On Experiencing Peace

Guests enjoying the calefactory at Howton Grove Priory. Photo © Keith Waldegrave.
Guests enjoying the calefactory at Howton Grove Priory. Photo © Keith Waldegrave.

Those who live in monasteries don’t always experience the blissful peace that visitors do. We’re too aware of the gutter that needs fixing, the admin to be finished, the chant we have to practise, not to mention the Enemy of the Moment who must be avoided until tempers cool and an apology makes all harmony again. But yesterday I think I did experience the peace of the monastery, though perhaps not quite in the way you might expect. It had been a demanding day and I was inwardly chuntering about all kinds of things, but I had a few minutes to myself so I went into the calefactory (which is used for meetings and various kinds of ‘events’, so not a particularly silent place) and was immediately quietened. There is no explanation other than the obvious one. The peace that fills our oratory overflows into every room of the house. It isn’t always a comfortable peace. It can be painful, searing, but it is peace. At times we become conscious of it in a way that escapes us at others. I am reminded that the Benedictine motto is pax, peace, surrounded with thorns that both bar the way and protect what is within. Too often we are conscious only of the thorns. Just occasionally we are allowed to glimpse the treasure they surround.

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