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Diaconal Ordination

12 Jun 2024

Homily for the Diaconal Ordinations of Philip Thornley, Br Philip OFM and Br Louis OSB
Basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, 12 June 2024

Three’s always a good number. It means, pace political correctness, there’s a good story coming: here’s an Irishman, an Ashanti and a Cumbrian; a Benedictine, a Franciscan and a Teacher…

Well, there is a good story coming. It has been cooking for some years now, and today it’s delivered, served at table. Today gives joy to the deacons of heaven, that is the angels. To St Stephen, St Laurence, St Ephrem, St Francis and so many other holy deacons of history. To the family and friends of our ordinands, to the formation team and students of the Beda and in Br Louis’ and Br Philip’s cases their religious brethren also. Why not think too of the people our trio have not even met yet and to whom they will bring joy in the future?

Let me offer three thoughts in honour of our three heroes.

1) Today, Philip, Br Louis, Br Philip, you are being taken into service. It’s the “divine passive” as the scholars say. Taken into the service of Another, of a Greater. “You are not your own” anymore, as St Paul would say (1 Cor 6:19). Through the ageing hands of a bishop, Christ himself is laying his ever-youthful resurrected hands on you. You are entering a new energy field, that of the Sacrament of Orders, in the first of its three manifestations: diaconate, priesthood, episcopate. From today, you will be susceptible to fresh supernatural influences. From today, the Lord will have another handle on you. He will be able to fulfil still more of his Father’s purposes through you. He can ‘fly’ you now, so to speak, to other destinations and allot you other missions. I still remember my first baptism as a deacon: a mixture of embarrassment and validity. You have voiced your willingness; you will bow your heads for this blessing. You have already said ‘I do’. Under the gentl pressure of the Holy Spirit, you have added your consent to that of Mary – she will keep it safe for you; to that of John the Baptist when he consented to baptise the Lord; to St Paul’s and St Peter’s. You have said in your hearts, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”. And today the belt is put round you – the belt of God’s people – and you will be taken to where you may not always want to go, to the place where nonetheless you will die – and rise – and give glory to God. It’s a beautiful moment. It’s part of the calendar of your life, now and forever. “Fly forgetfulness”, says St Benedict; it’s when a minister of the Gospel forgets these things that he sins. “Always remember”, St Benedict says too. And when we do, we do God’s work.

2) “Do not imagine”, the Lord says to you, “that I have come to abolish. I have come not to abolish, but to fulfil.” This is true not only of the Law and the Prophets, the economy of the Old Testament. It’s true of the economy of our own created human nature, of us. By ordaining you, the Lord is not abolishing your personality or family background and bonds, or education and life experiences, whatever professional work you’ve had – nor your seminary formation, by the way! And if you are a religious, he doesn’t abolish that either. Br Louis will know from the Rule of St Benedict how he insists on that. Don’t let ordination cancel your profession – fly forgetfulness, always remember – but allow it to fulfil it. “Keep and teach”, says the Gospel. Keep the Rule, keep obedience, keep the brotherhood, and teach. Serve your brethren from the table of the Word.

          No, the Lord is not annulling his previous gifts today, but he is fulfilling them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church glosses that loaded word “fulfil” by saying “refine, surpass and bring to perfection” (CCC 9167). He is taking your whole self closer to your true fulfilment. “Let [the ordained] make more and more progress into God” St Benedict says. There are moments in ministry when one feels very empty and inadequate, but it’s emptiness God likes to fill, fill full to overflowing. Brothers, through your ordination, may every jot and tittle in you be refined, surpassed and perfected, be regrouped, relocated, recalibrated in the humble, serving, brotherly love this Sacrament enables. Daily, continually, even – sometimes! – cheerfully.     

3) A last thing: Elijah, the Tishbite. Let’s not underestimate the presence of the saints, of Old and New Testament, of Israel and the Church. We will invoke them in a moment. At every fresh step in our lives, we’re given fresh companions, intercessors, inspirations. This isn’t frilly piety; it’s fact. When we’re dying, we’ll realise it! It’s not by chance you’ve received your formation in the College of St Bede. It’s not an accident that you’re being ordained in the basilica of St Paul. And it’s surely a providence that you’re launched on the sea of ministry under the sign of Elijah – this Wednesday of Week 10 of Ordinary Time, Year II. Surely you can take this fiery old Tishbite as a friend today.

          Rather a scary personality, certainly. Did he ever have an ordinary day, one wonders? Not on Mount Carmel. And the Lectionary’s too nice to remind us that it ended with him singlehandedly slaying 400 priests of Baal. Does he have anything to do with deacons? Through John the Baptist whom he prefigures, perhaps he does. In the drama on Mount Carmel too.

          “I am your servant”, he says. “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, Lord, are God, and are winning back their hearts.” Ordination is a power to intercede. It’s a power to call down fire. Every time you proclaim the Gospel, you are calling down fire. Every time you baptise, you are baptising with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Every time you say to someone, The Body of Christ, it’s a burning coal you are putting on their palm or their tongue, and there is fire in the chalice you pass them. “Answer me, O Lord, answer me.” Every time you show the charity of the Church, it is the fire of Christ’s love you are lighting. “Fly forgetfulness; always remember.”

          But think of this whole dramatic scene. “Elijah drew near to the people” – how the Holy Father must love that – vicinanza! A hobbling people, a limping people, dancing over abysses; compromised, divided, ambivalent; trying to have it both ways, “both / and” in the wrong sense, remembering and forgetting. Isn’t this all of us? Isn’t it ever thus. And through his ministry – lit by what faith! – he travels with them, leads them. He brings them to integrity and clarity. The fire falls and the people fall on their faces. “The Lord is God”, they cried, “The Lord is God!” Such an impression has this act of faith made on Israel that it climaxes the liturgy of Yom Kippur. And how can a Christian hear it without thinking of St Thomas: “My Lord and my God!”? How can we not pass on in our thoughts to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist?

“Fly forgetfulness! Always remember!” Call down fire and foster faith!

Philip, Br Louis, Br Philip, holy trinity that you are – look up, look at the all-ruling Christ above us – blessing us and you particularly today, three fingers joined. You’re his deacons. Amen.

                                                                                      Bishop Hugh OSB

           

Visit to Chilworth

21 Apr 2024

Our Father Antony after Sunday Mass (21 April) at St Augustine's Abbey, Chilworth. Paulinus Greenwood, the Abbot of St Augustine's, is with him

Coconut Tree Planting

11 Apr 2024

Brothers Basilio Martin, and Benedict with 2 bys planting coconut - 25 palnted today!

Honey Harvesting

13 Feb 2024

Click here Harvesting honey night of 12th February in our cashew farm

Sisters of the Word Incarnate, Sunyani

9 Feb 2024

Father Prior at the end of the course (9 February) to the novices of the Sisters of the Word Incarnate, Sunyani

Cinnamon

16 Jan 2024

L-R Brothers Benedict, Michael and Basilio gathering fallen, dried cinnamon leaves which will be ground into a powder

Fr. Prior at Black Volta

28 Dec 2023

Father Prior and Brother Michael looking at the Black Volta from Ghana. The other side is Burkina Faso. Middle left is canoe for the 5 minute crossing of the river and border illegally. We didn’t cross!

Community Retreat

16 Dec 2023

L-R Br Michael, Br Patrick, Fr Prior, Br Gabriel, Br Martin, Br Michael, Br Cyprian, Fr Antony
Fr. Cyprian Kuupol SVD, provincial of the Divine Word Missionaries in Ghana and Liberia, preached our annual community retreat 10-16 December 2023. His themes were poverty, solidarity, transperancy, accountability in our wounded world in the context of the Rule of St Benedict and as Benedictines

Kristo Buase on Mission for Marriage

6 Nov 2023

We, Annette and Paul, have been married 43 years.  It all began in November 1976 over cold macaroni cheese at Pluscarden Abbey!

Annette was the CathSoc Secretary at Aberdeen University and had arranged the weekend retreat at Pluscarden.  Fifteen students travelled by minibus, arrived late and as promised by the guestmaster, food was available in the ladies accommodation.  So was breakfast to be there too.  But in the morning, we could not find any breakfast.  After quite a search and some deduction, Annette and Paul found the macaroni cheese in the oven – we’d eaten the breakfast in the evening so it was now cold and a bit dried up!  As Annette and Paul are both one of six children, we did not have any problem in eating what the Lord had provided.  Others were not that impressed!  We not only enjoyed the cold macaroni, but we recognised a spirit in each of us of accepting what the Lord provides.

