Reflections from the Rock Chapel
by Amanda Bradley
My first visit to the Rock Chapel was in 2015. It was a very special moment for me, since I had received the calling to be baptised and had just begun formal preparation. I was also attending a weekend retreat called ‘God’s Grandeur’ led by Fr Michael Kirwan. It lasted just two days; one of the longest and most fulfilling two days I have experienced. Every moment was infused with Hopkins, whom incidentally, I had known thanks to a wonderful English teacher in junior school. Hopkins was brought back to me and has accompanied me, and been much loved and appreciated in my classes and workshops since then.
On that occasion six years ago, walking up to the chapel, I took in all the sights and smells of the emerging spring, especially the daffodils - the flower of Wales - and the terraced flower beds, and mud under-foot. I had not noticed the Wellingtons kindly offered to fellow pilgrims and wore inappropriate short Gortex boots, but I was nevertheless mindful of the cow-pats on the way.
We know for sure from his diary, correspondence and works, that Hopkins visited the Rock Chapel, and loved the language, the land and people of Wales. My brother had had a bad experience of vandalism in Rhyl. The Holy Spirit sweeps such memories away, replacing them with beauty and gratitude.
I was due to have been at Beuno’s again last year for an Ignatian retreat, but it was closed to me for coming from where I had come from at the start of the pandemic. I became Christ’s leper, but my last memory, from two years ago, is accordingly all the more poignant and beautiful.
Before leaving my host country, I had attended a Mass with a missionary friend and for the special encounter, had dressed up to the nines in gold velvet including rather high-heeled boots. By the time I reached home, I was in serious pain and could hardly walk. The local doctor had poked me with a metal object and diagnosed a degenerative condition he pronounced incurable even in pediatric cases.
I wanted to cry. I commute, often standing, work walking around (as a teacher with large classes) and spend hours cooking for a husband with dietary requirements. Father Roger had said you can’t put glitter on a cow pat. I wondered if I should just give up.
But it was vacation time and a Myers-Briggs retreat was coming up at Beuno’s. I had, the year before, attended Fr. Roger’s ‘Life before death’ retreat and so, inspired by the overarching message, I put the negativity aside.
One of the Friends on the retreat was a doctor, and I shared my plight. Nonsense! She said, Go to the NHS Webpage! Another doctor and parishioner at Farm Street also helped: Take Omega 3-fish oil!
But there is Another who cures. And two years ago, with the appropriate Wellies this time, I effortlessly reached the Rock Chapel to be consoled by its peace and the multi-coloured luminosity of sun-beams through the stained-glass panels.
I was, am filled with gratitude and look forward to visiting it again.