A Franciscan Way of Life

Brother Ramon's quest for holiness

Arthur Howells

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I recently happened across your book, 'A Franciscan Way of Life' and wanted to thank you for what you wrote. I knew Ramon when we were both members of SSF... My first encounter with him was when he visited Glasshampton... and I recall talking with him in the vegetable garden where I was working. Unfortunately, I can't remember anything of the conversation! However, what you wrote and the style in which you wrote it not only brought him vividly to mind but also inspired me on that 'quest for holiness'. I find that it is stirring something in me and I can hear Ramon speaking encouraging words... So thank you for your words and for bringing that brother of Francis and Jesus, a saint in our times, to life again.
John-Francis Friendship

Content

Be inspired by one man's unflinching faith in God. This is the first biography of Brother Ramon. It tells of his life's pilgrimage, his quest for holiness as a Franciscan friar, his inner journey of discovery and transformation, his love of God and his influence on others. The selection from his writings which concludes the book illustrates his spiritual journey. It will be an inspiration to readers to live lives fully for Jesus Christ.

Contents

    Life

  • By way of introduction
  • Early days
  • Conversion
  • Pacifism
  • The student
  • The Baptist minister
  • Becoming an Anglican
  • The quest for a solitary life
  • The Franciscan
  • On the Lleyn
  • The Tymawr years
  • The hermitage at Glasshampton
  • The great'Hullo!'
  • Letters

    Anthology

  • Journeying in faith: the pilgrimage
  • Praying and reflecting: meditation
  • Alone with God: solitude
  • Living faith: in the world
  • Books by Brother Ramon
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Endorsements

I recently happened across your book, 'A Franciscan Way of Life' and wanted to thank you for what you wrote. I knew Ramon when we were both members of SSF... My first encounter with him was when he visited Glasshampton... and I recall talking with him in the vegetable garden where I was working. Unfortunately, I can't remember anything of the conversation! However, what you wrote and the style in which you wrote it not only brought him vividly to mind but also inspired me on that 'quest for holiness'. I find that it is stirring something in me and I can hear Ramon speaking encouraging words... So thank you for your words and for bringing that brother of Francis and Jesus, a saint in our times, to life again.
John-Francis Friendship

We are all indebted to Arthur Howells for the impact of his book on Brother Ramon. His account of Brother Ramon's life is deeply moving, and the letters and anthology sections make key areas of his thought and teaching available to a wide audience. I was stirred to go and buy one of his books and I am grateful for the stimulus Arthur's book gave me to connect with Ramon's inspiring teaching on the spiritual life.He reveals him as a warm and approachable man with a great gift for teaching others and a heart filled with love for God and concern for others.
Canon George Bennett

Congratulations to Arthur Howells and BRF for producing a book which encapsulates what I knew of Br Ramon SSF. I really appreciate the way the author has blended the story of Ramon's life with extracts from Ramon's own words. And the thematic extracts from his writings provide material for individual or group reflection. Personally, I will be using the book for my daily spiritual reading, as a 'starter' for prayer. Thanks for the publication of this book which I am sure will do a lot to help keep Ramon's teaching alive.
Br Christopher John SSF, Minister General, Society of St Francis - First Order Brothers

Reviews

Review by Brother Nicholas Alan SSF in 'Franciscan' , published by the Society of Saint Francis (ISSN 0532/579X).Edition: Volume 30, Number 3, September 2018

When I was a novice at Glasshampton a highlight of my year was the opportunity, on a fairly regular basis, of going to visit the hermit resident in the huts at the bottom of the garden. Sometimes I went alone, at other times we three novices would squeeze into one of the huts as we prayed together or celebrated the Eucharist in his work hut (the chapel hut came later). These were precious times: more precious than I then knew, given the state of his health and his all too early death. Sometimes Ramon would explain volubly and with great enthusiasm the structure of his latest book; at other times he would meekly sit and listen as we or I shared our struggles with this new and strange experience of living the religious life. But he was always there: digging the garden, binding books, singing or playing his recorder, praying through the dark hours of the early morning with the wind and rain rushing through the woods and breaking over the huts likes waves on a rocky sea-shore. For a solitary, his presence was somehow ubiquitous, and for one who spent long hours in silence his voice inhabited the souls of those who talked with him; for years after his death I could hear the inflections of his voice whenever I picked up one of his books or a stray memory crossed my mind.

This book by Arthur Howells is, in a way, a meditation on Ramon's life. Written by a personal friend of Ramon, it combines both biography, and a selection of Ramon's letters and quotations from his published writings. It is warmly, though not reverentially written - a gentle introduction rather than an in-depth analysis, and certainly not an expos . Much will be familiar to those who have already read some of Ramon's books, but even those who are well-used to his work will finds things that make them search the footnotes and take the originals (many here bound by Ramon) once more from the shelves. Ramon published twenty-one books, and at Glasshampton we still receive enquiries from people who come across his writings and want to visit the monastery where he spent much of his time as an SSF friar. He may not have been a saint, but, as the sub-title of this book suggests, he was certainly on a quest for holiness. May those who read this book be similarly inspired, and come to live with him a truly Franciscan way of life.

Review by Bro Nicholas Alan SSF

Progressive Voices, June 2018. Review by Peter Varney

This provides a comprehensive account of the life and work of the Franciscan Brother Ramon. It includes an anthology of his writings and a summary of his career. Many recent BRF publications have been by evangelical writers but this one comes closer to what interests PCN members. Ramon's career started in Welsh Baptist chapels; he had a charismatic experience, and then discovered Anglo Catholic worship and the Franciscans. This multifaceted identity is shown in his writings. Howells arranges these in sections covering pilgrimage and journey, prayer and meditation, and living in the world. All provide readers with points for further exploration. It is always my hope that spiritual writers will offer help in understanding the meaning of the cross. Ramon does not disappoint when he writes: 'the crucified Christ is also the risen Christ... the cross is the tree of life, the thorn-crowned saviour is the King of Glory reigning from his throne.' His discussion of intercessory prayer, another question for many of us, may also be found helpful: 'Prayer is communion with God; this is much wider and deeper than petition or intercession. ...Our prayer is the prayer of the cosmic Christ ... within the communion of saints it contributes to an increase of hope, light and love in the world.'

The book's biographical section identifies unexpected events in Ramon's search for holiness as a hermit, and his later acceptance of the cancer which forced him back into Community at Glasshampton. Here he worked for a week, in continuous pain, with Bishop Simon Barrington-Ward on a book on the Jesus prayer. After that 'week of glory' - as they called it - Ramon became much weaker. Bishop Simon returned to find him on his deathbed and reported 'I have never come away from a deathbed actually feeling exhilarated as I did then, despite the sharp sense of loss.'

Howells summarises Ramon's life as a journey of discovery, transformation and transfiguration. His hours spent in prayer drew him close to god. His holiness did not separate him from people but drew him to them. He saw in all a spark of the divine. This is a book that will gently challenge its readers to go deeper into their own relationship with the divine.

Peter Varney

Book details

  • ISBN: 9780857466624
  • Published: 23 March 2018
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176
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