A Monastic Life
It had been fifteen years since Father
Joseph had taken on the monastic life. The Order had been
delighted to receive him. The Abbot recognised that Joseph was a
very small ember, but had harboured the hope that, at a mere
forty years of age, he might, with Gods help, rekindle the
flame of their declining order. The other twelve brothers were,
at that time, in their seventies and eighties. Sadly, the Abbots
prayers were not answered, and no new brothers took vows to
replace the departed.
Three years had now gone by since Father
Alfred had passed over, leaving Father Joseph alone. Initially
this made little difference to his daily routine. It had been a
silent order and, with the growing frailty of his fellow
brothers, all domestic, maintenance and management activities had
been placed in the hands of paid lay-helpers and professionals.
It was not until Father Joseph received a visit from the Orders
solicitor, some weeks after the death, that he gave any thought
to how his home was sustained.
The solicitor imparted two facts. The first
was that the value of the monastery and associated investments
was around one hundred million pounds. The second was that, as
the sole surviving brother, it all, legally, belonged to him.
At first, these two facts had no impact on
his routine of prayer. As that first winter progressed, however,
he allowed himself an extra few pieces of coal and a blanket on
particularly cold nights. He found that these comforts enhanced
his ability to focus on his devotions, and after much prayer and
meditation he had gas-fired central heating and double-glazing
installed throughout the building.
God spoke to him again in the spring, and
he understood that the simple life did not necessitate an
uncomfortable life. It was during the following summer that the
carpets, armchairs and sofas arrived.
Over many years, he had pondered the
question of whether religious retreat was just an escape from
life. His faith was, certainly, untested by isolation. The
arrival of wall-mounted, wide-screen televisions, videos, DVDs,
the surround-sound music system, newspapers and magazines
confirmed that the contemplative life did not need to be led in a
cultural vacuum. Indeed, to understand and love others, he must
surely share their experiences?
The advance from a simple vegetarian diet
to carnivorous gastronomy and the conversion of the chapel to a
fully stocked bar were just further, obvious steps in updating
And so it was that an unfamiliar pang of
guilt assailed Father Joseph as he sat by the heated outdoor
swimming pool, sipping a cool beer and smoking a Cuban cigar. He
glanced at his Rolex and realised that he was late for his
session of prayer and contemplation - about eighteen months late.
He then glanced at the attractive young women sunbathing topless
by the pool. Perhaps all this had been a distraction from his
path? Also, perhaps, there was time to take two of them to his
room before dinner?