Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Part Time) 6.2: Traditions of
prayer (2) seminar, readings on Reformation prayer

Key figures in the story of the Anglican Reformation depicted in a window in the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, from left (top row): Hugh Latimer, Edward VI, Nicholas Ridley, Elizabeth I; (second row): John Wycliffe, Erasmus, William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Part-Time, Years III-IV,

Liturgy 6, Telephone Conference: 19 October 2016

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Part Time) 6.1:
Traditions of prayer (1), seminar, readings on Benedictine and Franciscan prayer;

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Part Time) 6.2: Traditions of prayer (2), seminar, readings on Reformation prayer


Readings on Reformation prayer, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Jewel, Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes.

1, Martin Luther (1483-1546):

Martin Luther … weaves together four basic elements to provide his ‘garland of prayer’

Reading: David Tripp, ‘Martin Luther, Lutheran Spirituality,’ in Gordon Wakefield (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM, 1999) pp 253-256.

Martin Luther was a German Augustinian friar, priest and professor of theology who played a key role in initiating the European Reformations. Luther strongly disputed the claim that freedom from the punishment of sin could be bought with money. He challenged the sale of indulgence with his 95 Theses in 1517. His refusal to retract his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the of the Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 led to his excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor.

Luther taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Christ. His theology challenged the authority of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge.

His translation of the Bible into German, instead of Latin, made it more accessible, and had a major impact on the church and on German culture. His hymns influenced the development of singing in churches.

Luther’s 1524 creedal hymn Wir glauben all an einen Gott (We All Believe in One True God) is a three-stanza confession of faith prefiguring his 1529 three-part explanation of the Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism. Luther’s hymn, adapted and expanded from an earlier German creedal hymn, gained widespread use in vernacular Lutheran liturgies as early as 1525.

Luther’s 1538 hymn version of the Lord’s Prayer, Vater unser im Himmelreich, corresponds exactly to Luther’s explanation of the prayer in the Small Catechism. The hymn served both as a liturgical setting of the Lord’s Prayer and as a means of examining candidates on specific catechism questions.

Luther wrote Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (From depths of woe I cry to you) in 1523 as a hymn version of Psalm 130 and sent it as a sample to encourage his colleagues to write psalm-hymns for use in worship. In collaboration with Paul Speratus, this and seven more hymns were published in the first Lutheran hymnal, the Achtliederbuch.

In 1524, Luther developed his original four-stanza psalm paraphrase into a five-stanza Reformation hymn that developed the theme of ‘grace alone’ more fully. Because it expressed essential Reformation doctrine, this expanded version of Aus tiefer Not was designated as a regular component of several regional Lutheran liturgies and was widely used at funerals, including Luther’s own.

In his short and simple work, A Simple Way to Pray (1535), Luther sets out an approach to prayer based on reading Biblical passages such as the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13) and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 1-17). He sets out aid to prayer based on a four-fold interaction with the Biblical text.

The four basic elements which he weaves together to provide his ‘garland of prayer’ are:

1, Instruction.
2, Thanksgiving.
3, Confession.
4, Prayer.

On the evening of 17 February 1546, Luther experienced chest pains. When he went to his bed, he prayed: ‘Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God’ (Psalm 31: 5), the common prayer of the dying. At 1 a.m., he awoke with more chest pain, and thanked God for revealing his Son. His companions, Justus Jonas and Michael Coelius, shouted loudly: ‘Reverend father, are you ready to die trusting in your Lord Jesus Christ and to confess the doctrine which you have taught in his name?’ Luther’s reply was a distinct ‘Yes.’

A stroke then deprived him of his speech, and he died at 2.45 a.m. on 18 February 1546, aged 62, in Eisleben, the city of his birth.

2, John Calvin (1509-1564)

John Calvin ... pointed out that to know God is to be changed by God

Reading: Gordon Wakefield, ‘John Calvin,’ and ‘Calvinist Spirituality’ in Gordon Wakefield (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM, 1999) pp 63-68.

John Calvin was a French theologian and a principal figure in the development of the Reformed or Calvinist tradition. Calvin originally trained as a humanist lawyer, and his breach with the Church came around 1530. When religious tensions provoked a violent uprising against Protestants in France, Calvin fled to Basel in Switzerland, where he published the first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion (1539).

He went on to engage with Church reforms in Geneva and Strasbourg, where he became the minister of a church of French refugees. He continued to support the reform movement in Geneva, and was eventually invited back to lead the church there. In Geneva, he struggled unsuccessfully to have weekly celebrations of the Eucharist, and taught the notion of a ‘virtual presence’ by which the power of Christ was united to the communicant by the work of the Spirit.

Calvin pointed out that to know God is to be changed by God; true knowledge of God leads to worship, as the believer is caught up in a transforming and renewing encounter with the living God.

His spirituality has three principle characteristics. It is:

● mystical;
● corporate;
● social.

3, Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)

Thomas Cranmer … his legacy includes the Book of Common Prayer, the Collects and the 39 Articles

Reading: Richard H. Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 1-11.

Thomas Cranmer, the ‘Father of the Prayer Book,’ was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and (briefly) Mary I. He built a favourable case for Henry VIII’s divorce and supported the principle of royal supremacy.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the Church of England. He did not make many radical changes in the Church, but succeeded in publishing the first officially authorised vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany.

During the reign of Edward VI, Cranmer wrote and compiled the first two editions of The Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the Church of England. With the help of Continental reformers, he developed new doctrinal standards in areas such as the Eucharist.

With the accession of Mary I to the throne, Cranmer was tried for treason and heresy, and was executed in Oxford in 1556. On the day of his execution, he dramatically withdrew his recantations. As the flames drew around him, he placed his right hand into the heart of the fire and his dying words were, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit... I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.’

His legacy lives on through The Book of Common Prayer, although It is difficult to ascertain how much of the Prayer Book is actually Cranmer’s personal composition, and through the 39 Articles, which are part of his legacy although not his composition. But we can agree that his chief concern was to design corporate worship to encourage a lively faith.

