Quarr Abbey and Father Joe

Quarr Abbey and Father Joe January 17, 2007

When I was an Anglican priest on the Isle of Wight I spent a lot of time at Quarr (pronounced ‘core’) Abbey. Quarr is built just a few hundred yards from the ruins of a medieval abbey. The architect was Dom Bellot–one of the monks who came to the Isle of Wight from Solemses during a persecution of religion orders in the beginning of the twentieth century.
At Quarr I was priviledged to be friends with a monk who has now become pretty well known. Fr Joseph Warrilow. He’s the monk made famous Tony Hendry’s book ‘Fr Joe- the Man Who Saved My Soul’. Fr Joe was all that Hendry made him out to be–a totally humble, joyful and loving saint. Hidden away in a monastery on the Isle of Wight–he was one of many Benedictines I’ve met who’ve changed my life with their simple, down to earth holiness.

The Church at Quarr is a very holy place. You can feel the power of prayer there as soon as you enter. The church is dark, the walls punctuated with the light from the narrow windows at just the right places. The liturgy at Quarr is traditional, simple and dignified. If you don’t find God there you won’t find Him anywhere.
Quarr was my refuge when struggling with the call to become a Catholic. At the time I was the vicar of two country parishes on the Isle of Wight, just a few miles from Quarr. I would go there and pray and seek guidance.
The crunch moment came when I was there one Autumn afternoon. I had taken a walk across the fields to the ruins of the medieval abbey, then stopped in the church for Vespers and Benediction. I said to God, ‘Why this call to become a Catholic? I only wanted to serve you in the ancient Church in England.’
Then as I knelt in prayer, and the monks were chanting and the incense was rising, the little voice inside said, ‘But this is the ancient church in England…ever ancient and ever new.’
Five months later, on a frosty February night, my wife and I went back to Quarr with a few friends to be confirmed and received into full communion with that ancient church.

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  • Oh, my. This is worth a bit of research and some serious mulling. It may be the finest early 20th century Gothic/Art Deco/Something else altogether hybrid I’ve ever seen. So many buildings, so little time!

  • I love it when the 20th century does something right. What would the world be like if Europe hadn’t had the better part of two generations slaughtered in senseless wars?

  • jeron

    i’ve read tony hendra’s book & enjoyed it immensely. thanks for posting this. your picture of the church & fr. joe fleshes the story for me. benedictine spirituality is where it’s at.

  • You want to investigate the work of Dom Bellot–the Benedictine architect who created Quarr Abbey. He also did a monastery in Canada.

  • How cool that you were received into the Church at Quarr! I also read Hendra’s book.Re: Benedictine spirituality…my prior Anglican Franciscan group was actually part of an unusual “mixed order” which included a chapter of Franciscan tertiaries and a chapter of Benedictine oblates (in the eclectic way that only Anglicans can muster). It mostly worked. And each chapter did a little bit of “cross-formation” in the other’s rule, so I did some readings in Benedictine spirituality myself. If I weren’t a tertiary, I’d be an oblate…:-)And God willing, I’m making a pre-Lenten retreat at the Trappist monastery outside Atlanta.

  • Holy Spirit in Conyers! Never been but I’d love to visit sometime. I’ve been to Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky twice and returning in March for a weekend. I’m in discernment with the Trappists at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. An amazing community … so human and loving.

  • Hi Fr Dwight,I remember reading Father Joe last year. What an inspirational man! The book changed tone in the second part–to my chagrin–but I enjoyed it nonetheless.Talking of monasteries, I’m going up to Pluscarden in February! I’m very much looking forward to it. What kind of monks are they at Quarr? e.g. Benedictine, etc.Mark

  • The Monks at Quarr are Benedictines of the Solesmes congregation in France. Solesmes was begun as a monastic revival in France in the 19th c. by Dom Prosper Gueranger.

  • Thanks for that, Father.I didn’t realise… I had thought that Pluscarden was Benedictine–but now I find they’re um…Valiscaulian? Do you know what that’s about?(nag nag nag 😉

  • Nah, Pluscarden is now Benedictine – same congregation as Farnborough Abbey and Prinknash Abbey – both in England.

  • Hey, Father Dwight! I’ve been tracking your migration via Open Book and the Nat’l Catholic Register. I’m so glad that things worked out for you and the family in the Carolinas. And how cool is it that Joe Pearce is going to be in the neighborhood.I also read Tony Hendra’s book and thought it was great. Fr. Joe reminded me of a wonderful Priest who was pastor of the Church where I was received into the Catholic Church. I didn’t know you Knew Fr. Joe – what an amazing priest he was.Bob Trexler

  • Hello Bob Trexler! Could you drop me an email? Sorry to have lost touch. It would be good to meet up sometime, now that I am back on this side of the Atlantic.