Brother Roger, C.R. -- Pilgrim of the Absolute
One of them is Brother Roger, of the Community of the Resurrection, an Anglican monastic community. I met him when he was at the CR priory in Johannesburg. He spoke at a student conference on Pilgrims of the Absolute, which made a deep impression on me, and I any my friends used to visit him regularly. He lent us books from the priory library, including several that were banned, such as Jack Kerouac's The Dharma bums. He also encouraged me to read articles in Sobornost, the journal of the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, which first made me interested in Orthodoxy.
What impressed me most about him was his love of life and other people. His attitude was that of one of the characters he quoted, who said, "Everything that happens is adorable", not in the sense that evil things that happen are good, but that even nasty and unlovely people can be loved. It was the same outlook on life expressed by the prayer of the last elders of Optina, "Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to Thy holy Will." That is a lesson I still have not learned fully.
He was very artistic, but as part of his obedience in the community he had to give up art, though he was well-known in the artistic sommunity in Johannesburg, and was often asked to open exhibitions. One he opened was by Harold Rubin, a Jewish artist, who was subsequently charged with blasphemy for a picture called "My Jesus", and Brother Roger was taken off a train to testify at the trial. Rubin was eventually aquitted.
Brother Roger Castle, CR (1895-1971), was partly of Jewish descent. His father was a timber merchant and shipbreaker, and married twice. His large family was educated by tutors and governesses, and so Roger never went to school. He had a deep and wide knowledge of European literature and art. He spoke French fluently and was able to correct an expert on the work of Jean Genet on the finer points of indecent French slang.
He ran away from home during his teens, and sold lemonade on a Rhine steamer. He spent some time living with a Lutheran pastor in Halle, and later lived in Paris in a flat below the starving and unknown painter Modigliani. There he joined a music-hall act which toured England. He served in the artillery in World War I, and was awarded the Military Cross.
After the war he became a teacher, and taught at Leominster Grammar School, and later at Victoria College, Jersey. He went to South Africa as a tutor, and encountered the Community of the Resurrection. He joined the novitiate, and the Community wanted him to become a priest, but he managed to convince them of his lay vocation. After profession he returned to Africa, and taught at St Peter's, Rosettenville and St Augustines, Penhalonga. He died on 4 June 1971.