4, John Jewel (1522-1571)

John Jewel ... literary apologist of the Elizabethan settlement and the author of Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae

Reading: Richard H. Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 12-20.

John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, is seen as the First Anglican Apologist, and as the literary apologist of the Elizabethan Settlement. His Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae (1562) is the first methodical statement of the position of the Church of England. It forms the groundwork for all subsequent controversy, and is his attempt to provide a statement of faith for the Church of England during the reign of Elizabeth I and to answer challenges and accusations of the day.

When Jewel discusses the sacraments, he emphasises that it is not the sacraments themselves but the faith of the individual that effects salvation. On this point, Jewel appeals to several Church Fathers:

‘The faith of the sacraments,’ saith St. Augustine, ‘justifies, and not the sacrament.’ And Origen saith, ‘He [Christ] is the priest and the propitiation, and the sacrifice; and that propitiation comes to every one by way of faith.’ And, therefore, agreeably hereunto, we say that the sacraments of Christ do not profit the living without faith (Apology, II.17).

But he also says:

In the Lord’s Supper, there is truly given unto the believing the body and blood of the Lord, the flesh of the Son of God, which quickeneth our souls, the meat that cometh from above, the food of immortality, grace, truth, and life; and the Supper to be the communion of the body and blood of Christ, by partaking whereof we be revived, we be strengthened, and be fed unto immortality, and whereby we are joined, united and incorporate unto Christ, that we may abide in him, and he in us. (Apology).

Similarly, Jewel says: ‘For, although we do not touch Christ with our teeth and mouth, yet we hold him fast, and eat him by faith, by understanding, and by the spirit’ (Apology, II.15).

5, Richard Hooker (1554-1600):

Richard Hooker’s statue at Exeter Cathedral ... ‘the most influential theologian in the Anglican reformation

Reading: Richard H. Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 21-33.

Richard Hooker was such an influential Anglican theologian at the end of the Elizabethan era that he is often regarded as the Definitive Anglican. His emphases on reason, tolerance and the value of tradition have had a lasting influence on the development of Anglican theology, and alongside Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker he is regarded as a founder of Anglican theological method.

Throughout Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1593), Hooker makes it clear that theology involves prayer and is concerned with ultimate issues, and that theology is relevant to the social mission of the Church.

Writing on Prayer, he says: ‘When we are not able to do any other thing for men’s behoof, when though maliciousness or unkindness they vouchsafe not to accept any other good at our hands, prayer is that which we always have in our power to bestow, and they never in theirs to refuse.’ – Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, V.23.1

When it comes to ritual disputes in liturgical matters, he writes: ‘Customs once established and confirmed by long use, being presently without harm, are not in regard of their corrupt original to be held scandalous’ – Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, IV.12.4

6, Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes in Southwark Cathedral ... his prayers and sermons were critical in TS Eliot’s conversion to Anglicanism and had an abiding influence on his writings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Reading: Richard H. Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 34-46.

Lancelot Andrewes held senior positions in the Church of England in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, and after two decades at Cambridge he was successively Bishop of Chichester, Ely and Winchester, and chaired the committee that had oversight of the translation of the King James Version or Authorised Version of the Bible.

TS Eliot, in his essay, For Lancelot Andrewes: an Essay on Style and Order (1928), argues that Andrewes’s sermons ‘rank with the finest English prose of their time, of any time.’ Eliot spoke of his indebtedness to the bishop’s writings: he is ‘the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church,’ and he had ‘the voice of a man who had a formed visible church behind him, who spoke with the old authority and the new culture.’

For Eliot, ‘The intellectual achievement and the prose style of Hooker and Andrewes came to complete the structure of the English Church as the philosophy of the thirteenth century crowns the Catholic Church … the achievement of Hooker and Andrewes was to make the English Church more worthy of intellectual assent. No religion can survive the judgment of history unless the best minds of its time have collaborated in its construction; if the Church of Elizabeth is worthy of the age of Shakespeare and Jonson, that is because of the work of Hooker and Andrewes.

‘The writings of both Hooker and Andrewes illustrate that determination to stick to essentials, that awareness of the needs of the time, the desire for clarity and precision on matters of importance, and the indifference to matters indifferent, which was the general policy of Elizabeth … Andrewes is the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church.’

Reading:

TS Eliot, For Lancelot Andrewes: an Essay on Style and Order (1928).
Alister McGrath, Christian Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999).
Richard H. Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).
Philip Sheldrake, A Brief History of Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).
Gordon Wakefield (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM, 1999).

Next weekend, 4-6 November 2016:

7.1, The development of the liturgical year and the daily office;

7.2, Seminar: ‘Word’ and ‘Sacrament’ expressed in music and the arts.

8.1, Baptism and Eucharist (3) the contemporary life and mission of the Church. Worship and inculturation.

8.2, The theology and rites of ordination; Rites of passage (e.g., Marriages, Funerals).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes were prepared in advance of a telephone conference on 19 October 2016 with part-time students as part of the MTh module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Part Time) 6.1: Traditions of prayer (1),
seminar, readings on Benedictine and Franciscan prayer

Stained glass windows in the Franciscan chapel in Gormanston College, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Part Time, Years III and IV:

Liturgy 6: 18 October 2016.

Liturgy 6.1:
Traditions of prayer (1) seminar, readings on Benedictine and Franciscan prayer.

Liturgy 6.2: Traditions of prayer (2): seminar, readings on Reformation prayer.

An icon of Saint Francis (left) and Saint Benedict (right) in Saint Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

On our last weekend together, we all received three sets of handouts for the first part of our telephone conference tomorrow evening [19 October 2016]:

Columba Stewart, Prayer and Community: The Benedictine Tradition (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1998), pp 31-52.

Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century (2nd edition, New York: Cross Road, 2010): Chapter 16, ‘The Celebration of Divine Office During the Day’ (pp 119-121); Chapter 20, ‘Reverence in Prayer’ (pp 132-133).

Brother Ramon, Franciscan Spirituality, Following Saint Francis Today (London: SPCK, 1994), pp 111-125.

Earlier this month [4 October 2016], Saint Francis of Assisi was commemorated in the Calendar of many provinces of the Anglican Communion (e.g., see Common Worship, p 14; The Book of Common Prayer (TEC), p 28). Next month, in the ‘Spirituality’ hour in the chapel with full-time students on 21 November 2016, I am looking at Benedictine Spirituality, and how it has influenced Anglican Spirituality.

This morning, we are looking at Benedictine and Franciscan Spirituality and Prayer, and these are to accompany the presentations during the seminar.

1, The Benedictine Tradition of Prayer:

Four years ago [2012], during the summer break, I spent some weeks at Ealing Abbey in London, studying Liturgy and Liturgical Latin at the Benedictine Study and Arts Centre, and was invited each day to join the monks in the choir for the daily offices.

As I recalled last Monday, when we were discussing ‘Spirituality and Sport,’ there was an old cutting from the Daily Telegraph on the desk in my room in Ealing Abbey that says the Benedictine tradition is so rooted in English life and culture that: ‘Some claim to see the Benedictine spirit in the rules of Cricket.” But in Ealing Abbey, I was more conscious of how the daily offices in the Anglican tradition – Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Vespers, Compline and so on – draw on the riches of the Benedictine tradition.

Some of you may soon find yourselves on retreat in either Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick, or Holy Cross Monastery in Rostrevor, Co Down, two Benedictine houses that are among the preferred centres for the Church of Ireland for pre-ordination retreats.

So, an introduction to Benedictine spirituality and prayer life may be an important contextualisation for some of you in advance of your pre-ordination retreats. But it is even more important as an introduction to one of the formative influences on Anglican spirituality.

Indeed, it could be said that Anglican spirituality has its roots in the Benedictine spirituality, an approach to life and prayer that arose from the monastic community of Saint Benedict in the sixth century.

At the beginning of his academic career, Cranmer was a reader or lecturer at Buckingham College, a hostel for Benedictine monks studying in Cambridge that later became Magdalene College.

It could be said that the Anglican Reformation took the essentials of Benedictine spirituality and prayer life and made them immediately accessible through The Book of Common Prayer, which gives the Anglican Reformation a clearly Benedictine spirit and flavour.

The basic principles that shape The Book of Common Prayer are Benedictine in spirit. For example, the spirituality of the Rule of Saint Benedict is built on three key elements that form the substance ofThe Book of Common Prayer: the community Eucharist; the divine office; and personal prayer with biblical, patristic and liturgical strands woven together.

The Anglican Benedictine monk and theologian, Dom Bede Thomas Mudge, believed the Benedictine spirit is at the root of the Anglican way of prayer in a very pronounced way. The example and influence of the Benedictine monastery, with its rhythm of the daily office and the Eucharist; the tradition of learning and lectio divina; and the family relationship among an Abbot and his community, have influenced the pattern of Anglican spirituality.

In a unique way, The Book of Common Prayer continues the basic monastic pattern of the Eucharist and the divine office as the principal public forms of worship.

On a regular basis, through the day, in the office and in their spiritual life, Benedictines pray the psalms. The church historian Peter Anson believed that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s great work of genius was in condensing the traditional Benedictine scheme of hours into the two offices of Matins and Evensong. In this way, Anglicanism is a kind of generalised monastic community, with The Book of Common Prayer preserving the foundations of monastic prayer.

As a monastic form of prayer, The Book of Common Prayer retains the framework of choral worship but simplified so that ordinary people in the village and the town, in the parish, can share in the daily office and the daily psalms.

In recent years, three of the most interesting commentaries of the rule of Saint Benedict have been written by leading Anglican writers: Esther de Waal, a well-known writer and lecturer on theology, spirituality and Church History and the wife of a former Dean of Canterbury; Elizabeth Canham, one of the first women ordained priest in the Episcopal Church (TEC), and who lived for almost six years in a Benedictine monastery; and Canon Andrew Clitherow, Director of Training in the Diocese of Blackburn.

Dom Gregory Dix (1901-1952) was a priest-monk of Nashdom Abbey, an Anglican Benedictine community. As a liturgical scholar, his work has had an immeasurable influence on the direction of changes to Anglican liturgy in the mid-20th century.

In the Church of England, there are 13 cathedrals with a Benedictine foundation and tradition: Canterbury, Chester, Coventry, Durham, Ely, Gloucester, Norwich, Peterborough, Rochester, Saint Alban, Winchester, Worcester and York Minster – 15 if we include Bath Abbey and Westminster Abbey.

The chapel in Alton Abbey, Hampshire, one of the Benedictine abbeys in the Church of England

Throughout the Anglican Communion, there are Benedictine communities in Australia, Canada, England, Ghana, South Africa, South Korea, Swaziland and the US. In the Church of England, they include: Alton Abbey, Hampshire; Edgware Abbey, London; Saint Benedict’s Priory, Salisbury, Wiltshire, founded at Pershore in 1914, moved to Nashdom Abbey in 1926, to Elmore Abbey, near Newbury, in 1987, and to Salisbury in 2011; Holy Cross Convent, Costock, Leicestershire; Mucknell Abbey, near Worcester (formerly the community at Burford Priory, near Oxford); Saint Hilda’s Priory, Whitby; Saint Mary’s Abbey, Malling, Kent; and Saint Peter’s Convent, Horbury, Wakefield. The Cistercian Monastery at Ewell closed in 2004, and the Anglican Cistercians are now a dispersed community.

Benedictine prayer became more accessible in popular culture in 2005 when the BBC screened the television series, The Monastery, in which the then Abbot of Worth Abbey, Abbot Christopher Jamison, guided five modern men (and three million viewers) into a new approach to life at Worth Abbey in Sussex.

