The death of Fr. Peter de Curzon OSB is sad news for all those who knew and loved this devout, sincere man and holy priest. A Benedictine monk at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight, Father remained faithful to the Old Rite Mass until the end. LMS supporters on the Island had great consolation in the knowledge that the Tridentine Mass was offered daily here on the Island, although it was not available to the public. Nevertheless, Fr. de Curzon often remembered us in his prayers and at Holy Mass which he said early in the morning in the abbey crypt. When one of our members / supporters died, Father always offer a Requiem Mass for the repose of their soul.
Father Peter de Curzon was born on the Feast of the Transfiguration 1924 and as a young man he served in the French Resisitance movement during the Second World War. He came to Quarr in 1945 and was professed as a monk on 19th August (Feast of St. John Eudes) 1946. He was ordained to the Subdiaconate (with Dom Paul Ziegler) by Bishop Beck of Brentwood in August 1949. Two years later he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul by Archbishop John Henry King. He was presented to the Lord Abbot of Quarr, Dom G. Tissot OSB and the monks and the congregation sang “Veni Creator” after the bishop, abbot and priests laid their hands upon him and he was presented with his chalice and paten. His first Mass was offered the following morning at the little side-altar (now removed) in the public part of the chapel. Father Peter was immensely proud of his ancestry. St. Louis IX and St. Margaret of Scotland were both direct ancestors. He was widely read and he was a real expert on “Medieval fortifications”. Two parishioners of Ryde who knew Father for many years are Grace Burke and Yvonne Rampton. Grace knew Fr. Peter for 58 years. She remembers “a kind and lovely priest; such a good and unassuming man“. Similarly, Yvonne who knew Father for over 50 years regarded him as “a sincere and honest man; a holy and devout priest who loved his priesthood and his monastic way of life“. In recent years he would be found at Quarr manning the porter’s lodge and it was here that many people would take a de-tour to spend a few moments in the company of this saintly priest.
It is no secret that he found difficulty with certain aspects of Vatican II, particularly the introduction of the “Novus Ordo” Mass. It was to the credit of his superiors that no obstacles were placed in his way as he continued to offer the Old Mass privately each morning in the abbey crypt instead of attending the “Novus Ordo” conventual Mass. It was on the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, 2001, that Fr. Peter last attended a Latin (Tridentine) Mass in St. Mary’s, Ryde. He regretted that he was not able to attend more recent Masses and he also felt obliged to decline the annual invitation to our LMS Dinner in the Autumn. “I will be with you in spirit“, he said, “every time you have a Latin Mass on the Island. He died on 8th June 2006 following a brief spell at Kite Hill Nursing Home. His Funeral Mass took place on Wednesday 14th June (the Eve of the Feast of Corpus Christi). In his sermon the Abbot of Quarr recalled the words of St. Benedict, “we are all hastening towards our heavenly home. Each day we should look forward to meeting Our Lord“. He reminded us that, “Fr. Peter’s death closes a chapter in the history of Quarr Abbey as he was the last of the pre-1960s generation. He had a great sense of service to the community and help to others“. After Mass his coffin was taken to the abbey cemetery for burial as the monks sang “In Paradisium” and “Ego sum resurrectio et vita“. If he had lived another few months he would have celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of his monastic profession. However what would such a jubilee have meant for a victim of Altzheimers? Death was a blessed release from the discomfort and suffering so bravely borne.
When asked about his favourite psalm, he would answer without hesitation, “Psalm 109 – Tu es sacredos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech“. (Thou art a priest forever, according to the Order of Melchisedech). One priest who remembers Fr. Peter well is Fr. Armand de Malleray FSSP; then Secretary-General of the Society of St. Peter, in Fribourg, and now Superior of the Society in England. Fr. Armand came to Quarr for two retreats and the two French priests immediately became friends through the common bond of their love for the Old Mass. Fr. Armand wrote, “During my two private retreats at Quarr, I had various conversations with him and attended his Mass in the crypt. He really was a good, traditional priest“. Fr. Patrick Hayward who came to Ryde for the annual LMS Corpus Christi Procession visited his grave in the little cemetery at Quarr a week after his funeral. He remembers, “a pious, holy man who loved his priesthood“.
Fr. Joseph McInerney, a former monk of Quarr Abbey, who knew Fr. Peter well, offered a Latin Mass for the repose of his soul in his parish church, The Sacred Heart, Fareham, on Monday, 17th July, 2006. Five from the Island were able to attend. Please remember Father de Curzon in your prayers.
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis