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The Clare Priory
The Order of Augustinians
By Steve Martin
On the 750th anniversary of the Order of Augustinians, BBC Radio Suffolk's Stephen Martin went to Clare priory in Suffolk to look at the work of 21st century friars.
Augustinian friars came to England in the 13th century. Their first priory was at Clare and nearly eight centuries later they are still there, working in the local Catholic parish and in homes, schools, hospitals and prisons.
As well as its work in the community, the priory provides a place of retreat for people who need to get away from the stresses of modern life.
The Clare Priory
The Order of Augustine was established in Rome in 1256, when groups of Augustinian hermits came together in the Grand Union. These men lived according to the rule of St. Augustine of Hippo, a fourth century saint from north Africa.
His rule lays great stress on communal life and the search for God together, principles that the friars at Clare still follow.
Like all the other religious houses in the country, Clare was closed down by Henry VIII in 1537. The priory buildings fell to ruin while the 14th century prior’s house became a private home.
In 1953, the Augustinians moved back in. The process of rebuilding has been going on ever since. The prior’s house now forms the core of the priory where the community of four friars, a nun and a lay volunteer live, and where the daily prayers and Mass are held for the community, visitors and parishioners.
The only other surviving priory building – once used as a barn – is now the parish church. The priory and the parish work closely together and the result is a thriving congregation which has already outgrown the outgrown the church. There are plans for an extension.
R&R not B&B
In recent years Clare priory has been welcoming people on retreat. It has built a block of hotel-standard rooms used by people of all faiths from all over the UK and abroad.
But Clare is not a cosy B&B in the country. “A lot of the people who come here have very broken lives,” says parish priest Fr. Ben O’Rourke.
He says Clare provides people with the quiet and the space to rediscover themselves and to deepen their faith. “People who come here say they experience a peace the minute they enter the place and they find they can relax and be at ease.
“Clare is a place where people can share their pain perhaps receive some help and go away refreshed.”
last updated: 16/07/2008 at 11:13
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