On 5th March each year we celebrate the feast of Saint Ælred of Rievaulx, the great 12th century Cistercian Abbot and spiritual writer. We always keep the day as a Solemnity, as it marks a very important anniversary of our community: the day when the Anglican monks of Caldey were received into the Catholic Church in 1913. Those monks moved from Caldey in 1928, leaving the monastery in the capable hands of the Cistercians, and made their home at Prinknash Park near Gloucester. It was from Prinknash that Pluscarden was refounded in 1948.
This year, the day was especially joyful in that it was also the occasion of the Solemn Profession of our brother Ælred McColm. The ceremony is a long and beautiful one, set within the monastic Conventual Mass. The brother making his profession is prayed over by all the other solemnly professed monks. He reads out loud the manuscript of his profession chart, in which his three monastic vows of Obedience, Stability and Conversion of Life (which includes the religious vows of Poverty and Chastity) are declared before the congregation. He then signs it and places it on the altar, and then sings three times the psalm verse: "Uphold me by your promise and I shall live: let my hope not be in vain." (Ps. 118:116), which the other monks repeat after him, in ascending pitch. After this, the brother is prayed over again, and then receives his monastic Cowl and the Psalter, which is to be the sustenance of his life of prayer.
Brother Ælred was supported by his family, who were able to come and stay with us for a few days, and a happy and memorable time was enjoyed by all. After the Mass, we celebrated with a festive lunch in the cloister, cooked and served (as usual) by the monks.