A SCHOOL FOR SANCTITY
'C.H.7 Reporter IN the loveliest garden of Surrey, 900-foot-high Beacom Hill, an older priest might dearly love to vegetate; but not so Fr. Terence Tanner, the 42-year-old incumbent of this parish, the smallest in the Southwark diocese, who *either looks his age, nor acts it.
No hospital, no school, barely 100 Catholics. For there is a grand mission to perform, the hardest of all, to inculcate perfect charity and parochial unity. If Fr. Tanner succeeds, he will have made saints.
He assumes that he is dealing with an educated community, people of intelligence who know the rudiments of apologetics, the duty of charity and unity. His first lessons to them had been very much on the theme of Si. John's " love one another." and in the process of his parishioners' initiation he had reminded them that " one of the pitfalls of Christians is to think that their religion is only a question of their persopal acceptance and love of God; it is as important to remember that our religion is very much a question of our personal acceptance of one another,"
How much success has there been in reaching up to this ideal from the heights of Beacon Hill? I don't know, neither does Fr. Tanner. Only God knows that.
But the following are among the things that should help them keep on reaching up.
Men in executive positions in London, women, too, who often have to travel up to town, the wives who remain at home — all are taught that at 8 a.m., at about the time Fr. Tanner consecrates at Mass, this prayer of parish unity is to be whispered by the seasonticket holder poring over his paper in the first-class compartment, the wife finishing her breakfast: " We are people of faith linked together that the Lord our Love may live through us." At 9 a.m. in an empty church, Fr. Tanner stands at the altar, Si lently blesses absent parishioners. They know of that blessing: wherever they are, they repeat the prayer, and add: " that the Lord our love may be praised through us."
At Beacon Hill, initiation into the school for saints — isn't each parish just such a school ? — came with Fr. Tanner's often repeated lesson that " God's way is to accept us as we are, with our virtues and our vices, and let the warmth of His acceptance strengthen our will to good."
In God's way the parishioners accept one another, for better or for worse, in a bond of unity and love giving life to a precious cell of Christ's Body, "the Body of Christ on Beacon Bill," as Fr. Tanner tells them.
Just before Christmas parishioners gathered round their priest at his invitation to " discuss together just how we, in this parish, can make God live more fully among us." to quote the printed circular. There is no hall at Beacon Hill, nor altarrail in the church, so they sat in a circle round the altar.
They decided on a First Friday evening Mass, a silent hour of meditation before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the second Friday. discussion among members on mystical subjects on the third, apologetics and kindred matters on the last Friday. And they would again sit round the altar in order to mark the unity that is theirs through what happens each morning at the altar.
And each morning at the altar at least six people take it hi turns to represent the rest, at Mass and at Holy Communion. Fr. Tanner has no doubt that " the rest " do the sante for the six when in tondon they find time to hear Mass and Communicate at midday or in the evening.
'1 he Low Mass on Sunday becomes for a while a Sung Mass when the priest intones the Credo so that all may express their unity. Once a month the Mass is dialogued.
In the amplest chasuble I have seen — it reaches the feel all the way round — Fr. Tanner, hands unseen, walks down the church to be among his people when he preaches.' The vestment is completely plain at the back, and then returning to the altar he folds it over and over above the arms to make the common offering.
Parochial unity is expressed by a closed circle of 12 ever-burning lights at Beacon Hill church. The circle of tapers stands close to Our Lady's statue. "This united cell of her Son's Body is hers to watch over," says Fr. Tanner.
Priority number one with Fr. Tanner is to make his people saints. But, like a good steward, he faithfully renders them accounts of how he spends the money they so liberally contribute towards the expenses of their parish. From time to time a detailed balance sheet is circularised, and every penny of their money is given its history since its offering.