Page 6, 4th June 1948

4th June 1948
Page 6
Page 6, 4th June 1948 — TheMaker ofModern Downside Hugh Edmund Ford (First A bbot of

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Organisations: General Chapter, Divine Office
Locations: Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh


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TheMaker ofModern Downside Hugh Edmund Ford (First A bbot of

Downside) by Dom Bruno Hicks, Fifth Abbot. (Sands, 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by WOR HAEL ABBOI Ford was a " typical " Englishman — which, as Dorothy Sayers once reminded us, is a$ much as to say that his

father's first known ancestor went

to Bristol from Edinburgh, while his mother was born in Dublin of Ayrshire stock ! His initiation into the Anglo-Benedictine life of 1868 was interrupted by ill-health, which, as Bishop, Hedley reminded him in a wonderful ordination letter, caused it to be " irregular and broken."

After picaresque wanderings in Australia—where the future liturgist sang " Webbe's Mass and Mazzinghi's Sanctus " at a church-opening! —he returned to the Downside of 1876 as a schoolmaster. became its Prior in 1885, and incurred such criticism that hy 1889 he was out of his monastery, and, eventually, got "faculties" to form a "Mission"

parish at Beccles. " Servabit odorem --the exiled monk " laid strong emphasis on the Sacred Liturgy . his idea of worship was the old idea—' objective ' as against the more modern or ' subjective' one . . spiritual betterment can he provided for by meditation, retreats, confraternities, and private devotions—but these should never supplant the official worship and praise of God."

Back to Downside in 1894, as Prior, he inspired the formation of " a new regime," inaugurated the Priory at Ealing—which has recently attained independence — and, in spite of had health and the opposition of the " mission " element in the Community—two to one—became its first Abbot in 1900. DOM Bruno, his fifth successor at

Downside, devotes 38 pages to the "Constitutional Controversy " which " convulsed" the English Benedictines for twenty years. As leader of a young minority, pitted against " the higher Superiors, the General Chapter and the bulk of the rank and file," Dom Hugh " receive the hardest knocks." Was the " missionary " or the "monastic" ideal to predominate 7 Prior Gas.quet was a sick man, so was Prior Ford — yet they and a handful of young idealists put into proportion the traditional ethos of Benedictinism—which begins with Liturgy and goes on to Pedagogy.

The ex-Prior who, in 1888, had been relegated to Little Malvern ',without faculties" (connect p. 62 and p. 126) returned to wield the crozier to such effect that the Downside of our days is an Abbey with a School attached.

Through the ups-and-downs of a remarkable career " he had only one

mood—that of serenity." Like Moses, he did not enter the Land of his ideal, but five years after his peaceful death, the Abbey which so nobly houses the " Opus Del " was consecrated in all its glory.

The honest narrative of Dom Bruno, rather cut into by details of controversy, gives an unvarnished portrait of a real man. In various exiles Dom Hugh must have practised his own precept " There are souls to save and potatoes to plant wherever we go." He was no " Mystic," and knew nothing of " states " of prayer, but " to attend his Mass, or to watch him at Divine Office . . . gave one the impression that . . . the things of Earth had ceased to be realities . . . his soul was alone with God." It is good to have the record of a highly individual personality—the depiction of Abbot Ford, and not the stockmodel of " A Holy Abbot " as offered in the Rue S. Sulpice !

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