Ampleforth Abbey

14 December 2017

On 11 July 2016, the feast of Saint Benedict, patron of Europe, Fr Abbot preached at the Conventual Mass in the Abbey Church at Ampleforth:

As I prepared for Mass this morning I wondered what I was going to be able to say because I have preached on these texts twice a year every year for the last 12 years. I am frequently surprised, however, when something appears out of the page which I haven’t noticed before. Today I have been struck by Peter’s question in the Gospel – and by what appears to be a tiny aspect of that question. Peter said, ‘what about us? We have left everything to follow you’. Forget about what appears to be the main substance of this question and please note that Peter says ‘us’ and ‘we’. If he were to be asking the question as a modern man from the so-called first world he would almost certainly have said, ‘what about me? I have left everything to follow you’. Such a small change but it is so important.

It is important because we are members of a society and a culture where community has largely ceased to exist. If we were to look at the family – the fundamental unit upon which community was based in the past – we have to say that in our society images of what we mean by ‘family’ have changed out of all recognition. If we were to talk to many a junior school teacher we would discover that the supportive family which nurtures young lives is a comparative rarity in many part of this country today: no wonder that our country and Europe as a whole is in such a mess; no wonder that it is so difficult to create and sustain a monastic community.

Yet at the same time this absence of a sense of community represents an opportunity for those of us who are listening to Jesus Christ, who believe ourselves to have been called into his mystical body, who seek to live out our baptism in a radical way which portrays the teaching of the Gospel day by day. If we will truly listen to the words of Christ; if we can acknowledge that we have been called to know and worship the Father in the same way that he knew and worshipped the Father; if we believe that the Holy Spirit is at work among us transforming us into a new creation – then, perhaps, we may become a sign of hope for our society; we may become a place where other searchers for meaning in their lives come in order that they might encounter the living God.

This morning let us listen again to the Gospel; let us renew our reading of the Rule, that guide to living the Gospel way of life; let us pray that we may think ‘we’, not ‘I’.