Since then, Dom Christopher’s best-selling books following the popular series, Finding Sanctuary (2007) and Finding Happiness (2008) offer readers similar opportunities. He points out that no matter how hard we work, being too busy is not inevitable. Silence and contemplation are not just for monks and nuns, they are natural parts of life. Yet, to keep hold of this truth in the rush of modern living we need the support of other people and sensible advice from wise guides. By learning to listen in new ways, people’s lives can change and Dom Christopher offers some monastic steps that help this transition to a more spiritual life.

Benedictine spirituality approaches life through an ordering by daily prayer that is biblical and reflective. At its base, Benedictine spirituality is grounded in a commitment to ‘the Benedictine Promise’ – an approach to spiritual life that values ‘Stability, Obedience, and Conversion of Life.’

Saint Benedict of Nursia wrote the first official western manual for praying the Hours in the year 525. Benedictine spirituality approaches life through an ordering by daily prayer that is biblical and reflective, and Benedictine spirituality is grounded in an approach to spiritual life that values ‘Stability, Obedience, and Conversion of Life.’ The major themes in the Rule are community, prayer, hospitality, study, work, humility, stability, peace and listening.

Working in the Scriptorum in Ealing Abbey ... study is a major theme in the Rule of Saint Benedict (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Benedict’s approach is refreshingly simple and uncomplicated. For him, the key that opens the door to prayer is the quality of a Christian’s life, and the whole existence of a Christian is to seek to imitate Christ in fulfilling the will of his Father.

Apart from the scripture readings that are heard in the liturgy, Saint Benedict sets aside from two to three hours a day for lectio divina. As [Dr] Katie [Heffelfinger] explained in the Spirituality hour in chapel earlier this month [3 October 2016], lectio divina is not an intellectual pursuit of knowledge and information but a way to let the word of God penetrate the heart and the whole person, so that we listen and open our hearts to God who speaks to us in his word.

Saint Benedict begins his Rule with the word listen, ausculta: ‘Listen carefully, child of God, to the guidance of your teacher. Attend to the message you hear and make sure it pierces your heart, so that you may accept it in willing freedom and fulfil by the way you live the directions that come from your loving Father’ (Rule of Saint Benedict, Prologue 1, translated by Patrick Barry). His advice is as short and succinct a directive on how to prepare to pray as I can find.

The monastic cell is a place of solitude, but this is not a refuge from the common life (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Benedictine motto is Ora et Labora. This does not present prayer and work as two distinct things, but holds prayer and work together. The chapel becomes the place for the Work of God (Opus Dei), but the work of God does not end at the chapel door. God continues to work where we work. The monastic cell is the place of solitude, but this is not a refuge from the common life. There must be time and place for both, a unity of the inner life and the outer life.

For Saint Benedict, the spiritual life and the physical life are inseparable. As he says: Orare est laborare, laborare est orare, to pray is to work, to work is to pray.

The function of prayer is to change my own mind, to put on the mind of Christ, to enable grace to break into me. – Sister Joan D. Chittister, OSB

Benedictine spirituality teaches us that prayer is not a matter of mood.

To pray only when we feel like it, is more to seek consolation than to risk conversion.

To pray only when it suits us, is to want God on our terms.

To pray only when it is convenient, is to make the God-life a very low priority in a list of better opportunities.

To pray only when it feels good, is to court total emptiness when we most need to be filled.

The Front Door at Ealing Abbey ... prayer is not about making God some kind of private getaway from life (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer is not about making God some kind of private getaway from life. Prayer is meant to call us back to a consciousness of God here and now. And so, prayer in the Benedictine tradition is a community act and an act of community awareness.

One of the best-know Benedictine theologians and writers at the moment is Sister Joan Chittister OSB. In Benedictine Prayer: A Larger Vision of Life, she explains that ‘Benedictine prayer is not designed to take people out of the world to find God. Benedictine prayer is designed to enable people to realise that God is in the world around them.’

She says: ‘Benedictine prayer, which is rooted in the Psalms and other Scriptures, takes us out of ourselves to form in us a larger vision of life than we ourselves can ever dredge up out of our own lives alone. Benedictine prayer puts us in contact with past and future at once so that the present becomes clearer and the future possible.’

Benedictine prayer has several characteristics that make more for a spirituality of awareness than of consolation. She lists those characteristics of Benedictine prayer:

● It is regular.
● It is universal.
● It is converting.
● It is reflective.
● It is communal.

And out of those qualities, a whole new life emerges and people are changed.

For example, prayer that is regular confounds both self-importance and the wiles of the world.

‘It is so easy for good people to confuse their own work with the work of creation. It is so easy to come to believe that what we do is so much more important than what we are. It is so easy to simply get too busy to grow. It is so easy to commit ourselves to this century’s demand for product and action until the product consumes us and the actions exhaust us and we can no longer even remember why we set out to do them in the first place. But regularity in prayer cures all that.’

Saint Benedict called for prayer at regular intervals of each day, right in the middle of apparently urgent and important work. His message was unequivocal.

‘Pray always,’ Scripture says. ‘Nothing should be accounted more important than the Work of God,’ the Rule of Benedict says (Rule of Benedict 43: 3, in Kelly et al).

‘Impossible,’ most people will say.

But if we train our souls to remain tied to a consciousness of God, as the Rule of Benedict directs, even when other things appear to have greater value or more immediate claims on our time, then consciousness of God becomes a given. And consciousness of God is perpetual prayer.

To pray in the midst of the mundane is to assert that this dull and tiring day is holy and its simple labours are the stuff of God’s saving presence for me now. To pray simply because it is prayer time is no small act of immersion in the God who is willing to wait for us to be conscious, to be ready, to be willing to become new in life.

