I first visited a Benedictine Abbey when I was a first year theology student at Oxford. I went to Douai Abbey near Reading in Berkshire. I was immediately struck by the ancient sense of order, peace and confidence. The monks took their faith seriously, but they didn’t take themselves seriously. Over the years I visited many monasteries and was eventually received into the church at the Abbey of Quarr on the Isle of Wight.
One of the joys of visiting a traditional Benedictine monastery or convent is the singing. The more traditional orders reverence their ancient customs and spend time perfecting their music. When I lived on the Isle of Wight the monks at Quarr Abbey and the nuns at St Cecilia’s Abbey perfected their Gregorian chant, and to visit the monastery or convent for worship was to not only step back in time, but to step up to the doorstep of heaven.
That was a long time ago, but to this day I keep the music of the monks of Quarr singing Compline close by. The beauty and mystery of Gregorian chant is not only ancient–with it’s simple repetitious tunes and constant quiet rhythm it aids meditation and prayer like nothing else can. Sacred music opens the heart and soul to the wonder of God because music is “emotion expressed as sound”. In the midst of a world where the “music” expresses the emotions of rage, lust, chaos, hatred and the demonic, the music of the monastery expresses the opposite. Here there is peace, love, beauty, order and harmony that leads to the ultimate music of silence.
A relatively new community – Mary Queen of Apostles–are following the Lord in the way of St Benedict. Originally based in Pennsylvania they have transferred to the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph in Missouri. Check out this fresh air experience of the Benedictine life here at their website. You can watch a very nice video of the nuns, their singing and and their life here.
The sisters will have a special on EWTN. Check out the dates and times: EWTN called “Advent at Ephesus” at the following times in the US & Canada: Dec. 2 – 11:00am ET – Dec. 5 – 4:00am & 10:00pm ET – Dec. 12 – 6:00pm ET – Dec. 15 – 9:00am ET
They’ve made a CD as well and you can order this disc of blissful Benedictine music here and step into a world of prayer and a world of peace.