Solemn Abbatial Blessing at St. Cecilia’s Abbey in 2022

Written by Veronica Nevard of Ryde.

At St. Cecilia’s Abbey on 26th April Sr. Eustochium Lee received the Abbatial Blessing from Bishop Egan. After the Community had processed in, the usual number of nuns augmented by visiting Abbesses and other Benedictine nuns, the singing of the Introit began and the procession of clergy entered through the Church doors, seven mitres among them!

Although in England it was the transferred Feast of St. George, permission from the Congregation for Divine Worship was given for the Mass of Our Lady of Good Counsel to be celebrated, since she is the secondary patron of the monastery and 26 April is her Feast.

After the Liturgy of the Word, Bishop Egan preached a short homily and paid tribute to the long years of service of the retired Abbess, Mother Ninian. He spoke about the many opportunities given after the Second Vatican Council for adapting liturgies. The council documents nevertheless stipulated that Latin must always be retained and that Gregorian chant must be preserved as the music most suitable for worship. He thanked the nuns of St. Cecilia’s for continuing to keep these traditions.

The Rite of Blessing now began. The Abbess -Elect was brought before the Bishop by two nuns, the retired Mother Ninian and the new Prioress, Sr. Gertrude. In answer to the Bishop’s question, Mother Ninian testified that the new Abbess had been duly elected. The Abbess was then examined by the Bishop on her resolve to obey her superiors and govern her community chiefly by her example and encouragement. She then prostrated on the Sanctuary during the singing of the Litany of the Saints. At the end of this, she rose and the Bishop said a Blessing Prayer and presented the Abbess with the Rule of St. Benedict and then the Abbatial insignia: ring and crozier. The newly blessed Abbess then received the obedience of her two assistants: Sr. Gertrude and Sr Madeleine. After this she was greeted first by the abbesses present, then guest sisters and then her own community. Mass then proceeded as normal.

After the Postcommunion, the Abbot President of the Solesmes Congregation, Abbot Philippe Dupont addressed us to bestow the Papal Blessing of Pope Francis on Mother Eustochium and all present. The whole impressive ceremony lasted two hours and was noteworthy among other things for the congregational singing, carried by the many monks and other priests and religious present. It was a great privilege to have been invited.