It was more than a year later that we started going out together and we engaged to marry in April 1979.

On moving to the south coast of England after our wedding in August 1980 we were introduced to Equipes Notre-Dame by the parish priest; a second ‘Team’ was just about to start.  We were aware that we did not have any marriage preparation: when we enquired Fr McD said that we were “OK”! – Perhaps that lack of preparation urged us to continue our own formation to better understand our faith and to develop our married spirituality.  While we met at Pluscarden, we have had continuous links with Benedictine Monasteries, Paul when a student in London had visited the Worth Abbey and stayed with the lay community.  

One of the “endeavours” in the rule of Equipe Notre-Dame is to take an annual retreat with one’s spouse.  Our Team has retreated at Prinknash and then Douai for over 20 years.  We have found the Teams way has helped us for all our married life; that is not only the endeavours but through the sharing and support of our Team and our priest accompanist.

Teams is strictly a lay-led movement; it is couples who organise, of course with prayer and the support of our spiritual accompanist.  In 2021 we were commissioned in responsibility for the English-speaking countries with Teams around the Atlantic.  So, this includes Ghana.  Teams in Ghana had been started under the initiative from Prinknash Monastery, where Robert and Mary Jones are oblates and Fr Martin has been a Spiritual Accompanist to the Team there for many years.  During our Term of five years’ service we will visit each country at least once.

Since the start of Teams in Ghana, Brother Gabriel has been the main link to the monastery, supporting a team and the movement generally.  The community at Kristo Buase welcomed us, by assisting with transport and wonderful hospitality – such that we did not have to worry about those arrangements and we could focus on visiting Teams in Ghana.

We were delighted to find Teams in such a strong position.  We know that the Covid lockdown and difficulties have been a huge stress for parishes and groups in parishes.  Staying at the monastery meant that we could check about our observations, about culture, religiosity, about organisation of the diocese, of parishes and what ‘norms’ are expected of us as people from England.  It was particularly helpful to have discussions about marriage arrangements in the area. 

While we have been here, it is likely that a further three Teams of five or six couples will begin.  We have been able to leave resources in a corner in the monastery, for future needs of Teams here.  Yes, Teams is strictly, a lay-led movement, but we all need the power of the Holy Spirit and the support of friends; Kristo Buase has given that support to enable the mission to marriage.  The mission is to enable couples to move “closer to God, closer to each other”.

It was a blessing to be able to participate in prayer and Mass during our stay.  We used one line of a reading at compline as part of our talk the next day.  “blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”.  When talking about marriage we personally use three words Wholeness, Holiness, Happiness.  Obviously linked and what the Lord wants for us, for couples is Happiness. We think it is being ‘whole’ being true, being pure in heart that enables the Wholeness, that leads to Holiness and Happiness. As a couple we try to enable that for each other.

It was a hectic six day programme. Our last day All Saints, allowed an afternoon off, how wonderful it was to celebrate the feast with the community.

Thank you Kristo Buase community.

For more about Equipes Notre-Dame – Teams see www.TeamsGB.org.uk or www.Equipes-Notre-Dame.com

Plantain

1 Aug 2023

Brother Michael carrying plantain tubers for our farm
Father Antony

Honey & Avocados

19 Jun 2023

Anyone for Honey?
Father Prior and the young avocado tree in the cloister

Cutting the Lawn

19 Jun 2023

Brother Michael inspecting the lawn after mowing
Brother Benedict clearing the grounds with Brother Michael in the distance

Cutting the Lawn

24 May 2023

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Brother Michael inspecting the lawn after mowing

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Visit to Miracoli

12 Apr 2023

12 April our Brother Louis on a visit to Miracoli. L-R Father Paolo Gionta, Prior Paolo Lemme

Cashew Nuts

29 Mar 2023

Rabboni Cashew Nuts. Brother Benedict, Father Prior, Brothers Michael and Martin being shown how the small cashew is removed from shell

← Earlier posts

An American friend of ours, Herbert Schultz, provided funds for us to obtain for our monastic library seven works of St John Chrysostom, and two works of St Cyril of Alexandria.

