A FEW years ago the Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery at Worth, West Sussex, invited a diverse group of men from civvy street to join his community for six weeks, and experience the monastic way of life.
This resulted in the acclaimed TV documentary, ‘The Monastery’ and highlighted the contrasting life styles of those in the religious setting, to life in the city of London.
Included in the volunteers were an accountant, a director from the soft porn industry, and a former member of the Northern Ireland para-military.
The TV series stressed the lows and highs of religious community living, the rule of St Benedict, the tensions, the elations and disappointments which form part of everyday life.
Some of the major difficulties which the volunteers experienced were coping with silence, the discipline of attending community prayers six times a day, silent meals and being subject to fulfilling work tasks as directed by the religious community.
In 1999, following the atrocity of the Armagh bombing the previous year, a cross community group of 10 came to Boswell House, Montrose, for an eight-day holiday.
They had been nominated by the Trauma Centre in Omagh, received free transport courtesy of P&O Ferries and Ulsterbus, and their Angus holiday was paid for by the friends of Boswell House.
The group arrived at Montrose about 9pm, having travelled from Omagh via Belfast, Larne and Stranraer, leaving home that day at 7am. On arrival the group was disparate and nobody had attempted to break down the social barriers affecting their situation.
However, after a day in Angus all were communicating with each other, and at the end of their stay were on very friendly terms with each other. (The writer visited Omagh in 2008 and confirms this to the present.)
The group of men at Worth Abbey had their ups and downs - some in tears at their attempts to cope with monastic life, while others had uplifting religious experiences resulting in the Northern Ireland former UDA member becoming an evangelist and prison visiting chaplain, speaking to prisoners of the futile pursuit of violence. The soft porn director decided to change his career at the end of his stay in the monastery, and seek alternative employment.
What the foregoing demonstrates is that for us to change our attitudes sometimes we have to change our environment and seek peace or even silence to alter our way of living for the better.
Boswell House in Montrose offers day and weekend opportunities for such - why not give it a go? You have nothing to lose, and something I am sure, to gain.
“For I will restore health unto thee and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord.”
Boswell House staff team.