Frequently asked questions. As experienced and responded to by the priest who is
The “Home” and “About” pages seem to presume problems. What if I don’t have any,
and simply want to make a retreat?
That’s absolutely fine. It’s just that I think I have a particular ear for where
people have a darkness in faith, or are buffeted within that faith. But if you have
a peace and serenity in that faith, that’s fine.
What is the programme?
There isn’t any pre-arranged one. Anything is possible. Very often, people want
to spend time being quietly alone with themselves and their God. A fair amount of
exchange tends to take place over the meal table, when it is natural to talk. On
occasions, people may want to sit down and talk at other times - or they may not.
Things can be arranged in the chapel - formal or informal. Anything, indeed, is
possible - different people have different needs and expectancies.
How long do people stay?
For variable lengths of time. Sometimes someone comes just for a day. The timescale
which seems, on average, to “work” is perhaps three of four days.
What accommodation is there?
When the house was set up, it was thought that it would take small groups of 4,6,8,
perhaps. But it has not worked out that way. It seems to have found its own level
as - by and large - a one-on-one. As a result, some rooms which were planned as
bedrooms have been given other roles. A room alongside the kitchen, for example,
was made into an elegant dining room, where we have the evening meal. That was quite
deliberate, because it happens sometimes that a visitor feels quite low, and providing
a nice meal in a nice setting and making them feel special is important. This means
that visitors are now accommodated in a self-contained annexe, in which there is
an en-suite bedroom and a sitting room, so that they have their own private “space”.
The annexe has its own entrance, opening out onto the garden.
Who does the cooking?
Like it or not, I do! I think I am a reasonable cook, and though people such as
vegetarians are a bit of a pain, I can manage! (I have since been told that I shouldn’t,
tongue in cheek or not, be rude to vegetarians. I will therefore stress that I’m
very fond of vegetarians. With a nice gravy, they’re most acceptable).
What does it cost?
That’s up to the visitor. The idea of “paying” to come isn’t nice, but it’s a real
world, and bills have to be met. So I rely on donations. Sometimes one person’s
generosity means that others less well-off can be welcomed - which of course they
are anyway. No-one needs to be shy of being unable to contribute. My Army pension
carries me over any lean patches!
Mention is made on the home page of four acres. What sort of territory is it?
In the very early days, I joined with a neighbour to have a small herd of cattle,
whose role was simply to be grass-cutters for the five fields. That came to an end,
and then I tried to mow all of the fields to provide the suggestion of lawns. That
day also passed, and now I mow just two of the fields for that suggestion of lawns,
while the other three have “go-nowhere” paths, meandering around, inviting folk themselves
to meander, alone with their thoughts and prayers. I hear such folk are called Meanderthals.
Take it or leave it!
The chapel looks tiny...
And so it is, hardly 3 metres square. As a building, it has been through many incarnations,
and this is its second incarnation as a chapel. The first one was fine until one
of God’s creatures, family name Roland, chose to die in the rafters. Chanel No 5
it was not. So I had to gut the place, right out to the slate roof. It was then
refurbished with the help of a carpenter, an electrician, and a carpet fitter, and
it has a dignity and intimacy all its own.
Could that “intimacy” be intimidating at Mass - just me and the priest?
It is perhaps an experience people don’t have very often, and visitors are warned
that even nuns forget the Mass responses! And yes, people can be embarrassed by
that. But it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Most people find the intimacy and
specialness rather wonderful. There are sometimes tears.
It sometimes happens that a person is fumbling his or her way back to a faith, and
that can be an emotional experience, particularly perhaps when they are receiving
Holy Communion for the first time in a long while. For that reason, the chapel is
not offered as an outpost for any local parish. The presence of “the holy” and “the
confident” would be an intrusion on special moments.
Mention was made of feeling cut off from the Church and the Sacraments. If that
is sometimes the discipline which must be accepted, what can be done?
This is, frankly, better discussed on a one-to-one basis. Let’s just say that it’s
This page to be continued....