THE current schedule for my sabbatical is given below. As each segment is completed the colored titles above the brief descriptions below will become active links, and will also appear as links on the navigation bar to the left. During my sabbatical I may be contacted by e-mail at either: firstname.lastname@example.org (St. Andrew's Abbey) or email@example.com (St. John's Seminary). Owing to the exigencies of internet access at both institutions, it would probably be safest to send e-mails to both addresses. If you need my cell phone number, please contact me by e-mail and I will give it to you. And please be patient if I am slow to respond: Internet availability in The Old World is not always guaranteed!
I STAYED at Eton with a priest-friend who was my pastor in 1996-1997, when I served for a year as parochial vicar at Christ the King parish in Reading, England.
DURING my stay at Eton I walked across the footbridge into Windsor several times. The Queen was in residence in the castle (signified by the flag flying on the tower), and the town was preparing for Christmas.
AT Lund University in Sweden I participated in a seminar on meditation and prayer organized by Professor Samuel Rubenson, translator and defender of the authenticity of the Letters of St. Antony The seminar was intended for his research team, who have received Swedish government funding for detailed research on the Apophthegmata Patrum (“Sayings of the Desert Fathers”). I delivered a paper on “The Psalter as Handbook for the Christian Contemplative” and led three Greek text-seminars on selections from Evagrius Ponticus, Athanasius, and Gregory of Nyssa. Participants in the seminar were privileged to share reflections with Professor LorenzoPerrone of Bologna, principal editor of the recently-recovered lost homilies of Origen.
BEFORE continuing to Downside for Christmas I stayed with friends in Orton, a small village in the Lake District. Orton is a typical small English village, with prominent parish church and a large open common in the middle of the village.
THE Benedictine monks of Downside Abbey in Somerset kindly allowed me to spend Christmas, New Year, and Epiphany with them. I had the honor of presiding at mass in the abbey church on the Feast of the Holy Family. While at Downside I was able to finish and submit to the editor a chapter on the genre of “Sentences” (gnomai) in patristic biblical exegesis. It will be published in The Oxford Handbook of Early Biblical Interpretation. I was also privileged to meet six Peruvian members of the Manquehue Apostolic Movement, a Benedictine Association of the Lay Faithful founded in Peru, which runs two large schools. Members practice lectio divina celebrate the divine office, and have a long period of intense Benedictine formation.
ABBOT Cuthbert and the Benedictine monks of St. Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, graciously permitted me to spend time with them, both before and after my visit with the Benedictine nuns of Minster. I was a semi-regular visitor to Farnborough Abbey during my theological studies in the early nineteen-eighties. Subsequent visits to Farnborough have always afforded me a relaxing opportunity to become reacquainted with Gregorian Chant as a living form of liturgical prayer. The Divine Office and Mass are celebrated at Farnborough with simplicity and dignity, using the Antiphonale Monasticum and Graduale Romanum.
FROM January 23 to February1 had the privilege of serving as chaplain to the nuns of St. Mildred's Abbey, also known as Minster-in-Thanet. During my stay I shared patristic texts on psalmody and prayer with the monastic community. Gracious hosts, the nuns have invited me to return to Minster to serve as their chaplain again during Holy Week and Easter Week (March 27-April 14).
DURING my stay at Minster the nuns kindly arranged for me to visit the shrine of St. Augustine of Canterbury in Ramsgate, formerly a Benedictine monastery, originally the home and private chapel of Augustine Pugin.
ABBOT Cuthbert and the Benedictine monks of St. Michael’s Abbey again offered me hospitality while I obtained the assistance of a notary for legal documents. Then, in Eton again, I was privileged to attend dinner hosted by the Provost as part of a meeting of the Wooten society at which Baroness Deech, a lawyer and Member of Parliament, delivered a lecture. Baroness Deech was formerly chair of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Committee, and spoke on the subject of assisted reproduction and biomedical ethics.
DURING my return to Orton I spent almost the whole time formatting portions of Fr. Eberhart’s Catholic History for use in teaching. The community at Farnborough permitted me to spend a few days with them before continuing on to St. Matthias Abbey in Trier, Germany.
SAINT Matthias Abbey in Trier is an ancient Benedictine community that in 1980 joined the Congregation of the Annunciation, the same Benedictine Congregation to which St. Andrew’s Abbey belongs. Since that time there has been active interchange between our two monasteries. The current Abbot President, Ansgar Schmidt, OSB, is a monk of St. Matthias. I spent two and a half weeks with the monks of Trier, joining them for the feasts of Saint Benedict and the Annunciation, the patronal feast of our congregation.
WHILE staying with the monks of St. Matthias, one of the monks' sister kindly took me on an afternoon outing to the medieval city of Saarburg, which features a deep gorge and waterfall running through the middle of the city. I meandered into Trier on two later occasions to visit the ancient Roman ruins and buildings as well as the medieval cathedral.
FROM March 26 to April 14, Holy Week and Easter Week. I had the privilege of returning as chaplain to the nuns of St. Mildred’s Abbey in Minster. The liturgies were very beautiful, combining contemporary texts and music with the best of the Latin Gregorian-chant tradition. From April 10-13 I conducted a workshop on lectio divina for the oblates of Minster.
DURING my stay in Minster I was able to visit Canterbury Cathedral, formerly a Benedictine cathedral-priory and scene of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket. I also visited the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey (yet another Benedictine community suppressed by King Henry VIII) and the Eastbridge Pilgrim’s hostel in Canterbury
FROM April 14 to 23 I returned to Belmont Abbey in Hereford. Belmont is the first monastery of the English Benedictine Congregation Congregation I visited, back in 1980 while I was working with a physician in Putney. Fr. Gregory, Fr. Anselm, and I spent several days there in 1982 at the beginning of our first Term in Oxford; and I had occasion to visit again during my first studies at Oxford. Since that time Belmont has given up their secondary school and built a very beautiful guesthouse and conference center.
FROM April 23 to June 22 I spent Trinity Term at my old college, St. Benet's Hall in Oxford, as a visiting academic. This provided me with access to libraries and lectures and allowed me to write a paper for the Oxford Patristics Conference that will convene in mid-August, marking the end of my sabbatical.
FROM July 7-11 I visited Douai Abbey in Berkshire (I had spent the days from June 22 to July 7 with the monks of Farnborough). The community at Douai was founded in Paris in 1615 following the expulsion of religious orders from England. The community moved to Douai (France) in 1818, and returned to England in 1903. During my stay Abbot Geoffrey very kindly permitted me to make use of their excellent library, which facilitated research on John Cassian and early monastic asceticism.
ON July 11 my sister phoned to let me know that our mother, Christine Dysinger, had died peacefully that afternoon in Vista, California. We had visited Mother (Christi in person and I on Skype) the day before. I was able to change my return ticket to the States and return home on July 12 to be with my sister and our family, and to arrange Mothers funeral. The monks of Farnborough graciously allowed me to spend the night at their abbey; and Br. Michael of Farnborough was kind enough to drive me to Heathrow very early in the morning. I am very grateful to Abbot Cuthbert and the monks of Farnborough for their hospitality throughout my sabbatical.
PLEASE pray for my mother Christine, and for our family.
Fr. Joseph Brennan [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Father Isaac Kalina [email@example.com
This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California in 2002