How the Cenacle Nuns Came to Grayshott
On Saturday, May 28, the nuns of the Cenacle at Grayshott will keep the first jubilee of the opening of their Hampshire house, which is also the English novitiate of their Society.
The ceremonies are to begin with Pontifical High Mass, at ten o'clock, sung by the Bishop of Portsmouth, and at four in the afternoon there is to be a procession of the Blessed Sacrament.
It may be of interest to recall something of the history of Grayshott's Cenacle.
The story begins in November, 1890, when Mr. Vertue, owner of The Court at Grayshott, who had recently been received into the Catholic Church, was confirmed by his friend and namesake, Mgr. Venue, Bishop of Portsmouth.
A little oratory was fitted up in one of the rooms and the following morning Mr. Vertue and his wife, who was a Catholic, attended the Bishop's Mass at the house of their neighbour, Sir Archibald Macdonald, on the other side of the common.
Effects from a Slow Horse
In those days it was a long drive and the Bishop on his return to the Court cornmented on the distance and asked his hosts what facilities they had for receiving the Sacraments.
The following morning the Bishop felt it his duty to say Mass again at Sir Archibald's house and it happened, not altogether undesignedly, that the horse which drew the episcopal brougham was a very slow one; his Lordship arrived back at the Court tired and exhausted.
" You cannot go on like this he said to his hostess. " Would you like to have Mass in the house once a week?"
Needless to say the offer was joyfully accepted, but hardly had the happy arrangement been made and the first Mass said when, in the absence of Mr. and Mrs. Vertue, the house was burnt to the ground.
It was decided to rebuild, and the Bishop suggested the addition of a chapel and promised them the happiness of having the Blessed Sacrament under their roof and a daily Mass.
The New Chapel
During the rebuilding a tempcsrary chapel was erected. The Bishop said the first Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows, 1891; this little chapel was served first by the Premonstratentian Fathers, then at Farnborough, and later by the Franciscans from Chilworth.
At first, the congregation consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Vertue, and three servants, but gradually outsiders began to attend. In those early days if anyone wished to go to confession before Communion the others present had to vacate the little chapel and wait on the staircase.
A few years later, however, the new house was finished and, on June 26, 1895, Fr. Gallwey, SI, blessed the new chapel, dedicated to Our Lady Immaculate.
A resident priest was appointed, the Rev. O'Callaghan, under whose charge the tiny congregation rose to thirty and several families of lapsed Catholics were brought back to the Faith.
Building of the Church On Easter Sunday, 1909, one hundred people heard Mass at the Court, not, indeed, all in the chapel, for they overflowed to the stairs, the corridors, and to the drawing-room. It became evident that Grayshott should have its own church. The Bishop's consent was obtained and St. Joseph's was built in the grounds of The Court and consecrated on the Feast of St. Anne, 1911.
The question now arose what use could be made of the house and chapel.
During a retreat at the Cenacle, Stamford Hill, Mrs. Vertue offered Grayshott as a Retreat House to Mother d'Agliano.
The Rev. Mother replied that such a house was exactly what she was looking for and shortly after Mrs. Vertue was able to invite her down to inspect The Court.
It was on a beautiful October day that Rev. Mother d'Agliano and Mother WoganBrowne came down to The Court and Mrs. Vertue tells us she could see Grayshott "creeping into their hearts."
After the permission of the MotherGeneral had been obtained, Mrs. Vertue was able to hand over The Court to the nuns and the house became the Convent of Our Lady of the Cenacle.
Since that day twenty-five years ago the history of the Grayshott Cenacle has been one of steady progress, and today the Retreat House at Grayshott is known to Catholics from all parts of the world, no less than 18,509 persons having made a eelreat there since the House was opened.