The musical Sweet Charity has that wonderful song The Rhythm of Life. There is the line, ‘Spread the religion of the rhythm of life’ and that is certainly something we in St Cuthbert’s agree with. There is a rhythm to our lives, which once discovered, can enable us to not only navigate life’s hazardous path successfully yet also enrich our contribution to the welfare of the world.

QuarrI speak of course of the rhythm of prayer. Close to St Cuthbert’s is Quarr Abbey, home to the monks of Solesmes following the rule of Sr Benedict. We often make a day pilgrimage to Quarr, and it is a favourite trip for those making their retreat in the Oratory. We usually arrive in time for the monks office of Sext at 1.00 PM in the chapel. From there we make our way to the Pilgrim’s Chapel for personal prayer and contemplation.

At Quarr, each and everyday is measured by the monks’ times of prayer. Their day begins with Vigils, at 5.30 am, a series of readings both from scripture and the Fathers of the Church with some prayer. This is followed by breakfast before the monks gather again for Lauds, from the Latin for praise, and consists of readings from the psalms and focussed prayers. It always concludes with the Benedictus. This sets the rhythm for the monks’ day and in all they gather to pray seven times each day, the final service called Compline from the Latin to complete. This is said at 8,00 PM.

Of course this rhythm of prayer is not the sole preserve of religious houses or full time monks and nuns. They too have to attend to work that generates an income and at Quarr, alongside an active small holding managed by the monks with support from Lay brothers and sisters, there is an fully working book bindery and of course regular building maintenance. The commitment to a rhythm of prayer acts as a map through their day, with the full recognition that prayer is the essential work of the Kingdom of God.

I was recently introduced to a book entitled, ‘The Contemplative Pastor‘ by Eugene Petereson. The reviews sound amazing and interestingly this Presbyterian pastor of Calvinist persuasion writes,

I want to cultivate my relationship with God.  I want all of life to be intimate – sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously – with the God who made, directs, and loves me.  And I want to waken others to the nature and centrality of prayer.  I want to be a person in this community to whom others can come without hesitation, without wondering if it is appropriate, to get direction in prayer and praying.  I want to do the original work of being in deepening conversation with the God who reveals himself to me and addresses me by name.  I don’t want to dispense mimeographed hand-outs that describe God’s business; I want to witness out of my own experience.  I don’t want to live as a parasite on the first-hand spiritual life of others, but to be personally involved with all my senses, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.’ (pp. 19-20)

The challenge for you, as it is for us here in the Oratory, is to resist replacing prayer with worthy activity. My whole evangelical tradition trained me well,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA yet left me with an overriding sense that God’s success was in some way related to my deeds; and this from a tradition that claimed its heritage from Luther and trumpeted his contention that we are saved by faith alone, Sola Fide! Yet, it is time to recognise and reinstate the daily rhythm of prayer that we can each manage comfortably, for in spite of our many worthy Christian deeds, not one of us can save the world. Superman, as with all super heroes, is a work of fiction and a fictional creation birthed from the longing in every human heart, the longing for a Saviour who delivers righteousness and justice for all. I am content to acknowledge that this Saviour is Jesus, not a fictitious character but the son of God and rescuer of humanity who invites us to pray in co-operation with the will and way of God.

Here in St Cuthbert’s prayer begins with Vigils. At breakfast we light a candle and pray one psalm, or part of a psalm, before people set off to work. The office of Morning Prayer is then said for those who remain in the house. At 1.00 PM we stop to pray for 15 minutes and at 5.00 PM  say evening prayer before Compline at 8.00 PM. The day concludes at bedtime with verses set for the evening in ‘Living Light‘.

It is not the amount of prayer that counts, nor the formality of such prayer. However, it is a rhythm that directly impacts me and also the community way beyond the Oratory’s walls. There are also so many useful resources – just recently I downloaded a great App from the Apple store called, ‘3 minute retreat‘ by Loyola Press. This is a great place to start, perhaps a brilliant midday or lunchtime prayer tool.

I have written at length today as one of the roles of St Cuthbert’s Oratory is to be a House of Prayer and if you have prayer requests please email them through to and we shall pray with and for you in line with that request.

As the songs says,

And The Rhythm Of Life is a powerful beat,
Puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet,
Rhythm in your bedroom,
Rhythm in the street, 
Yes, The Rhythm Of Life is a powerful beat’

I trust this becomes your experience as it is ours here in St Cuthbert’s. Be encouraged as you love and serve God.