Pope John Paul II had a very busy schedule on Saturday, May 29, 1982, during his visit to Great Britain. He made this address to the members of religious orders, participated in the prayer service at Canterbury, and celebrated Mass at Wembley Stadium. In this address, he recalls the history of religious orders in England, passing over the Dissolution of the Monasteries and highlighting the career of Venerable Mary Ward.
Saturday, 29 May 1982
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I wish to express my special joy at this meeting. You are here in such large numbers as representatives of all the religious of England and Wales. On the eve of Pentecost you are here to renew your religious vows. With the Pope, the Successor of Peter, you will proclaim before the whole Church that you believe in your consecration; that it is your call to follow Christ which inspires your joy and your peace. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4, 4). 2.
You worthily continue a tradition that goes back to the dawn of English Christian history. Augustine and his companions were Benedictine monks. The great monastic foundations of Anglo-Saxon and mediaeval times were not just the staging posts for evangelization; they were also the centres of learning and the seedbeds of culture and civilization. Places such as Canterbury, Jarrow, Glastonbury and St Albans are indicative of the role monasticism played in English history. Men like Bede of Jarrow, Boniface of Devon who became the Apostle of the Germans, and Dunstan of Glanstonbury who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 960; women such as Hilda of Whitby, Walburga and Lioba, and many others - these are famous names in English history. Nor can we forget Anselm, or Nicholas Breakspear, born at Abbots Langley, who became Pope Adrian IV in 1154.
In Norman times this army of Christ reached new splendour with the foundation of monasteries of Cistercians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites and Augustinians. Later, religious life suffered greatly. English religious communities were scattered and destroyed, or fled to foreign lands. It is impossible here to name all the men and women religious of this period who followed our Lord to the point of giving their lives in defence of their faith. To that unhappy age belonged also an extraordinary Yorkshire woman, Mary Ward, who became a pioneer of the active unenclosed congregations for women.
The last century saw an amazing rebirth of religious life. Hundreds of religious houses, schools, orphanages, hospitals and other social services were established. Missionary congregations spread the faith in distant lands.