In daily life, though, there will always be something more pressing to do than to pray. And when that attitude takes over, we will soon discover that without prayer the energy for the rest of life runs down. When we think we are too tired and too busy to pray, we should remind ourselves then that we are too tired and too busy not to pray.

To pray when we cannot pray is to let God be our prayer. The spirituality of regularity requires us to turn over our broken and distracted selves to the possibility of conversion in memory and in hope, in good times and in bad, day, after day, after day.

Benedictine prayer is based almost totally in the Psalms and in the Scriptures. ‘Let us set out on this way,’ the Rule says, ‘with the Gospel as our guide’ (Prologue: 9). And so, Benedictine prayer is not centred in the needs and wants and insights of the individual who is praying. Instead, it is anchored in the needs and wants and insights of the entire universe. Benedictine prayer takes me out of myself so that I can be my best self.

‘Prayer … is at the same time root and fruit, foundation and fulfilment’ … grapes on the vine in the cloister garden in Ealing Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Benedictine prayer life, besides being scriptural and regular, is reflective. It is designed to make us take our own lives into account in the light of the Gospel. It is not recitation for its own sake. It is bringing the mind of Christ to bear on the fragments of our own lives. It takes time and it does not depend on quantity for its value.

This is a prayer life that involves a commitment to regularity, reflection, and a sense of the universal. The function of prayer is not to change the mind of God about the decisions we have already made for ourselves. The function of prayer is to change my own mind, to put on the mind of Christ, to enable grace to break into me.

Esther de Waal puts it this way: ‘Prayer lies at the heart of Benedictine life; it holds everything together; it sustains every other activity. It is at the same time root and fruit, foundation and fulfilment’ (Esther de Waal, Seeking God, p 145).

Finally, Benedictine prayer is communal. Benedictine prayer is prayer with a community and for a community and as a community. It is commitment to a pilgrim people whose insights grow with time and whose needs are common to us all.

It is surprising that in his Rule Saint Benedict does not have one method of personal prayer. Although there are many instructions on the Divine Office or Opus Dei and the Liturgy of the Hours, he has little to say about personal prayer. He did not establish set times for personal prayer, nor did he give detailed instructions on how to pray. Instead, he gave instructions on how to live.

This distinction between liturgical prayer and private prayer, which is familiar to modern spirituality, was unknown to the early monks. Apart from one short reference to prayer outside the office, Chapter 20 of the Rule is concerned with the silent prayer that is a response to the psalm. Listening to the word of God was a necessary prelude to every prayer, and prayer was the natural response to every psalm.

Community prayer in the Benedictine tradition is a constant reminder that we do not go to Church for ourselves alone. To say, ‘I have a good prayer life, I don’t need to go to Church,’ or to say ‘I don’t get anything out of prayer’ is to admit our own poverty at either the communal or the personal level.

Community prayer binds us to one another and broadens our vision of the needs of the world. The praying community becomes the vehicle for my own faithfulness. Private prayer, Benedict says, may follow communal prayer, but it can never substitute for it. Prayer, in fact, forms the community mind.

The implications of the Benedictine approach to prayer

Holy Cross Monastery, Rostrevor, Co Down

The implications of all these qualities for contemporary spirituality can be summarised as follows:

1, Prayer must be scriptural, not simply personal. I am to converse with God in the Word daily – not simply attended to at times of emotional spasm – until little by little the Gospel begins to work in me.

2, I need to set aside and keep time for prayer. It may be before breakfast in the morning; after the children go to school; in the car on the way to work; on the bus coming home; at night before going to bed. But I need to set aside that time for prayer and to keep it.

3, Reflection on the Scriptures is basic to growth in prayer and to personal growth. Prayer is a process of coming to be something new, and is never simply a series of exercises.

4, Understanding is essential to the act of prayer. Formulas are not enough.

5, Changes in attitudes and behaviours are a direct outcome of prayer. Anything else amounts to something more like therapeutic massage than confrontation with God.

6, A sense of community is both foundational for and the culmination of prayer. I pray to become a better human being, not to become better at praying.

As Sister Joan Chittister says: ‘We pray to see life as it is, to understand it, and to make it better than it was. We pray so that reality can break into our souls and give us back our awareness of the Divine Presence in life. We pray to understand things as they are, not to ignore and avoid and deny them.’

2, The Franciscan tradition of prayer:

The Cross of San Damiano

Earlier this month [4 October], the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi was marked in the calendar of many parts of the Anglican Communion (e.g., see Common Worship, p. 14). To give an appropriate Anglican contextual setting to discussing Franciscan spirituality, let me point out that there are at least six families of Franciscan religious communities within the Anglican Communion.

They include the Society of Saint Francis, which has 11 houses, priories, friaries or convent in England, and other priories or houses in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the US (New York, California); the Community of Saint Clare, near Witney, Oxfordshire; the Community of Saint Francis, Birmingham; the Sisters of Saint Francis in Korea; and the Third Order of Saint Francis, which is found throughout the Anglican Communion.

Some of you already know Brother David Jardine in Belfast, who is a canon of Saint Anne’s Cathedral, and who is a Franciscan friar, and there is a Franciscan Third Order within the Church of Ireland.

A foundational story in Franciscan spirituality tells how on a summer day in 1206, Saint Francis of Assisi was walking close to the crumbling church of San Damiano when he felt an inner call from the Holy Spirit to go inside the church to pray. In obedience, Francis entered the church, fell on his knees before what is now a familiar icon cross, and opened himself to what the God might have to say to him.

In eager anticipation, Francis looked up into the serene face of the crucified Lord, and prayed this prayer: ‘Most High, glorious God, cast your light into the darkness of my heart. Give me, Lord, right faith, firm hope, perfect charity, and profound humility, with wisdom and perception, so that I may carry out what is truly your holy will. Amen.’

Ever more quietly he repeated the prayer, lost in devotion and wonder before the image of his crucified Lord.

