The retreat took place in Cold Ash, run by the Franciscans province in England. It is part of the Franciscan Spirituality Centre. It had been built as the novitiate for the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in the 1930. This explains the rather small rooms! Novices in the 1930s must have been much shorter and have had much fewer possessions!
Above the entrance door it was good to see a L’Arche cross. It took me back as I had lived in L’Arche Lambeth for a number of years.
The building has two purposes; the Franciscan Spirituality Centre and a retirement place for the old Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
I am always moved by the graveyards in these places. I think it is my monastic background. Even though I only lasted three years, the importance of a cemetery for a religious community has stuck with me. At some point the headstone must have been replaced. I cannot imagine that these are original, not can I think that the sisters would have been buried in a radiating pattern. You cannot really see it from the photo, but among the sisters there are three young girls buried. I could not see how they had died but it is so beautiful to have them counted among the community.
We were privileged enough to use the chapel of the retirement home. There were fourteen of us, thirteen priests. It would have been very difficult to have thirteen Masses on one altar. Most of the priests offered the traditional Mass.
The main chapel is a fine Victorian thing, with four altars. The two on either side, the Lady Altar on the Epistle side and the St Francis Altar on the Gospel side , I do not think were originally envisaged as practical altars, but as votive shrines. Of course we managed to say Mass on them. The High Altar remained of course, and what is now the nave altar had at some time been constricted out of the gates of the altar rails.
It is quite fine to see four simultaneous Masses to the honour of God. There are other interesting things in the chapel, but more of that anon.