Wednesday, March 04, 2009

More Encouraging News from the Franciscans of the Immaculate: Their House in Lanherne, England

In the comments to my post on the declaration on part of the Franciscans of the Immaculate of their predilection for the usus antiquior, a reader alerted me to this most welcome article in the February 2009 edition of the English Latin Mass Society's quarterly magazine, which is about a house of the branch of contemplative sisters of the Franciscans of the Immaculate in Lanherne, Cornwall, England. Here it is:

A Second Western Rising

This article has been written on behalf of the Sisters by a friend and supporter.

At Lanherne in mid-Cornwall a part of Pope Benedict’s quiet revolution is occurring. A youthful order is embracing the 1962 liturgical books in their entirety. Even in far-flung Cornwall new shoots are growing fast!

“In a beautiful valley about midway between the small town of St Columb Major and the sea, lies the Teresian Carmelite Convent of Lanherne...”: so begins the little booklet giving the history of this important site in Cornwall, important among other things for its Catholic history, especially its post-Reformation struggles. This former manor house belonging to the Arundell family became home for about 200 years to the Carmelites, (in fact the oldest carmel in England). This carmel had been founded in Flanders at the time of the Reformation. About seven years ago the Carmelite nuns decided to leave Lanherne and move to the Carmel at St Helens to continue their life there. However, they were determined to find a contemplative community who would make sure that Lanherne continued as a place of spirituality and prayer. Divine Providence, as always, provided an answer. The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate took up residence.

The two orders - The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate - have interesting histories. The friars were founded in 1970 and the sisters some years later. Both are now of Pontifical Right and belong to the First Order of Franciscans (it is most unusual for Franciscan nuns to belong to the First Order). For more information about both friars and sisters, it is a good idea to read the brief history of the foundation entitled, Franciscan Legend of the Immaculate, which is obtainable from Lanherne.

The sisters have two branches. The Apostolic Sisters are involved with many and various apostolates in an ever increasing number of countries and the contemplative branch have four houses: two in Italy, one in the Philippines and the fourth at Lanherne. More foundations will follow.

Whereas the Carmelites were an elderly community, the exact reverse is the case at Lanherne. There are twelve sisters at present, most of them in their thirties and forties. The rule is strict - very strict - by English standards: why do the British find discipline so hard to cope with?

Now, of particular interest to Mass of Ages readers, the nuns at Lanherne have been using the 1962 Mass Rite on a daily basis since June 2008. Their chaplain - one of their own Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate - and a US citizen had no prior experience of celebrating the rite but is doing very well with the 1962 Missal. The Conventual Mass is sung daily - the Masses are open to the faithful. The chapel, the most modern part of the building (nineteenth century), is built in the style of Louis XIV, with rich ornamentation, and contains a beautiful altar of Bath stone in the Gothic style: there are three exquisite medallions in the front of the altar representing the Agony in the Garden, the Crucifixion, and the Last Supper; in the niches are finely sculptured figures representing Our Lady, St John the Baptist, St Anne, St Teresa, St Joseph, and the Angel Gabriel. Pillars of marble and alabaster support the base, and the tabernacle, also of alabaster, is surmounted by four beautifully carved angels in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The chaplain and the nuns have had to learn everything right from the beginning - rites, rubrics, the lot, and this has required many hundreds of hours of learning. They are awaiting the publication and delivery of new Traditional breviaries. I hope that before Easter the full Office (1962) will be in use. This will comprise of Matins (at midnight), and during the day Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. The Office will be recited according to the Roman Seraphic Breviary (i.e. Franciscan Rite 1962). This too will mean a huge amount of teaching and learning. Remember, also, the whole office is sung on a daily basis. At present all four contemplative houses are using the 1962 Missal and the two Italian houses are also using the full 1962 Office.

“The first of the seminary priests of Douai to suffer martyrdom in England, St Cuthbert Mayne, is intimately connected with Lanherne”, says the booklet. One of the Arundells riding to Lanherne brought back the crown of the head of the martyr, and 430 years later, this wonderful relic is exposed after Mass every Sunday for the faithful to venerate. What gifts God gives us!

What is happening at Lanherne is perhaps the most important of the restoration work being undertaken in the UK to fully re-establish the 1962 rites. This is the first religious order fully to use the 1962 liturgical books in England and Wales since about 1964. Readers of Mass of Ages will I’m sure want to be involved and kept informed of developments.

How can we help?

1. First and foremost - prayers for the nuns and for all the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate. 2. These Franciscans own nothing at all. They depend entirely upon benefactors for their daily living - including all food. 3. Returning to the 1962 rites is costing a good deal of money, particularly in buying expensive liturgical books.

I’m sure that readers and LMS members will want to support this wonderful work which is flowering in deepest Cornwall. Please send your donations to the Reverend Mother, Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, Lanherne, Newquay, Cornwall TR8 4ER. Cheques should be made payable to the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate. Mother asks me to inform you that all benefactors are prayed for daily and will be sent a copy of the brief history of Lanherne. Please be generous.

The Contemplative Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate issue a monthly magazine entitled De Vita Contemplativa. Although aimed at monasteries and religious generally, it is well worth reading by the laity. Subjects include an editorial, the Magisterium, the Fathers of the Church, Liturgy, the Saints etc. If you would like to receive a copy, then please write to the Reverend Mother at Lanherne (address above).

Mass at Lanherne is offered daily at 8.00 am on all weekdays and at 10.00 am on Sundays and Holy Days.

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