28 August 2015

Celebrating Saint Augustine
with the community in Orlagh

What is the future for Orlagh? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I have been invited to the celebrations in the Orlagh Restreat Centre this evebing marking Saint Augustine’s Day [28 August].

Sadly, this may the final celebration of Saint Augustine’s Day in Orlagh, which is due to close in the coming months.

The evening begins at 5 p.m. with a lecture by Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin, who is a recognised authority on Saint Augustine, and who has been asked to reflect on the relevance of Saint Augustine today, under the title ‘Catholicity and confusion.’

He says: “The early Augustine uses the image of the Ark of Noah as an image for the Church of God on earth. The skunk and the snake need to come to some accommodation, otherwise the alternative is ecclesiological cannibalism.”

And he says: “A first pointer from Augustine is a recognition at a human level of a need for a community of friends and a community of ideas.”

Saint Augustine is one of the few saints named in the 39 Articles (see Article 29), and he strongly influenced the writing of the collects and the Book of Common Prayer.

The lecture is followed by Mass at 6.15 p.m., when Archbishop Jackson is also the preacher, and there is a buffet meal at 7.30 p.m.

The Orlagh Retreat Centre … another chapter is about to come to an end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Many years ago, I had one of my pre-ordination retreats at Orlagh. The Augustinian community there, the Orlagh Team and the house staff have created a welcoming atmosphere and a warm welcome in a beautiful setting in pasture and woodland, with panoramic views over Dublin City and Bay out to Howth Head. It is a combination that has created an atmosphere that encourages and instills contemplation and reflection.

A statement issued by the Orlagh community and team earlier this year[15 March 2015] said that the Augustinian Province and council have decided “with regret, to close Orlagh.”

The team was asked not to take any booking after next month [September 2015], not to prepare programmes for 2015-2016, and the property will be placed on the market next Spring [2016]. So long as Augustinians are living in the house, Sunday and weekday masses and the weekly meditations will continue, but this evening’s celebrations seem to be the last ones there marking Saint Augustine’s Day.

The mist-clouded view from Orlagh across the city and Dublin Bay (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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