In our area, this is the season of the Yam festivals. Our guest from Prinknash Abbey, Mary Jones, attended the Tuobodom Yam festival on 24th October. These two low resolution photos she took on her phone.         

There have been a few changes in officials at the monastery:

  • Brother Basilio is now Novice Master,
  • Brother Antony is Oblate Master.

Please pray for these brothers who showed a great spirit of obedience in accepting these tasks.

A number of priests have been here on retreat in the past two weeks. First there were two Divine Word Missionaries, working in Accra, then Father Daniel of the Goaso diocese, and finally Father Gabriel of the Archdiocese of Accra.

At present, we have a monastic guest from the Abbey of Koubri in Burkina Faso - Brother Anthelm. He is a very cheerful presence in the community, ever willing to help. He has no English and our oblate, Monica Cowell, is giving him classes in English twice daily.

2nd November, All Souls, is a day in where traditionally the whole monastic community gathers in the cemetery for prayers for deceased community members. At Kristo Buase, we gather in the cemetery for Midday Prayers, sometimes called Sext. We also bless the graves. Our cemetery is in a quiet grove and at its entrance there is a beautiful cross.

                                        

We continue to pray for you all, and ask that you do the same for us, especially in the lead up to the Presidential Election here in Ghana in December.

THE ELEVATION OF KRISTO BUASE MONASTERY TO THE STATUS OF A PRIORY SUI JURIS AND THE ELECTION OF A PRIOR (September 2016)

THE GOOD NEWS

On the eve of the 27th anniversary of the Kristo Buase monastery the news came that the Abbot President was about to sign the document which was going to confirm and declare the long awaited autonomy of the community, from the three founding houses in England and Scotland, becoming a Priory sui juris on 6th August, 2016. On the 15th August, the community went through the process of electing their first prior (this was conducted under the supervision of the Abbot Francis of Prinknash abbey). The chapter fathers had elected the first prior of the priory and he was in the person of Dom Bede Kierney of Pluscaden Abbey. There has to be a ceremony to install him. This was the responsibility of the Abbot Francis but due to travelling arrangements, he delegated his powers to the the Bishop of the diocese of Techiman, the resident diocese of the monastery. This ceremony was to be followed by a thanksgiving mass, which the whole community in accord with the prior elect had decided to celebrate in a grand style and this required the organization of the event in less than two weeks. All was set for the ceremony of the installation on 9th September; the Bishop Dominic of Techiman had been very prompt as usual hitherto he had promised 4:00pm therefore arriving in his full regalia at ten to four. The ritual began by the reading of the declaration to the hearing of the conventual house and was followed shortly with the oath of the prior elect. Afterwards the Bishop led Dom Bede to the chapel stool at the head of the other chapel stools purposely for the new prior of the new priory and installed him on the stool. The new prior then gave his speech; calling to mind that he was actually elected to serve and not to be served. The ceremony was ended with photographs in the cloister, while the Bishop thanked Dom Ambrose Flavell who had been very instrumental on the quest of the attainment of autonomy for the house.

THANKSGIVING MASS, 10th SEPTEMBER

This event was witnessed by people of all walks of life, from the dioceses of Techiman, Sunyani, Donkorkrom, Kumasi, Ouagadougou and beyond. The event was graced by the presence of the Bishop Dominic Yeboah Nyarko of the Techiman diocese who was the main celebrant and the Bishops, Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi and Gabriel Kumordzie, from the diocese and Apostolic Vicariate of Sunyani and Donkorkrom respectively and the V. Rev. Fr. Dominic Apee, president of the Ghana major superiors Association were all in attendance to con-celebrate. Also in attendance were the priests, monks and religious from Techiman, Sunyani , Kubiri and beyond, medical personnel, Government officials, the Armed and Police forces, Chiefs and Queen mothers, etc. After the start of the mass with the long procession, the V. Rev. Fr. John Kofi Takyi (vicar-general of the Techiman diocese) gave the welcome address, beginning with a monastic quote “the challenge the society poses to the monastic life is not due to it’s alienation from social fixtures but it’s concern for the salvation of the society”, he continued to state that “the spiritual and material growth of a society is always due to the existence of the church represented by a monastery or a priory”. He appreciated therefore the effort of all who had helped the monastery to this far, urging more people to seek solitude within the confines of the of the monastery, for the renewal of the their spiritual lives.

