British TV Captures Monastic Life

5 Men Live 40 Days in Benedictine Abbey

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LONDON, MAY 11, 2005 ( A TV series recounting the experience of five men who spend 40 days in a Benedictine Abbey will show England what monastic life can offer the modern person.

A three-part series, the first part airs today on BBC 2, «The Monastery» follows five participants of different backgrounds in a spiritual journey as they experience life according to the 1,500-year-old Rule of St. Benedict.

The series was filmed at Worth Abbey, near Crawley, West Sussex, a community of 22 monks, explained the Catholic Communications Network, of the office of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.

The five participants had a point in common — the desire to see if life holds any greater meaning. All agreed to abide by the monastery’s rules, with a strict timetable of instruction, study, prayer, reflection and routine work duties.

The program was meant to reveal if the lessons learned have the power to transform their everyday lives.

Among the participants is Tony Burke, 29, without faith or religious formation.

Single, he lives in London. He works in advertising, and has lived and partied hard in recent years, but is re-thinking his approach to the world. He hopes going into the monastery will help him to discover what is right and wrong and give him a firm grounding for the next 29 years of his life, explained the promoters.

Gary McCormick, 36, single, is a painter and decorator from Cornwall.

Originally from Belfast, he was involved in the UDA (Ulster Defense Association, a paramilitary group of Northern Ireland) in his youth and got caught up in the troubles during the 90s. He spent much of his early life in prison where he discovered faith but, 12 years on, still carries emotional scars.

He hopes to repair the damage of years spent in prison, learn to deal with the pain of the past, and move on with his life.

Nick Buxton, 37, another single participant, is studying for a Ph.D. in Buddhism at Cambridge University. He has been on a spiritual search for the last 10 years.

Recently he has returned to his Anglican roots, but part of him doesn’t believe in what he is doing and he is struggling to make the leap of faith.

Anthony Wright, 32, from London, is a high-earning, high-energy bachelor who works for a legal publishing company. Brought up by his grandmother, he is looking to deal with issues surrounding his upbringing and, for him, the monastery offers a unique opportunity to search for inner peace.

Peter Gruffydd is seeking an answer to the ultimate question: «What is the meaning of life?» Married, a published poet, and a retired teacher living in Bristol, he hopes to gain spiritual guidance while in the monastery, having originally rejected religion in his youth.

Father Christopher Jamison, Abbot of Worth, commented: «We saw in this project an opportunity to discover what our way of life offers to people today who do not share our beliefs.»

«We had distinct hopes for the participants and for the viewers,» he added, as quoted by the BBC.

«For the participants, we hoped that they would discover hidden depths in their lives and in those hidden depths encounter God,» said the abbot.

«This hope was fulfilled to an extent that took us all by surprise and the story of their development is movingly portrayed in the programs,» he stated.

«They introduced themselves in the life of the monastery rather rapidly.

Although the rule of silence was difficult at first, the five entered into the rhythm of life rather rapidly.

The first episode of the series was transmitted today by BBC 2. The next episodes will be transmitted May 17 and 24.

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