Monday, November 16, 2009

Contemplative Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, Lanherne, Cornwall, UK

by Father Joseph M Taylor

I imagine many readers of the NLM will already know the name Lanherne. Lanherne Convent in Cornwall, in the far south west of England, is the home of the Contemplative Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in the UK. This branch of the Franciscan Order has four contemplative houses for women religious in the world. Two in Italy (Citta Di Castello and Albenga), one in the Philippines, and Lanherne. Someone with a vocation first enters the apostolic sisters where she does her postulancy, novitiate and takes temporary vows and probably final vows also. It is only after some years – perhaps five, six or seven - that a sister feels her vocation is to the contemplative life. Perhaps the superiors think that this sister is called to the contemplative life. Therefore at this stage a sister might well pass from one way of the religious life to the other vocation. My point being one does not enter the contemplative life direct from “the world”.

After the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum in 2007 the FSI superiors decided that these four contemplative houses would take up the full and exclusive use of the 1962 liturgical books.

I wrote an article several months ago for the Latin Mass Society’s magazine, The Mass of the Ages which gives a brief resumé of what goes on at Lanherne and gives a history of the convent and of the Carmelites who own the house and lived in it for about two hundred years. Yes, indeed, the Carmelites (the few remaining ones are in a Carmel in the north of England) have been very generous towards our Franciscan nuns as on vacating Lanherne, they then welcomed the Franciscans to live there as their “guests”. Eight years have now passed and quite naturally the Franciscans are concerned about the future of the convent building. It would be a wonderful work of Providence if our nuns were more secure at Lanherne.

Several good things have happened at Lanherne Convent since my article appeared in Mass of the Ages in the early part of this year. In fact, the full Office (1962) has been sung since Christmas Eve 2008 and the Little Office of Our Lady has been recited (in full on a daily basis) over the last couple of months. The Little Office is said every day except on Mondays, when the Office of the Dead is recited.

I thought the readers of this journal might well be interested in the liturgical timetable of the nuns. Perhaps you could say some Office at the same time as the community or the rosary or other devotions. Just as the sisters are praying for you, so you can pray for them and for the intentions for which they offer the Office. A real union in prayer.

Rise at midnight - Matins and Lauds at 12.10 am
5.35 am - Lauds of Our Lady (in cell)
6 am - Prime followed by Little Office Prime
Meditation and Terce and Little Office Terce
7.30 am - Conventual Mass (sung daily)
12.20 pm - Sext (+ Little Office Sext)
1.20 pm - None (+ Little Office None)
3 pm - Vespers (Little Office – in cell)
3.15 pm - Vespers
3.45 pm - Rosary and Litany
4.15 pm - Meditation and anticipated Little Office Matins until 5.40 pm
8.25 pm - Compline (followed by Little Office Compline in cell)

Stations of the Cross – Fridays at 8.20 pm
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction – Fridays 8.40 am – 1 pm

The Sunday timetable varies very slightly – the main difference is that the Conventual Mass is at 10 am

It is important to remember that at Lanherne we have a contemplative community. Therefore there is a strict observance of “enclosure”. Today enclosure is much misunderstood. People, including many Catholics, ask such questions as how can such a life be justified in view of the Gospel, which invites Christians to become a light in the world and to proclaim the “good news” to all people? Historically enclosure was freely chosen from the very beginning by the nuns themselves in order that they could be truly free to get on with their daily business of the praise and worship of Almighty God. It was much later that enclosure became an object of canonical legislation.

When writing before I explained that the nuns at Lanherne live entirely on the alms of the faithful. They are truly poor! As the community is the only one we have in England and Wales which offers Holy Mass and the Divine Office according to the 1962 liturgical books it is very important that we should support them by our prayers and our donations. I am aware that Lanherne is a long way from almost everywhere else in the UK and is therefore difficult to visit, but perhaps the readers of the article should be thinking about a visit to Cornwall during 2010.

By the time you read this article another sister will have joined the Lanherne community, this will bring the total to fourteen sisters. At this stage there will be a problem. Fourteen is about the maximum number that Lanherne can accommodate. You will ask what next? Indeed a good question. An additional house will soon be needed and it is here that you may be able to help. Do you know of any convent which is either up for sale or about to be up for sale? The Sisters would need a property to be bought by a benefactor(s) as they themselves own nothing. The ideal building would be one with an existing enclosure and therefore we are thinking of ex-Carmelite, Poor Clare, Benedictine, etc. but other buildings might be suitable also. Let me have any suggestions and thoughts on ways of raising funds!! Please write to me:- Father Joseph M Taylor c/o Lanherne Convent (address below).

Reverend Mother at Lanherne wishes me to thank you all for your gifts during the last year. If you have donated you have no doubt received a little note from Mother. At present we are in need of funds for a number of liturgical items, in particular a Tenebrae Hearse (used at the Sacred Triduum to hold the 15 unbleached candles). This year we had to made do and mend with something very unsuitable! We also are in need of a good, very good ombrellino (an “umbrella” for transferring the Blessed Sacrament from one altar to another and Reliquaries (we have the relics, but not the containers).

Please continue to be generous – the address for benefactions is:- Reverend Mother, Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, Lanherne Convent, St Mawgan, Newquay, Cornwall, TR8 4ER UK. Cheques can be made payable to Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate

Fr. Taylor also sends in some photos from the convent and the life of the nuns there.

The Skull of English Martyr, St. Cuthbert Mayne

All photos by and copyright Wayne Perry

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