Mentioning Dom Gregory Dix (1901-1952) brought me to do some "googling" for Nashdom Abbey (Buckinghamshire, England), an Anglican Benedictine community of monks, which in the 1960's became liberal and dwindled to the point of closing. The building is now divided into apartments, but the crucifixes and monks' cemetery have been respected. Here is an interesting article on this "Anglo-Papalist Titanic".
Tightly disciplined monasticism was somehow suffused with the culture of a slightly racy country club, with occasional music around the piano from the London shows in the evenings. This was Barbara Pym’s world of cassocks on the lawn, priests who called people “my dear” with dry sherry in urbane huddles. Women’s ordination was as unthinkable as moon landings. Their defining Chicken Little Big Issue was the Church of South India.
A further cynical comment, seemingly resigned to the permanence of secularism and "progress", characterises this ghost from the past.
It’s hard to believe it now, but perfectly intelligent members of the English Upper Crust obsessed about Rome and measured their swelling triumph by the number of bishops they could get to wear copes and mitres! Somehow serious intellectual and pastoral work coexisted with the Wodehouse stuff. The community took as its special intention what was quaintly called “Corporate Reunion” — a top table institutional merger with Rome that would reunite the upper echelons of Christendom and, incidentally, dish the Nonconformists along the way. It all seems like a glint in the eye of John Betjeman’s teddy bear now. Like its secular counterpart over the road at Cliveden, the bottom fell out of this world in the 1960’s. Rising bills, the white heat of technology and Vatican II undermined the whole fantasy upon which it was predicated. All things must pass, and all that is left now are ghosts on the lawn.
It is sad to see a sincere attempt at monastic life trashed in such a trite fashion, as wrote Peter Anson in Building up the Waste Places. How interesting that this community was so interested in corporate reunion and this was the keynote of their contemplative life.
I don't know what lessons can be learned from such an experience. Monasticism is far from dead – far from it. The French Congregation of Solesmes is prospering and has a foundation at Clear Creek, Oklahoma in the States. Many of these monasteries have adopted the old liturgy. There are also religious houses of other Orders rediscovering the old liturgical traditions. The dispositions of John Paul II in Ecclesia Dei adflicta and Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum have done more than anything else to reboot traditional monastic life. Those communities are booming!
Perhaps it is the English thirst for moderation and baulking at asceticism. Our perpetual oscillating between white-hot fervour and fanaticism, on one hand, and via media lukewarmness, on the other, will always be a stumbling stone.
I do believe that attempts have been made to build up the monastic life in Continuing Anglicanism. I heard of some Oratorians of the Good Shepherd and some Augustinians in Canada. There is a significant convent of nuns in the TAC. I have even heard of married Dominicans – which seems right beyond the pale. I hardly see how a married man can be in monastic vows, though he can be a secular oblate.
Has anyone any comments of the present state of religious / monastic life in the TAC? And in Anglicanism in general?
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