A quiet corner
by Anne Morris DHS
On a recent team day, three St Beuno’s team members were invited to show the rest of the team a particular corner of the house or grounds that meant something to them. Sr Anne chose a quiet corner that retreatants often miss or come late to discovering. It's the old cemetery outside the Main Chapel.
This is an in-between place, tucked away between the path to the public entrance of the Chapel and the steps up to the cutting garden. The path to it can be written off as boring, bordered as it is on one side by a plain wall, and on the other by a hedge and disintegrating wall. But the path is sheltered from wind, and in winter this is where you can find the morning sun as it begins its climb. This also is where the first snowdrops, winter aconites, and celandines appear, protected spot that it is.
You turn left off this path into the old cemetery. Here five Jesuits are buried; four young men and a former provincial. Five lives from the nineteenth century of whom we know very little, but their stories known to God. A few steps lead up to an exquisite stone cross. Figures carved into it are seen ascending and descending from heaven, and the heads of Jesus, the Father and Mary are visible at the top. In Latin the words of Dies Irae from the Latin Requiem Mass are etched around it. A former superior of the house Fr Tom Shufflebotham translated it:
Quaerens me sedisti lassus
Searching for me you sat down weary
Redemisti crucem passus
You redeemed me by suffering the Cross
Tantus labor non sit cassus
Let not such toil be in vain.
In summer the branches of a weeping ash form an umbrella over the cross, and all year birds fly in and out of the branches. If the path leading to it protects from the cold winds of winter, in the warmth of summer the shelter of the chapel wall make it a pleasantly cool spot to sit. In summer too, standing at the foot of the cross, you begin to catch sight of the jewel like colours of the flowers in the cutting garden that it leads on to.
I like this corner for its seclusion, its peacefulness, its quietness. It's a place of prayer and stillness. Retreatants stumble on it by accident. With the plans for re-ordering the entrance to the chapel, more people will discover it. That may take away some of its hiddenness, but then that is the nature of this place. In the words of the hymn it is 'Never changing, always new.'