Monday, 21 October 2013

In this House of Brede

I recently finished reading Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede.  It forms an interesting counterpoint to Bugnini.

Godden's tale is about a nun (a late vocation) in the 1950s and 60s. It is, as usual with Godden, a subtle novel, sensitively plotted, with excellent characterisation and a wonderful sense of place.

In this case the place is a Benedictine monastery (as it is more correctly called, apparently) of nuns; and Godden pulls off the difficult trick of making good characters convincing and engaging.

She is not primarily interested in the changes in the Church in that period, but they form a backdrop to the novel which I, at least, found quite fascinating.  Some of the nuns are horrified at the mere idea of Mass being celebrated facing them; others are keen for change and modernisation.  Godden doesn't take sides, but presents both views with understanding and sympathy.

One of the things that comes across so powerfully, though, is what was lost with the changes; the monastery she describes as typical in its day is a complete rarity today, though some are striving to recover it.  Of course, not everything was perfect, and that too is made quite clear; but overall, it was a place of prayer and growth, where sanctity was the goal and was, I suspect, often quietly achieved.

I highly recommend this to anyone interested in Catholicism then and now...


Ttony said...

It is excellent.

Also worth a try, if you can get hold of it, is Sister Clare by Loretta Burrough, published in 1960. It is the story of a girl who joins a Carmelite monastery in 1930 and is elected Prioress by the end of the book, though finds her faith tested right up to the end. I imagine it was written as a pious help to girls' vocations, but it puts the fear of God into me, as does In This House Of Brede, in what it takes, and I do not take, for granted as the life of Catholic.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Ttony: I will seek out Sister Clare.

And your comments remind me of what I felt reading Newman's Idea of a University: what was taken for granted as normal for an educated boy in his day... Humbling indeed, just as the assumptions about normal Catholic Faith and life are in Brede. as you point out.

Recusant said...

In this House of Brede is my all time favourite book (sadly my copy is stranded in Peru). It has a very moving introduction about why and how Godden came to right the book.