Then, in the stillness, Francis heard Christ speaking to him from the Cross: ‘Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you can see, is falling into ruin.’

A plaque in Cloister Court in Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge, recalls Duns Scotus and the early Franciscan community in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As the tradition of religious communities was being explored once again, rediscovered, revived and rebuilt in the Anglican Communion in response to the Anglo-Catholic revival in the 19th century, many of those involved turned for inspiration to the Franciscan tradition.

The gentle approach to obedience in the Franciscan tradition has been described as a ‘middle way’ in the monastic tradition, and so the Franciscan tradition has an immediate appeal to Anglicans of the Via Media.

The Daily Office, which is the office book of the Society of Saint Francis, was among the first to be fully updated with the Common Worship Lectionary, and so came into use throughout the wider Anglican Communion. But it has also provided the model for the offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in Common Worship.

Francis and Franciscan values also have a relevance to the wider, international and global community. This is a world that has never been more in need of those Franciscan values of Peace, Poverty, and respect for the environment.

The Church exists to call the world into it not so much that the world may become the church, less so that the church may become the world, but that through the Church the world may enter into the Kingdom of God.

In the age of a nuclear overkill, climate change and global poverty, Francis and his rule for his community, first shaped over 800 years ago in 1209, continue to call us back again to the true values of Christian community and lifestyle.

Closing Prayers:

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Let us pray:

A prayer of Saint Benedict:

Gracious and Holy Father,
Give us wisdom to perceive you,
Intelligence to understand you,
Diligence to seek you,
Patience to wait for you,
Vision to behold you,
A heart to meditate on you,
A life to proclaim you,
Through the power of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

A prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.


Staying at Ealing Abbey ... with a window onto the wider world (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Additional reading:

Anglican Religious Life 2016-17 (London: Norwich Canterbury Press, 2015).
Patrick Barry, Richard Yeo, Kathleen Norris, et al, Wisdom from the Monastery: The Rule of St Benedict for everyday life (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2005).
Gordon Beattie, Gregory’s Angels (Leominster: Gracewing Fowler Wright for Ampleforth Abbey, 1997).
Benedictine Yearbook 2012, ed William Wright (Warrington: EBC).
Elizabeth Canham, Heart Wisdom: Benedictine Wisdom for Today (Guildford: Eagle Publishing, 2001).
Joan D Chittister, Benedictine Prayer: a larger vision of life: living the rule of Saint Benedict today (San Francisco and New York: Harper, 1991).
Joan D Chittister, The Rule of Benedict: a spirituality for the 21st century (New York: Crossroad, 2010 ed).
Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart, an invitation to a meaningful life (London: SPCK, 2011).
Andrew Clitherow, Desire, Love and the Rule of St Benedict (London: SPCK, 2008).
Esther de Waal, Seeking God, The Way of St. Benedict (London: Fount, 1984).
Mary Forman OSB, ‘Prayer,’ in Patrick Barry et al, Wisdom from the Monastery: The Rule of St Benedict for everyday life (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2005).
franciscan, three times a year from Hilfield Friary.
(Abbot) Christopher Jamison, Finding Sanctuary – Monastic steps for everyday life (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006).
(Abbot) Christopher Jamison, Finding Happiness – Monastic steps for a fulfilling life (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008).
Nikos Kazantzakis, Saint Francis (Oxford: Bruno Cassiver, 1962).
Alister E. McGrath, Christian Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999).
Brother Ramon, Franciscan Spirituality (London: SPCK, 1994), pp 111-125.
Nicolas Stebbing CR (ed), Anglican Religious Life: A well-kept secret? (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 2003).
Columba Stewart, Prayer and Community: The Benedictine Tradition (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1998).

Some links:

Alton Abbey, Hampshire.
Edgware Abbey, London.
Saint Benedict’s Priory, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Holy Cross Convent, Costock, Leicestershire.
Mucknell Abbey, near Worcester.
Saint Hilda’s Priory, Whitby.
Saint Mary’s Abbey, Malling, Kent.
Anglican Cistercians.

Franciscan religious communities within the Anglican Communion.
Society of Saint Francis.
The Third Order of Saint Francis

More information on the TV series The Monastery.

Next:

Liturgy 6.2: Traditions of prayer (2): seminar, readings on Reformation prayer.

Next weekend 3, 4-6 November 2016

7.1, The development of the liturgical year and the daily office;

7.2, Seminar: ‘Word’ and ‘Sacrament’ expressed in music and the arts.

8.1, Baptism and Eucharist (3) the contemporary life and mission of the Church. Worship and inculturation.
8.2, The theology and rites of ordination; Rites of passage (e.g., Marriages, Funerals).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes were prepared in advance of a telephone conference on 19 October 2016 with part-time students as part of the MTh module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

A walk by the Barrow in Carlow at
one of Ireland’s oldest rowing clubs

By the banks of the River Barrow at Carlow Rowing Club … one of the oldest rowing clubs in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

During my visit to Carlow on Saturday [15 October 2016], I spent a few hours in the afternoon walking the banks of the River Barrow at Braganza, by the Wellington Bridge that links Carlow and Graiguecullen, and by Carlow Rowing Club at The Quay.

This is one of the oldest rowing clubs in Ireland, dating back to at least 1859. Carlow’s national oarsmen include Jimmy O’Neill, Niall O’Brien and Michael Nolan, who have represented Ireland at World Championships and international regattas. The River Barrow provided an excellent venue for a rowing club, but races and regattas had taken place in private boathouses long before the rowing club was established.

The Barrow is Ireland’s second longest river, with a length of 192 km. It is one of the ‘Three Sisters,’ along with Suir and the Nore. The source of the river is at Glenbarrow in the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Co Laois, and from there on its way to the sea in Waterford, the Barrow passes through Portarlington, Monasterevin, Athy, Carlow and Graiguecullen, Bagenalstown, Graiguenamanagh and New Ross.

