My favourite place in St Beuno's

Published on 19 Jan 2020
Like those who lift infants to their cheeks. Image credit: Judith Irving.

by Judith Irving

From Chapel Gallery, I step through the door marked ‘Rooms 19, 20 and 21 & Chapel’ and enter a place at the heart of the House: the threshold to the Main Chapel. I stand in the Sacristy. This is my favourite place in St Beuno’s.

In a way, this is not so much a place, but rather, more of a space – a space to set for something else and move through. Nonetheless, and perhaps because of this, the Sacristy has a certain atmosphere and personality, and therefore, if you will, purpose. It speaks of and invites intention (and as I reflect now, attention). It beckons a welcome to equip for prayer and worship. The Sacristy is then, a ‘through’ space but not like a stairwell, parking lot, hotel lobby, lift or airport in which one might endure a distracted or stressful wait or queue. Rather, the Sacristy, it seems to me, is a space of preparation; preparation of precious and meaningful things as well ourselves. As such, its hue of particularly contained slowness, lingering almost, silence and promise encourages and swells presence and prayerfulness. I imagine this has been created and deepened by so many who have silently and reverently negotiated this space a multitude of times before me over numerous years. It receives me, and perhaps then, this is what, for me, gives it it’s hue of rest and alertness, flow and stillness: readiness and readying.

Through the door, and then, standing in the Sacristy space, the first things that can be seen are the statue and portrait of Saint Ignatius, the list of Mass readings, the oak plan chests containing vestments (red and white), Doris Klein’s beloved book Journey of the Soul (over which countless retreatants have gazed upon and leafed through), the icon of Mary of Sorrows, the Paschal candle, the deep blue and Celtic Welshness of the ceramic water stoup hanging on the wall at the Chapel’s entrance and the beautiful, slate depiction of a mother embracing her child: Like those who lift infants to their cheeks.

There’s also the little ‘kitchen’ where the items for Holy Communion are kept: altar breads, wine, chalices, the silver ciborium, the pottery jugs, the key for the music cabinet. There’s a peacefulness to this little room with its sink, water and towels. One of my favourite jobs of the House is when I’m liturgist and my task is to set up here to prepare the Chapel for Eucharist; or then at the end of Mass, with fellow team members, to wash and tidy up. 

Further on, through another door, is the gallery above the Chapel, where the large wooden cupboard stands, containing many more vestments (green, white, red, purple), more supplies of candles and altar breads and the beautiful Monstrance as well as a sundry of other things, too many and varied to mention here (but worth exploring later…). Then more drawers and shelves holding piles of finger towels, corporals, purificators, CDs, Missals, incense burners and another door leading to more places for prayer and the St Agnes Chapel. The Sacristy functions as a bridge almost, mediating between spaces, places, experiences and encounters. It’s a kind of hushed announcement bonding silence to an even greater depth of silence. A good place to hang around, or breeze through!