5th May, 6th Sunday of Easter: “God cannot love the world without the love they and we take into the world, and it is through loving one another, loving the world, that they and we will know and live in God’s love.” Sr. Jessica

12th May, 7th Sunday of Easter: “We are utterly dependent on God and on the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, and that is every bit as true for the body corporate as it is for us as individuals.” Sr. Jessica

26th May, Trinity Sunday: “The “love for one another” that Jesus urged on his Church, is supposed to escape that Church too and to flow out into the world to disturb, disrupt, intrude into all human lives.  This is what eternal life means.” Sr. Alison

Preachers are free to choose whether or not their sermons are added to the website, which explains any gaps – we didn’t just have a really long lie in on those days “without” a sermon!

Rocky’s Roamings

Our cat, Rocky, has once again been out living his best life, which means that we haven’t seen a whole lot of him! He was spotted by Br. Jonny near the cattle grid gate one day, which at least confirms that he is making full use of our Estate. He does come in every night for some food and a comfy place to sleep – well, we put food down for him every evening and it’s gone by the morning. He was a stray before coming to live with us, so is perhaps used to roaming rather than curling up on warm laps. We have noticed a reduction in the rodent population since his arrival, so he is definitely earning his keep!

Rocky’s Roamings, pt 2.

Having written the above on Wednesday 29th May, I heard a meow I recognised coming from an overgrown area near our side door on the morning of Friday 31st. It took a few minutes to tempt Rocky out of the undergrowth – I was a little worried that, with all the fuss he was making, he might be injured, but it seems like he was just looking for some attention! After lots of fuss and a few treats, he took me for a walk down the drive to the cattle grid. It was definitely him in charge – I kept trying to get in front of him to get a photo, but he wasn’t having any of it: he was leading! He then picked his way across the cattle grid and settled down just the other side of it, as if to say, “this is my land”. I managed to get a few photos and even a short video clip of him:

And finally…

Life has seemed full of contrasts recently: the arrival of spring and summer, a definite change from the very wet winter. The move from Eastertide to Ordinary Time. A week with 3 solemnities followed by one without a single saint’s day. None of these is right or wrong, good or bad – though we may of course have our preferences! They each have their own integrity and necessity, and each has different things to tell us about God, and about ourselves in relationship with God. Whatever the coming weeks hold, may we know the presence of God alongside us and in each person and situation we meet.