The river forms a natural border on its right bank between Co Laois and Co Carlow and the Co Kilkenny and Co Waterford and, on its left bank between Co Carlow and Co Wexford. It is a major part of Ireland’s inland waterways network, providing an inland link between the port of Waterford and the Grand Canal, which in turn connects Dublin to the River Shannon.

There are three sections to the navigation: the tidal River Barrow, with 88 km of tidal river navigation; the non-tidal river navigation featuring 23 locks, continuing 66 km inland from the tidal limit at St Mullin’s to Athy; and the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal connecting to the river at Athy and continuing northwards for a further 45 km with nine locks, connecting to the mainline of the Grand Canal at Lowtown.

In 1703, the Irish House of Commons appointed a committee to bring in a bill to make the Barrow navigable. By 1800, the Barrow Track was completed between St Mullin’s and Athy, establishing a link to the Grand Canal.

There is much speculation of when and how many bridges were built at Carlow before the Wellington Bridge was built over 200 years ago in 1815 linking Carlow and Graigcullen. Although it is known locally as the Graiguecullen Bridge, this five-arched bridge was named in honour of the Dublin-born Duke of Wellington after he defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo that year.

Nearby Governey Square was also known as Wellington Square throughout the 19th century.

The bridge was built across a small island in the river and a house was built on the bridge in the 19th century house. For a time, this house was home to the Poor Clares, who later moved to a convent in Graiguecullen.

When the Poor Clares first came to Carlow, they lived a house built on Wellington Bridge spanning the River Barrow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

For boats, this is the lowest bridge on the River Barrow, and for centuries it represented an important trading link for Carlow. By 1845, 88,000 tons of goods were being transported on the Barrow Navigation. The Grand Canal Company operated commercial boats up and down the Barrow until 1960.

There was has been a bridge at this river crossing since at least 1500. Later in the 16th century, the Lord Deputy, Sir Henry Sidney, built a replacement bridge.

By the 19th century, the River Barrow at this point was dotted with private boats and boathouses, whose owners pooled their resources for local races.

The club claims to date back to 1859, making it one of the oldest rowing clubs in Ireland. The earliest records date from 1860, and refer to a Carlow regatta in 1859. However, it is thought that boat races began long before that date, and the details of this regatta, the type of racing at it and the actual beginnings of the club are all matters of speculation. Carlow Rowing Club was founded in 1859, making it one of the oldest rowing clubs in Ireland.

The Deighton Memorial Hall … as the Corn Exchnage, it was the venue for the first meeting of Carlow Rowing Club (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The first meeting of what was known as the Carlow Regatta Yard took place in the Corn Exchange, now the Deighton Memorial Hall. It was described as a meeting of the subscribers to the 1859 Carlow Regatta Fund, and James Comerford of 11 Brown Street was among those who attended that early meeting. He was originally from Newtownbarry (Bunclody), Co Wexford, and was the father of Bishop Michael Comerford.

That date is now accepted as the founding date of Carlow Rowing Club. Others present at that early meeting in 1859 included James Bolger, P Bourke and Henry Boake. Darby Henry Cooper of Hanover House was elected Treasurer, and the next regatta was fixed for 18 July 1860. The first colours of the club were blue with white diagonal stripes, but these colours were changed later, and in 1902 the rules prescribed dark green.

Although the early regattas were not national events, the prize money was among the best in Ireland, amounting to £34.10.0 in 1861. The rowing races began at a point know as Sandy Hills, owned by Pat McDonald, and the course extended to the Old Graves. This remains part of the existing 1,500 metre course.

However, this regatta ran at a loss and all proceedings were abandoned until 1864. A regatta was held in 1864, with less valuable prizes and a reduced number of races. The committee did not meet again until 1867 and in the following year, the regatta took place at Cloydagh Pool, a few miles south of Carlow town. The prizes included two cups, the Carlow Challenge and Acton Cup, two gold rings, a breast pin for scullers and a silver paddle awarded to winners of a canoe race. This race was won by F Barnes, who became the first recorded captain of Carlow Rowing Club.

The Acton Cup was presented for this regatta by Sir John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (1834-1902), later 1st Baron Acton, who was MP for Carlow (1859-1865). Acton is best known for his dictum, ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.’

Ten years after the club was formed, it was agreed unanimously in March 1869 to put the club on a more formal footing. Meetings were held, rules were drawn up and the subscription was fixed at a sovereign, with an additional entrance fee of the same amount – this fee did not change until 1948. Hugh Doyle was elected secretary and JF Lynch was appointed Treasurer. Rules were drawn up and the annual subscription was fixed at one guinea (21 shillings). F Barnes was elected the first captain in April and Mick Hayden was appointed the first boat keeper in June.

The club established a boat house in a shed rented from the Haughton family for £10 a year. The shed at Skinner’s Lane, on the south side of Graiguecullen Bridge by the banks of the Barrow, was close to the ruins of Carlow Castle, and the castle ruins remain part of the club logo.

The ruins of Carlow Castle remain part of the logo of Carlow Rowing Club (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The first reference to the annual procession of boats from the boathouse to the milestone was in 1869. The annual regatta of 1869 was held in October.

In 1878, the crew of William P Hade, Edward Rodgers, Harold Richardson, Joseph Hare and Cox Richard Wilson had the distinction of winning the Slaney amateur and Islandbridge Regattas – the first victories for a Carlow crew. By 1884, the club had 95 members.

In 1892, Carlow Rowing Club won a legal battle with the Barrow Navigation Company. The company had introduced byelaws that made rowing boats liable to a ‘lockage charge of 1d per boat and 4d if propelled by steam or towed from the banks.’ The club protested to the Board of Trade, which deemed the byelaws interfered with long-established rights. The Board of Trade found in favour of the club and the byelaws were disallowed.

