As she takes up residence within the Community as a Lay Member Sr Joanna reflects on the journey that brought her here.
During her final year at university, my Dad used to make the long drive up from Slough to visit my Mum in Aberystwyth. On the way there, he always parked by St Mary’s Priory Church to stretch his legs, and have a cup of coffee in the café. When we drove up to Abergavenny this August, ready to start my year as a member of the Holywell Community, we were delighted to find the café still open!
My journey to the community has taken far longer than the two-and-a-half hours’ drive to Northampton. I started thinking and praying about my vocation three years ago, whilst studying English Literature in Norwich. During this time, I first encountered Julian of Norwich’s brilliant Revelations of Divine Love, which speaks of the love of Christ in the most profound and intimate language. Sitting in the chapel built over her cell, I wondered where God was taking me, and thought of Julian sitting at her window, praying with the weary travellers passing on their way to the docks. The Rule of St Benedict, which inspires the life of the Holywell Community, is based on hospitality: looking out for friends and strangers alike, sitting at the window between the chapel and the world.
As I sit writing this, a notification on my phone comes up to tell me that, according to NATO, the world is more dangerous today than it has been for many years. In these uncertain times, I believe that monasteries and religious houses have the duty of holding up a candle in the darkness. Abergavenny has a long history of faith persevering through conflict and struggle, and the relighting of that monastic flame with the Holywell Community is a testament to the strength of faith here. The monastic spirit of hospitality has also been very evident in the generosity of everyone I’ve met so far, and I look forward to getting to know the Churches and town over the coming year.