Obituary: Dom Bernard Moss

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The Independent Online
Bernard Moss was a bright star in the English monastic firmament for almost half a century. For 41 of those years he was an inspired and inspiring monk-schoolmaster, teaching history to generations of boys at Worth School; for 23 years he was a much-loved Housemaster; he then, among other things, ran a highly successful School Appeal.

He was born David Reginald Moss in Calcutta and spent the first years of his life near Darjeeling where his father worked in the tea business. At the age of eight he was sent to Benedictine schools in England, first in Ramsgate and then at Downside, and did not see his parents again until he was sixteen. His school holidays were spent with aunts but they were, in Wodehouse language, good and deserving aunts, Dahlias rather than Agathas.

At Downside he narrowly escaped death in May 1943 when an aeroplane crashed on the cricket field and killed several boys; David Moss threw himself to the ground and the disintegrating plane bounced over him. After Downside came National Service, during which he either acquired, or consolidated, certain miliary characteristics - precision, orderliness, polish - which were to earn him, at Worth, the affectionate soubriquet of "Major Moss".

In 1948 he entered the novitiate at Downside, taking the name Bernard; he was solemnly professed in 1952 and ordained priest in 1954. After a year's teaching at Worth, then a dependency of Downside, he went up to Cambridge to read History, after which he returned to Worth, now independent of Downside, and was a founding father of Worth's new 19-strong, monastic community. In 1959 he was, once again, a founding father, this time of the new Senior School at Worth. In Dom Bernard's lifetime the numbers in the school increased from 28 to 335 and his personal involvement in, and contribution to, those pioneering years were crucial. In addition to Housemastering from 1962 to 1985, he taught history at all levels and did so memorably; former pupils remember, with delight, his charging down the aisle between the classroom desks, armed with a broomstick, to illustrate what happened at Rorke's Drift.

He combined a warm heart with a shy exterior and, socially, he preferred the familiar to the unexpected. He was deeply committed to his pupils to his pupils and his monastic brethren, though in a slightly formal way: a fellow monk was often "Dom" and pupils were usually "creatures" or, if particularly favoured, "monsters". He was happiest in the company of his brethren and much enjoyed going on holiday with two or three of them in the summer. He was a gracious, courteous and unthreatening person who did not seek the limelight; although he was at various times Sub-prior, Prior and Junior Master, he never aspired to be a monastic "mogul". His ambition, and pleasure, was to be fully occupied in the service of God and of others. A tireless worker, he was also a model of monastic observance and deeply committed to a life of prayer, in which he set himself the highest standards; thus, at the end of even the longest and most demanding working day, lasting eighteen or nineteen hours, he would not retire to bed without first making a special journey to the Abbey Church to recite Compline. Throughout his life there was no doubt where, for him, true north lay.

Stephen Ortiger OSB

David Reginald Moss: born Calcutta 12 March 1928; clothed as a monk of Downside Abbey 1948, solemnly professed 1952; ordained priest 1954; died Crawley, West Sussex 2 June 1996.