Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Prayerful Poetic Retreat with Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ

The Jesuits in Britain have posted this ten-part reflection on Gerard Manley Hopkins' life and poetry as a "Pray As You Go" retreat. One of their biographical postings on Hopkins notes that "It was during his time in the rural tranquility of St Beuno's that he found most encouragement and inspiration for the poetry for which he is now famous."

More on St. Beuno's in rural north Wales:

St Beuno's College was built in 1848 as a place for Jesuits to study theology. Up to this time prospective Jesuit priests studied in Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, but the increasing numbers put a strain on the old buildings. So in 1846, the then Provincial Superior of the British Jesuits, Fr Randal Lythgoe, when visiting the Jesuit parish in Holywell travelled to see some farm land that the Society of Jesus owned near Tremeirchion and immediately decided that this should be the site for his new ‘theologate’. In early Victorian days when epidemics of typhoid and cholera regularly swept cities, the country air of North Wales was considered a healthy place to prepare the young men to go into the new industrial towns and cities to serve in schools and parishes.

The architect was Joseph Aloysius Hansom, of Hansom Cab fames. Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit poet who studied at St Beuno's College from 1874-7, described the building in a letter to his father: "It is built of limestone, decent outside, skimping within, Gothic like Lancing College done worse".

Hopkins was certainly inspired to begin to write a play about St. Winifrede's Well. St. Winifrede was St. Beuno's niece, and her Holy Well survived the English Reformation, remaining a site of pilgrimage. Blessed Edward Oldcorne visited the Holy Well and was cured of throat cancer, and James II and his queen Mary Beatrice of Modena visited the well hoping to conceive and safely deliver a male child. More about St. Beuno here

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