‘Look, I’m completely gothic.’

November 18, 2009

The title comes from a funny story I remember. At Downside we had the tradition of two hours of manual labour every afternoon. Following work the community gathered in the refectory for tea. It was a good opportunity to meet guests and catch up on the news (yeah … I was a terrible monk!). One regular guest was the charming Father Michael Clifton, now a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark. He longed to be received as a Choir Oblate at Downside. One time I remember I walked into the refectory and he was telling a story, as always with great humour, I walked in just as he said, ‘and the man took off his clothes and said ‘Look, I’m completely gothic.” 

If your imagination is finding it difficult to cope with that thought I shall leave you with something far more edifying:

‘The Gothic cathedral translates the aspirations of the soul into architectural lines, and is a synthesis between faith, art and beauty which still raises our hearts and minds to God today. When faith encounters art, in particular in the liturgy, a profound synthesis is created, making visible the Invisible, and the two great architectural styles of the Middle Ages demonstrate how beauty is a powerful means to draw us closer to the Mystery of God. May the Lord help us to rediscover that “way of beauty”, surely one of the best ways to know and to love Almighty God.’

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, Rome, 18th November 2009

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