Carlow Rowing Club … one of the oldest rowing clubs in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The club minutes come to an end in 1897 and they are not recorded again until 1916. But the years 1900-1903 were among the best in the club’s history. The names of the crew which rowed together for those four years – Bell, Boake, Duggan and Orr – became household words. They competed regularly in Waterford, Wexford, New Ross and Chapelizod. Their victory at Chapelizod in 1903 was their most famous victory. =

The Acton Cup mysteriously disappeared around this time and was never recovered. It is said that in 1901 or 1902 a Carlow rowing man who was a medical student saw the Acton Cup in a jeweller’s window in Dublin. It was not for sale and to this day, its fate remains a mystery.

At this time, one of Carlow’s strongest supporters was Thomas Kane McClintock-Bunbury (1848–1929), 2nd Baron Rathdonnell. He lived at Lisnavagh House, on the edges of Rathvilly, was a Lord Lieutenant of Carlow, and later a Senator. He was a fine oarsman who had rowed with his brother for Oxford. In 1902, he donated the silver cup that bears his name, now competed for by senior fours. That year, the club rules were updated and they remained the club’s constitution for many years.

The club developed steadily in years before World War I, and when the club records resume in 1916 the committee was content with the strength of club finances and membership.

The first ever women’s boat race in Carlow was in the 1931 petition regatta, when Dolphin Rowing Club was invited to send two crews to race, and the committee in a generous mood waived the entrance fees. A year later, in 1932, Carlow had a senior crew on the water, and the club was represented at Trinity, Waterford and New Ross. Their day of triumph was at Waterford Regatta, but it was also last trophy the club would win for more than 20 years.

But the club finances had dwindled by 1933. No regatta was held that year, nor could a crew be sent elsewhere. It seems racing ceased in the 1930s and 1940s, and the increasing number of pleasure boats on the river stood between the club and extinction, as they provided the sole justification for its continuance.

Faced with mounting dents, the club took some drastic economising measures, even ceasing its affiliation to the IARU and selling its fine and clinker four – although it always refused to sell its trophies.

From its earliest days, the club had a fleet of pleasure boats that seated about six people, and a trip to Knockbeg Weir took about an hour. In the 1920s, the club had a number of family boats and these held 20 people in comfort, and there were regular picnics an island in the river below Milford.

The last fleet of pleasure boats was bought in the 1940s. By 1962, the club had 16 boats that they were tied each night under the third and fourth arches of Graiguecullen Bridge. They lasted until the mid-1960s, when they finally fell apart from old age.

Meanwhile, under the leadership of WL (Billy) Duggan, Bill Fenlon and Jim Oliver, the club refused to die. They decided on a new start, to rebuild the club, to refurnish it and to buy new equipment. By 1952, racing had been revived, a new era began.

A clinker four was fitted and rigged by the Dublin University Boat Club boat-keeper, the Carlow regatta was revived and three cups were available for competition.

The centenary celebrations in 1959 included a special annual general meeting, a centenary dinner and a successful regatta with Senior Eights rowing for the first time in Carlow, followed by the inter-provincial championships, won by Leinster. This was the first time ever that the inter-provincial championship was rowed outside Dublin and it was allocated to Carlow to mark the centenary.

A 125th anniversary souvenir booklet is the source for most information on the early days of Carlow Rowing Club. At the close of the centenary general meeting, it was resolved that that the minutes were to be preserved and read at the 200th celebrations.

Meanwhile, the club remained at the shed on the south side of the bridge until 1962, when it moved a few hundred yards north of the bridge to a building once owned by the Grand Canal Company, which ceased operating in 1960.

The new club house at The Quay was opened on 27 May 1962 by DJ Gourley, President of the Irish Amateur Rowing Union.

Women’s rowing has been part of Carlow Rowling Club since 1964, when the first crew was recruited, and the Carlow women were unbeaten during the1965 season.
By the 1960s, the Carlow regatta had become Ireland’s top regatta, with well-run events, running to schedule and with efficiency. In 1967 the club was presented with a sculling trophy that had been missing for 100 years until it was found in England.

The present clubhouse was redeveloped in the 1970s and reopened on 12 September 1973.

Jesus College Boat Club, Cambridge … a link between Carlow and Cambridge dates back to the boat race in 1876 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Lord Action, who presented the Acton Cup to Carlow Rowing Club, was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge in 1895. But there is another connection between Carlow and Cambridge through one of the many oars hanging in the clubhouse. This one, with nine names on it and the date is Saturday 8 April 1876, is one of the eight oars used in the Oxford-Cambridge boat race in 1876. The oar was presented to the club in 1973 by Pierre E Gamier of Tankardstown, Tullow, on behalf of his grand uncle and godfather, TE Hockin of Jesus College, Cambridge.

Hockin rowed in the No 6 seat of the Cambridge crew that won the boat race in 1876. Hockin and C Gurdon were also the winners of the Magdalene Pairs that same year, and Hockin was head of the river seven times, a record unlikely to be broken.

Hockin continued rowing for Cambridge for the next four years, dead-heating in 1877, when the bow in the Oxford boat damaged his oar. They lost to Oxford in 1878 but were compensated in 1879 by winning the race again. Hockin continued his association with rowing for many years as a coach in Cambridge.

Carlow Rowing Club celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2009.

The Carlow Regatta remains one of the oldest and best attended regattas in Ireland, with teams travelling from all over the country to compete. The 2016 Carlow Regatta took place this on 4-5 June, with an entry of 340 crews.

Other events held by Carlow Rowing Club include the Head of the Barrow, where members of Carlow Rowing Club compete against each other for the title. Carlow Rowing Club also travels to regattas and other events across Ireland, and the rowing teams continue to be a pleasant sight in Carlow Town when they practice almost every evening.

As I left Carlow late on Saturday, I was reminded of another dictum from the pen of Lord Acton: ‘The knowledge of the past, the record of truths revealed by experience, is eminently practical, as an instrument of action and a power that goes to making the future.’

Saturday afternoon at Carlow Rowing Club (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)