HOMILY

Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gymfi during his homily appreciated the weather (over cast), thanking God for how far he had brought the community, describing how the environment was at the time the monastery was inaugurated and noted that “the monastery was of an impregnable spiritual repute”. He actually went into a detailed explanation of an autonomous monastery and what the new status was to expect in the near future, exhibiting the depths of knowledge he had as regards to the monastic setting. The Bishop congratulated the monastery and commended all those both dead and alive whose effort and instrumentality had contributed to the immensely to this new achievement and in silence remaindered us of Dom Martin Simons, Dom Leo, Dom Bartholomew Banzie and Bishop Kwadwo Owusu, the formers who were superiors and members of the community and the latter the late Bishop of Sunyani. He then went on to acknowledge the Nana Amisare Dwomor 2 chief of Tanoboase for his generosity and that of his predecessor, for the vast land of which the monastery is proud of. He could not finish without the acknowledgment of the gigantic support of the three founding houses; Prinknash, Pluscarden and Ramsgate now Chilworth all in U.K., for their hard work and toil to nurture for this young child of theirs to its independence. The main focus of his homily was on: independent, inter-dependent and dependent. He explained each of these and the interconnectivity they all had with each other, therefore relating it to the new autonomous priory of Kristo Buase. He stated that the independence of the community was not to be taking as the independence of the individuals in the community but the brethren were now to live most especially in inter-dependency thus each one depending on the other in the community and not each going on their diverse ways, the brethren were he said were to remain in unity in order to be strong and be bound to the love of God, as Christ himself tells us “remain in My love”. “Each member of the community”, he said, “was not to listen to the rhythm of his own drum alone but to the rhythm of the others, for he who listens to the rhythm of his own does not avail himself to new ideas, the diversities and the acknowledgment of others, which will go a long way to avoid mediocrity, vain glory and the wallowing in our ignorance due to self centeredness”. His Lordship in his conclusion made reference to the edifices of the monastic communities he had visited so far, especially those of the three founding houses of Kristo Buase and how these buildings themselves emitted and demonstrated dialogue in a special way. He made mention of the monks’ unlike the other religious congregations, resistance of the trends of the times as unhealthy and their preference for the opposing side. He ended with congratulatory messages to the first Prior of the new Priory, V. Rev. Dom Bede Kierney OSB. and the whole community and with one voice with Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians1:1-3: Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has bestowed in us every spiritual blessing in Christ.

THE PEAK

The Bishops during offertory informed Prior Bede that he needed to be installed in the presence of all gathered and most especially in the presence of the Chiefs and the elders so that they could come forward to greet him, since this was something very peculiar in the Ghanaian setting that a chief does not stand to greet someone unless the person is elevated before him. Before the second collection the three Bishops installed Prior Bede of a Chiefs stool, sitting him down three time in the name of the Holy Trinity, then all came to greet him including the chiefs with his Queen mother and elders while the wonderful Dagaaba choir sang.

CONCLUSION

Rev. Dom Ambrose Flavell gave the vote of thanks, after the mass came to a close and yes he gave an extraordinary exhortation and a wonderful advice to the Prior, since he had experienced Kristo Buase as the Superior for many years. The party afterward, as now we call the reception of every great ceremony, was on point since there were provisions made for the refreshment and nourishment of all who attended the event. All left in great satisfaction, for they had been blessed by this wonderful celebration and the grace of God was now abiding in them. In the evening after the community said good bye to the oblates who came from Accra, as they were the last to leave, sat at recreation to savour the lasting sweetness of the wonderful event God had made possible through the wonderful organization skills of Dom. Gabriel Peh with the support and the cooperation of the community. The Lord has indeed been good to the community of Kristo Buase and as the psalm of the day stated: “I will bless your name forever, O Lord”, we are indeed thankful.