Reverend Robert Llewelyn, who died on 6 February 2008, aged 98, was a
of England priest who spent the first 30 years of his ministry
as a schoolmaster, then became a notable teacher of prayer.
chaplain of the cell of Dame Julian of Norwich he introduced a very
large number of people to the life and writings of this English woman
mystic who lived in a small cell attached to a Norwich church at the
turn of the 14th and 15th centuries. His compilation of 200 of her
sayings sold more than 100,000 copies and was the first in a series of
small devotional books that are still widely read. His study of Julian
and of the Cloud of Unknowing,
With Pity not with Blame, is a
most seminal book.
Robert Charles Llewelyn was born at Exmouth, Devon, on July 6 1909. His great-grandmother, who lived on the Isle of Wight, was a friend of Queen Victoria.
Brought up in a devout Church of England home, he went first to Pangbourne College, with a view to entering the Navy, but this did not suit him, and he completed his schooling as head boy at King Edward VI School, Southampton.
read Mathematics at Pembroke College, Cambridge, then joined the
teaching staff of Westminster School, where Peter Ustinov and Tony Benn
were among his pupils.
After four years he was ordained by Bishop Winnington Ingram in St Paul's Cathedral and, while continuing to teach maths, spent a good deal of his off-duty time praying and meditating in the St Faith's Chapel of Westminster Abbey. He was during this time under the influence of the Cowley Fathers, whose London house was nearby.
In August 1939 Llewelyn was given a year's leave to spend with the Cawnpore Brotherhood - a missionary community in India - and he was on the last passenger ship for several years to sail through the Suez Canal.
When his year at Cawnpore ended he found it impossible to get back to England because of the war conditions and he was roped in to be headmaster of the Hallet War School.
This was established in a former Anglo-Indian school, then derelict, in the foothills of the Himalayas, and it was Llewelyn's task to create an emergency school for the children of British officials and others who could no longer be sent to public schools in England.
A temporary teaching staff was recruited from various parts of the sub-continent, and the school - which continued until the end of the war - was a great success, achieving examination results comparable to those of long-established English schools.
He returned to Westminster School as chaplain in 1945, but a year later was invited to go to the Bahamas to start a diocesan school for 11 to 17-year-olds at Nassau. He remained there until 1951, by which time St John's College was well established, with a large, mainly black, roll of pupils.
Llewelyn was now called back to India to become headmaster of Sherwood College - the Lucknow diocesan boys' school which had fallen on hard times as a consequence of independence and was in danger of closure.
Under his leadership its fortunes were reversed, and during his 15 years there the roll reached 500, many of the pupils coming from East Africa. At one point there were more than 70 Patels on the register, which often led to confusion.
He returned to England in 1966 but was immediately asked to go back to become chaplain to the Wantage Sisters - an outpost of an English community of nuns - at Poona. He also became priest-in-charge of St Mary's church and eventually archdeacon, though he preferred his ministry in the convent and the prayerful discipline of the monastic life.
Back in England again in 1972, he accepted an invitation to become warden of Bede House at Staplehurst, Kent. This was a convent of the enclosed religious order of the Sisters of the Love of God, and besides celebrating Mass and offering a priestly ministry to the nuns, Llewelyn welcomed visitors and went to other parts of the country to conduct retreats.
In 1976, when on the eve of retirement, he was asked to go to Norwich simply to be a presence in the cell of Dame Julian. The actual cell occupied by the celebrated anchoress had long disappeared - probably destroyed during the Reformation - and the church to which it had been attached was itself damaged by a wartime bomb.
The rebuilding project included a tiny chapel built on what was believed to have been the site of Julian's cell. This was not much used until Llewelyn arrived, but he used his many contacts to make its existence more widely known.
Aided by a renewed interest in Julian and an increasing concern for the place of women in the Church, the cell became, and remains, a focus of devotion and inspiration for a large number of Christians from all parts of the world. His contribution was to offer daily prayer, give talks on Julian and, when required, provide spiritual counsel to pilgrims.
Llewelyn's own spirituality was in some ways close to that of a priest of Julian's own time. He located the supernatural at every turn, and took very seriously reports of visions and voices, healings and coincidences.Without ever ceasing to be formed by the Anglican tradition, he made several visits to Medjugorje, in Bosnia, where six teenagers received visits from the Virgin Mary.
His insights into prayer were deepened by attending a Zen Buddhist retreat.
All of which contributed to the making of a priest of undoubted holiness and warm humanity, to whom many became greatly indebted, and who in 1994 was awarded the Templeton Prize for his contribution to the advancement of religion in the field of spirituality.
A Russian friend asking him about homosexuality among Church of England clergy was told by him that the priesthood, the sacrifice of the Eucharist, required in turn the sacrifice of one's sexuality. He was unmarried.
I visited him several times, always being moved by his prayerfulness, his kindness. He said to me on my last visit that I knew more about the Lady Julian than did any other. Which overwhelmed me.
JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS ©1997-2010 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY || JULIAN OF NORWICH || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME || ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN || BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM || THE CLOISTER || ITS SCRIPTORIUM || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER|| CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY ||