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Birds in East Hendred

Saw the first pair of swallows over the church yesterday evening. Like Gilbert White, we had all been getting a little anxious about when they would return. This morning saw meadow pipits in one of the sheep enclosures, and a pair of red kites over Hendred House. It is easy to understand why medieval illuminators so delighted in birds, seeing them as images of the soul. I wonder what our age would choose. A silicon chip, perhaps?

Patience Continued

We seem to have stable Broadband at last, but there has been much tearing of wimples and mute cries of rage and distress as the connection went down yet again. The drains are cleared, so all is well in this corner of the world. Except, of course, that with the resumption of normal Broadband service came an avalanche of urgent emails which had lain in cyber-limbo for several days. If you are one of those who have written and been disappointed not to have had a reply, please bear with us. We hope to have the web site back to "normal" by the week-end. We are going to move all our web sites to new servers in the next few weeks, so there may be some hiccups with the transfer; but we are hoping to be able to offer a much improved service, with one or two new treats for regular visitors to this site in particular. Our next podcast will be posted at the week-end as the one recorded for Sunday past seems a little dated now.


Patience is supposed to be a characteristic virtue of Benedictines. Close readers of this blog will have noticed some rather terse entries recently and may have guessed that patience was being tried somewhere or other in the monastery. The fact is, our Broadband connection has been more down than up for several days. Indeed, on some days we have had no access to the internet at all. Several calls to helplines in India have resulted in long conversations with diligent and charming support staff, but achieved little. Last night it was suggested that we open one of BT's boxes and do a little rewiring ourselves . . . but prudence is another Benedictine virtue. We have had Broadband access off and on this morning, which is just as well, because DRAINS are again featuring on the list of trying things. Strange how desire for the Kingdom becomes so muddled up with desire for reliable communications and efficient drains.


Even with the transitory blossom of snow covering the Downs, the skylarks are singing. The deer are feding in broad daylight, in the middle of a field, quite unfussed by traffic on the Newbury Road. Is it only human beings who demand "optimum conditions" before settling down to anything? Perhaps that is why there is such a huge stack of paper in my in-tray and next to nothing in the out-tray. Procrastination is the child of perfectionism after all.

An Emmaus Evening

To read the Emmaus gospel so soon after St Benedict's teaching on hospitality is powerful. To recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread . . . how often do we really do that when we eat with others? How often do we acknowledge the Emmaus moments in our lives? So often we eat with others yet eat alone; so often we miss Christ in our midst.

RB 53: Guests

Today we begin reading St Benedict's quite lenghty treatment of hospitality — how guests should be welcomed, how the monastic community should act towards them, the arrangements that should be made for the guest's reception and the safeguards for community life. At one level, it all sounds idyllic: the community treats the guest as though Christ; and the guest responds to the community with perfect understanding and gratitude, quietly listening to the scriptures and submitting courteously to the rituals of welcome accorded him. The reality may be different, and Benedict is well aware that the community may be devoured by those who seek its help. A common problem is the difficulty many experience with boundaries: they want to be open and welcoming, but some guests seem to regard themselves as privileged members of the community, subject to none of its disciplines but able, and ready, to enjoy all its benefits; while others are not so convinced of the Christ-like qualities of those who come to their doors and would rather their guests went elsewhere — sometimes making it abundantly clear to the guests in question. Chapter 53 of the Rule repays careful study and reflection. We all owe the duty of hospitality to our neighbour, but we need to balance what we owe to our guest with what we owe to those closest to us and indeed to ourselves.Treating others "tamquam Christus" is the key.

St Benedict's Day

The (transferred) feast of St Benedict, so much rejoicing in choir and refectory. We hope all our Associates will be sharing in the rejoicings today — it is sad that none will be here with us. Of course, the general jubilation does beg some important questions. What precisely are we celebrating? St Benedict or, perish the thought, ourselves? There are times when we Benedictines can give the impression of basking in reflected holiness, as though the mere fact of being a disciple of St Benedict conferred a special dignity, not to say glory, upon us. That is absurd. Cucullus non facit monachum. It is not donning the cowl that makes the monk (or nun) but living as one. I wonder what St Benedict thinks of his disciples today. Do we truly radiate the humanity, the humility and the holiness he sought to instill? If not, perhaps we need to examine our consciences a little more closely. We cannot sing our way into the Kingdom of heaven.