A small group of 6.1 students travelled to Worth Abbey, a community of 25 Roman Catholic monks who follow the rule of St. Benedict, on 5 June for a spiritual retreat. Courtesy of Clare Jarmy, we were introduced to one of the monks, David, who showed us to our humble but comfortable accommodation. That evening he took us to the chapel where we spent 30 minutes in utter silence- a rare and special experience for people who go to a boarding school! The church itself looked like a spaceship from the outside, owing to its 1960’s design; inside it’s round shape ascends towards a window in its roof which illuminates the chapel and creates a beam of light at its heart. It was interesting to experience the transition between the arduous journey there and the peace of the chapel at night compared to that of the first 6.20am service the next morning. Despite the early start, the service was made up of psalms focused on nature and the beauty of our world which set us up for a day enthralled in monastic life. After, we walked to their quiet garden filled with flowers, trees and bird song, it also provided a beautiful view of the monastery. The second morning service ‘matins’ began just past eight back in the chapel- another psalm filled service with readings from the Old Testament.
Then, David joined us for breakfast where we had the chance to ask him about his faith and life as a Benedictine monk. David presented the very human side of being a monk which enlightened our perception of this way of Roman Catholic living. Mass followed; the third service of the day which brought a greater number of the public. Here, we were able to witness the breaking of bread and blessings- it is obligatory for the monks to partake in this daily Mass service and was special for us to join this essential part of their lives. After a brief visit to the chapel library we made lunch, thanks to a welcome Tesco’s delivery, and were able to discuss thoughts on our experience of monastic life so far. The last service we attended lasted for ten minutes and was a perfect end to what had been a thoroughly thought provoking and enriching experience. Thank you Clare and Benedict for taking us!
By Becky Grubb and Esther Palmer, 6.1