And so begins the third international conference of the (Anglican) Society of Catholic Priests (SCP) in Canterbury, Kent. Eight members from Australia are in attendance and we are gathered with members from England, Canada and the US. Our theme is “Turbulent Priests and the Saints of Canterbury”
Our conference is located in the near new facilities of Canterbury Christ Church University, centred around Augustine House. It is a pleasant stroll to the cathedral, particular in this perfect weather.
We were seated in the quire for Choral Evensong this evening and returned after dinner for a candlelight pilgrimage – a private spiritual team in the cathedral. This was very special.
We gathered by the font as dusk set in and prayed and chanted out way through the darkened cathedral, past the Compass Rose, representing the Anglican Communion and the home of pilgrims to Canterbury from around the world.
We walked through the underpass built for pilgrims so as not to disturb the monks in prayer above.
This led to the Martyr Chapel, the scene of the murder of St Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury to Henry II, on 29 December 1170. The spot is marked by a small altar with the word ‘Thomas’ in red on the floor.
Above is a dramatic wall sculpture of swords which, with their shadows reminds us of the four knights who killed Thomas.
From there we processed through the crypt,
to Our Lady Undercroft, a most moving chapel of peace, and in the darkness, a most holy place.
We then journeyed up the pilgrim steps (no I didn’t do this on my knees, although we were invited to do so) to the place of the Shrine of Thomas Becket, destroyed in the English Reformation, but marked with a single candle.
It as here, adjacent to the Chair of St Augustine, the cathedra of the Archbishops of Canterbury throughout the history of the English church,
that we celebrated the evening service of Compline (traditional language), and subsequently left some of our candles at the shrine.
We then passed the memorials to other Canterbury saints, St Alphege and St Dunstan and on to the chapel of St Anselm
An evening not to be forgotten.