Thursday, April 16, 2009

Greyfriars and Discalced Carmelites in an ancient Catholic Sacred Place


The Old Cross of Lanherne

I posted a picture of this yesterday on this blog and it is worth talking about in detail. It is one of the most beautifully carved crosses in the Celtic world and is in a good state of preservation.It is made of Pantewan stone which is softer and more easily worked than granite, and this probably accounts for the greater skill of workmanship than some others.

There are crosses in the West Country and Cornwall ,like this one, wearing tunics, rather than the more usual loin cloth.They seem to be of a boy, although you can't really tell. It could be a crudely carved man. Popular tradition claims these were made to commemmorate Christ's possible visits to Britain with his Uncle Joseph of Arimathea, during the eighteen years from the finding in the Temple to the beginning of his ministry at 30.The archeologist Denis Price writes 'Some say the crosses show Jesus figure as triumphant , which is different from the standard crucifixes Many people have remarked on these special 'tunic 'crosses.

This particular one seems to commemorate St Issey.

and interesting alternative
Blessed Ide was identified with St Issey and Irish Martyr

ROHUL was the artist. (similar to the Cross at Sancreed)


There is a relic of the martyr St Cuthbert Mayne at Lanherne, which has already been mentioned. Sometimes the nuns loan it for the pilgrimage and procession at Launceston, when the hly relic is carried in procession through the streets of the town.

There is a set of vestments made by Lady Lovel for the opening of the Antwerp Carmel in 1619 and was born by Bishops of Plymouth sometimes in the 20th century. The Community also has ten of the English Martyrs , which arrived via a Mary Gifford from Staffordshire. She presented herself as a postulant and was admitted on April 8th 1681, taking the name Sister Mary of the English Martyrs. Her own father had been imprisoned for the Faith and she told the nuns how her father had drawn the martyrs o the eve of their execution. He succeeded but, in fact, he was not a trained artist.


With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts.

The penances and austerities of the sisters are offered for the conversion of sinners, the increase of the Faith and the Help of Apostolic Mission, especially the priesthood. Mental prayer is the essence of Carmelite life, twice a day the Community assemble in choir for this purpose. The recitation of the Divine Office, the Holy Mass and visits to the Blessed Sacrament take up a large part of the day. Two hours are allowed for recreation.

Meals are all taken in common but much of the time the sisters are in their cells meditating in silence on the laws of God and busy at some work. undertaken in a spirit of poverty and to supply the needs of the Community.There is plenty of time for penance and self-sacrifice. Abstinence from meat is perpetual-except in sickness- and every day, except Sundays from Septemeber 14 to Easter is a fast day Eggs and milk are also forbidden during Lent and Fridays throughout the year.

The bed of a Carmelite is a peliasse of straw without a matress and with wool sheets; six hours of sleep permitted in summer and seven in winter. The habit too suggests poverty and penance; it is of course brown cloth with a scapular of the same material, a leathern girdle round the waist and sandals on the feet. The veil is black over a white wimple and a large white mantle is worn over he habit for solomn ceremonies and solomn officers in choir.

The enclosure is strict and their wallas and grilles shut them off from the world and prevent them from seeing it. So they are safe from annoyance and distraction and have freedom and peace and offer themselves up to God in silence on behalf of souls in danger and perishing in the world's uproar.'


It was very hard to find this enclosure,but having arrived at St Mawgan, and turn left immediately after the church, we saw the sign going down the hill to the Convent and the Greyfriars who are the priests for te Convent. Firstly we were really blown away by the beauty of the garden and the Lourdes Grotto.On the left hand side was the Convent , which was an Elizabethan style building, though not the typical black and white building. We walked down to the right toards the chapel and came into see the Tunic Cross in the old burial ground of the sisters.

Entering the little chapel, the entrance seemed very plain, though festooned with all the activities in the chapel and the fact that the Tridentine Mass was the approved form of the Mass there, and at 8 am every morning. Also on the right hand side of the altar, was another alta, overlooking the grille behind wich the sisters gather to pray in this holy place, hallowed by so many martyrs for the Old Faith. Also God has to be glad. that this very ancient site is still a site for his worship.

The artefacts in the chapel were beautiful, with a fine statue of the Hly Mother. Leaving the chapel, we walked out and were met by Father George who discussed the history ofmthe chapel and the prophecies of Fatima. There was a small repository inside the main door of the Convent, selling books and icons.A cheery brother greeted us as he came in from the gardening. Standng outside in the sunshine, you could smell the flowers and the wild garlic all around the perfectly kept gardens. The birds were singing and the sun really warm as Father George argued about where we should stand. It was a lovely day and we made up our minds to return , and this time look inside St Mawgan's church as well!!!

1 comment:

Pam said...

Hello, Firstly can I congratulate on a very good blog - full of inspiration and interest. However, I have to make a correction. I live very near Lanherne in Cornwall. The convent you describe so beautifully is no longer in the possession of the Carmelite Order and therefore you are not describing the daily life of the Carmelites sisters who once lived there (moved away to St. Helen's Lancashire approx. 6 years ago). The current residents are Franciscans of the Immaculate (FMI). I write as a secular member of the Discalced Carmelite Order.

love and prayers, Pam Murray OCDS