Finally, something worth watching!
Five men, ranging from an atheist in the pornography trade to a former Protestant paramilitary, have found their lives unexpectedly transformed in the latest incarnation of reality television – the monastery.
More Oh Brother! than Big Brother, the five underwent a spiritual makeover by spending 40 days and 40 nights living with Roman Catholic monks in Worth Abbey, West Sussex.
The experiment, which will be shown on BBC 2 this month, was designed to test whether the monastic tradition begun by St Benedict 1,500 years ago still has any relevance to the modern world.
Although participants were not required to vote each other out, they faced the challenge of living together in a community and following a disciplined regime of work and prayer. By the end, the atheist, Tony Burke, 29, became a believer and gave up his job producing trailers for a sex chat line after having what he described as a “religious experience”.
Gary McCormick, 36, the former Ulster Defence Association member, who spent much of his early life in prison, began to overcome his inner demons.
Peter Gruffydd, a retired teacher, regained the faith he had rejected in his youth and Nick Buxton, 37, a Cambridge undergraduate, edged closer to becoming an Anglican priest.
The fifth “novice”, 32-year-old Anthony Wright, who works for a London legal publishing company, started to come to terms with his childhood traumas.
The three-part series called The Monastery shows the five abiding by the monastery rules, with a strict timetable of instruction, study, prayer, reflection and work duties. They are also shown holding intense and often painful sessions with their religious mentors, individual monks assigned to guide each of them on their spiritual journeys.
At the end of one of these sessions, Mr Burke, his voicing breaking with emotion, confessed his feelings in a video-diary entry. “I didn’t want this to happen,” he said.
“But something touched me, something spoke to me very deeply. It was a religious experience.
If something like this can be shown in England – a much more secular place than the USA, then perhaps we are seeing – again – the workings of the very clever, up-to-date Holy Spirit who is displaying an impressive savvy about the use of modern technology in getting out the message. First the stunning and moving visual/aural testimonies surrounding the death and funeral of John Paul the Great, and now this! A leading pop-cultural concept, the “reality program” is become the vehicle for something finer. I bet MTV never had this in mind when it started the genre.
The Anchoress is still very sick – much too sick to stay up and play online – but when my little brother Thom told me about this, I just had to blog it. I thank you for your prayers. I’m on a new antibiotic and am hoping the thing will kick in, soon, because this bed-bound routine is not for me. I hate watching television, but if I try to read, I just fall asleep. I guess today would be a good day to have a book on tape! Instead I have something else kind of interesting going on in my head – maybe I got sick so that my mind would be forced off news for a little while, and opened to this other book idea.
Or maybe I am just so sick I am delusional, and not making much sense. That’s quite possible.
I hope to be back on the job as soon as the Lord wants to get me back there. Unless, you know…he’s trying to tell me that he prefers I shut up!