An update on SBVM's journey
In 2009, the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus was given in Rome. This document was to have far reaching consequences for us, in particular. At the time the Letter was given, who would have thought that on 1 January 2013, a group of us nuns would walk in through the open door of the Oxford Oratory Church as Anglicans, and emerge as Catholics? So it was that the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary embarked upon new lives as Catholics. At our Reception, we were instituted as a Public Association of the Faithful, with each Sister under private vows. The following day we said a final goodbye to our previous community, for what became an eight month stay at St Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde, Isle of Wight. During this time we received essential Benedictine formation and discovered how much of our identity had actually been Benedictine all along. Through an extraordinary course of events, a Convent in Kingstanding, Birmingham, became available and we moved here in August 2013. On 1 January 2014 we were erected as an Institute of Consecrated Life within the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, with each Sister reaffirming her life vows using the Benedictine formula. We have since had our first anniversary, and renewed our 'Suscipe' at the Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
So, how do we live now as Catholics and Benedictines?
As Catholics, we have received much grace and encouragement in the understanding of Consecrated Life at the living heart of the Church. Here too, we find the specific doctrine of the Blessed Virgin as the model of Consecrated Life to be deeply at one with our own aspirations (See Vita Consecrata, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope St John Paul II, para 28.). We are continuing to deepen our understanding of Catholic life and teaching, through our reading, through the priests who come to us, and through daily contact with the local parish who attend our Mass.
The Mass was always the heartbeat of our life. It has now found its fullest expression in our lives in the confidence we now have in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Sacrament, and in the unity and clarity of Catholic Eucharistic doctrine.
The Divine Office
We brought with us into the Church a liturgical charism deriving from the English plainchant tradition, specifically the Sarum Office which was in regular use, in Latin, from the Norman Conquest up till the Reformation in this land. This is one aspect that we have sought to bring into the Church as our contribution. However, we are a small Community, and our monastic liturgy must also reflect the changes which came into effect from Vatican II onwards. So we are appropriately flexible. Our Divine Office, in English, is fivefold: Vigils (anticipated the night before), Lauds, Midday Office, Vespers and Compline. We draw from the Breviary, the Sarum Office, and a range of Benedictine sources which have been made available to us, and this work is still evolving. We bring to it our utmost dedication and understanding of the liturgy as our first work, before all else.
Our former Community had a Rule of Life that was based on the Rule of St Augustine. We are now Benedictines. In making this transition, the firmness and concreteness of our previous Rule has stood us in good stead, as well as its many Benedictine elements. We have found ourselves to be perfectly at home in the Rule of our Holy Father St Benedict. The Rule of St Benedict speaks of 'enclosure of the monastery and stability within the Community' (RB 4.78) . For us, both these elements are in force, just as they have always been, but with a new energy and focus. We live under constitutional enclosure, which means that we do go out when it is necessary, and have a rootedness in this environment as the place where each of us, and the Community together, is following Christ, 'persevering in His teaching in the monastery until death' (RB Prologue).