In the beginning…
…there were two. In January 1990 (I forget the exact date), two young men (John and Wayne) were sent off to the monastery at Minsteracres to begin their formation as postulants. In September of that same year they were joined by two other youngsters to begin their novitiate with the Passionists. Thomas had already been a part of the community at St Joseph’s, Highgate for a number of years whilst finishing his studies. Jeroen was also a member of the Passionist community at St Gabriel’s monastery, Haastrecht, again, as a student. Fr Aelred Smith CP was to be our novice master; and as novices we hung on every word he uttered! And so, Br’s Thomas, Jeroen, John and Edward (Wayne) set out on their voyage of self discovery, immersing themselves into passionist life and the spirituality of our holy founder, St Paul of the Cross.
The novitiate was an exciting yet very busy time for the four but they were blessed with countless instruction and tutoring from Fr’s Aelred, Luke, Mark, Frans, Paulinus, Benedict, Colum and Austin to name but a few. They also had the good fortune to experience passionist life in Northern Europe, namely the Netherlands, Germany and France (unfortunately the Maldives wasn’t on the itinerary!) where they were taught much about the international congregation. There are far too many stories of their exploits to write here but they were to be gladly shared in the spirit of brotherly love at the long awaited reunion.
Some 29 years have passed since those formative days in the novitiate and it was high time for a reunion. On 23rd August 2019 the four brothers were finally reunited at the place where it all began, Minsteracres Retreat. Here we spent the whole weekend together, remembering stories of days gone by along with our hopes and dreams for the future. With much laughter, food and wine (the latter courtesy of the Rector!) an enjoyable time was had by all. We were in total agreement of just how fortunate we had been (and not realised at the time) to share community life with each other but also those very wise, holy and learned passionists that shared their lives with us. We are and will be forever indebted to them. It was more than evident that although some of us were a little rounder (not including Jeroen!) and greyer, the passionist spirituality still courses through our veins and the holy sign sealed upon our hearts. Each, in our own way, keeping alive the memory of the passion in both the congregation and the community of the passion.
We were all in agreement that too many years had passed by without getting together and so our story is set to continue, with each other.
These few paragraphs are dedicated to those who played a vital role in our formative years, many of whom are no longer with us.
In fond, grateful and loving memory of Aelred our novice master, a humble, wise, learned and holy man who made us the passionists that we are today.
May he rest in peace.