by Teresa McCaffery
I’m not quite sure why I was thinking about the Chapel at St Beuno’s, but it came to mind recently as a ‘distraction’ while I was attending Mass online.
When I first came to St Beuno’s forty years ago I had to approach the Chapel inauspiciously by way of the small staircase by the back of the Dining Room since the Chapel Gallery was not then in use. At the time, I felt rather sorry for this chapel which seemed to exist down a hole tucked away behind the kitchen. It was easy to imagine it as being deliberately hidden away (Catholics were still not very popular in this country when it was built back in 1848 after all) or popped humbly into a corner not needed for anything else, near to cleaning cupboards and washing facilities. But of course it all depends on your point of view.
Another way of looking at the Chapel is that it is positioned at the heart of St Beuno’s. It sits almost at the centre of the grounds, linking all the levels of this steep hillside plot of land, right in the middle of all the varied, daily activities of the house. It is guarded by the bedrooms of retreatants on one side and watched over by the terraced garden and the slopes of Moel Maenefa on another. Its north side, meanwhile, looks outwards towards the motorway. While most of the traffic speeds past, some cars are steered aside to visit one of the many places in this beautiful part of the world where the beat of God’s heart can be felt. The Chapel at St Beuno’s is only one of them.
As part of the development plans, the St Beuno’s Chapel will eventually be given a new, more direct and accessible entrance from the service corridor behind the kitchen as well as from outside in the grounds, along the path behind the present Coach House and Boiler House. This should make the Chapel easier to find for visitors but the old, more circuitous route past bedrooms and cupboards will remain. The Chapel will still be the heart of the place however you get to it. Perhaps in its own way this is a small reminder that there will always be many, different ways to approach God – some seemingly more direct than others - and that we should value and help them all.