Posts Tagged ‘monastry’

My Visit to a Monastery in Rural Ireland

June 23, 2010

It was with feelings of apprehension that I embarked on a recent journey which would lead me into the confines of a monastery in the depths of rural Ireland. Travelling from our native County Meath, we took the motorway south of Dublin and it wasn’t long before my husband and I found ourselves in unspoilt countryside with not a dwelling house in sight. We had promised my brother-in-law that we would visit him at this time and so we took that opportunity, given that my husband had some business to attend to in Carlow Regional College and I wanted to distribute some books to the Carlow/Kilkenny area. That memory of driving deeper and deeper into beautiful countryside now provokes many thoughts and questions, including… “Are there any examples in God’s Word of His servants leading a monastic life?” Paul did not lead this sort of life and nor, indeed, did Peter who had a wife. (Matthew 8v14) The New Testament servants of God lived and worked amongst the people and wherever they travelled, spread the gospel. Paul, for example, worked for a time with Acquila and Priscilla who were tentmakers. (Acts 18v1-3)

We found my brother-in-law well, if a little tired, but given that he must rise at 4.30a.m. every morning that was hardly surprising! I gave him some literature that I had received earlier in the week from someone that I had met in the Dundalk area who had supplied me with many tracts taken from one of the shorter stories in a book of Priests’ testimonies: “Far from Rome, Near to God” by Richard Bennett, former Dominican Catholic priest and Martin Buckingham. The book (Catholicism’s Inside Story Revealed by Fifty Converted Priests) was first published in 1994 and as the title suggests, is a compilation of the stories of fifty Roman Catholic priests who came to put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

That verse: “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16v1) came to mind, as we drove down a narrow country road which was bordered by trees and high hedges. How can I physically make anyone see my spiritual point of view and least of all… how can I possibly make other human beings believe the truth of those words… “every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down at the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10v11&12) I wish with all my heart that everyone I meet would understand that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2v8&9) but I realise that only the Lord can work in an individual’s heart.

Yet, as His servant, I can (and must) spread the word and plant seeds wherever I go on this earth, for not one of those who serve the Lord is free from the great commission… “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16v15) And so we must go as the Lord directs; as individuals our calling is unique but He needs us to reach our loved ones, our workmates, prisons, hospitals, the people on the street and monasteries…

My brother-in-law took us on a walk around the grounds. It was so peaceful, with the birds singing in the trees, the little calves in the green fields and white swans in a small lake which was surrounded by swampy land and rushes. Still, only the Creator can impart that true peace of mind which comes from repenting of our sins at the foot of the Cross. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5v1) This peace passes all understanding. We can strive and work for our salvation; we can deny ourselves every worldly pleasure; we can remain celibate all our lives – but all to no avail. Surely these words in Isaiah 64v6 apply to the man (or woman) who has not come the humble way, by simple repentance and faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64v6)

Of course this verse applies to those who have not yet trusted the Saviour, for when we repent and turn to Him, then the following verse applies to our lives: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Cor. 5v17)

On our walk within the grounds we came to a little wooden bridge over the river but as I walked across I noticed with concern that part of it had broken away. A technical person by nature, my husband pointed out the danger – and the fault with it. “There’s where the problem lies,” he said, pointing to part of the construction. A spiritual analogy was visible here too. Surely Calvary bridges the gap between God and man? This is not a broken bridge, but a bridge that we can depend upon; a bridge that can take us safely over Jordan to a land where we will dwell in green pastures for ever and ever at the feet of Jesus who gave His life that we might live eternally in the joy of His Presence. This is not a bridge of works but of faith in His finished work.

I wished that I had brought some bread from home for the swans, which is something that I love to do, but I am certainly glad that I brought the tracts for those whom I came into contact with. “Cast thy bread upon the water: for thou shalt find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11v1) Perhaps not in the near future, but some day the Lord’s servants will see the fruit of their labour. Meanwhile, “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal. 6v9) And so, spiritually speaking, I must sow in all conditions. (2Tom. 4v2)

I had looked up into the sky and noticed how grey it was, for clouds drifted across and I felt a spit of rain. Still, this did not prevent us from embarking upon that walk with my brother-in-law, with whom we wanted to speak. In the spiritual realm: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” (Ecc. 11v4)

Entering the monastery again, we sat in the old sitting room once more while sipping tea with my brother-in-law. A short time later a door creaked open and I looked to see who it was…

“Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” These words of Jesus (in Matthew 23v9) came to mind as my brother-in-law introduced us to two priests who resided at the monastery. We had been talking with my brother-in-law for just a short time when the first one arrived to meet us. I had absolutely no wish to show disrespect to these men personally, but God’s Word is clear on this matter. I cannot, and must not, address any man upon this earth as “Father” in the spiritual sense of that word.

As we took our leave of the monastery that day, casting a backward glance I knew that I must leave my concerns for my brother-in-law with the Lord. He tells me: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Phil. 4v6) Now was the time for prayer – and to enlist the prayers of others.  

My visit to Kilkenny the following day saw the successful distribution of my books to the Kilkenny Christian Bookshop, Khan’s Bookshop in Kilkenny and the Kilkenny Book Centre. Carlow Library and others throughout Ireland are also in possession of the books which is good, given that each book has the potential to reach numerous people.

On the way home we visited Duckett’s Grove and Baltinglass Abbey, both reduced from their former glory, to ruins where the birds make their nests – a timely reminder that nothing in this world will last but that the “Word of the Lord endureth forever.” (1Pet. 1v24&25)

How thankful I was to the Lord for our safe return home from that little journey, since roads these days can be treacherous. When we reached the motorway I saw an amazing sight. There had been a delay, with traffic backed up all the way in front and behind us and I wondered what was wrong. “Possibly an accident,” commented my husband, but then the car in front of us put on its hazard lights and we saw them: the beautiful little ponies being led safely away from the motorway by uniformed police on motorcycles. These young creatures, which had somehow strayed into dangerous territory were now trusting their guides and trotting along, they followed them through the traffic until at last they would reached a safe haven. Surely, too, we can trust our Guide to bring us safely home – for He knows the way; the only safe way through the maze of erroneous belief systems and the hazards and trials of this life.

© Elizabeth Burke 2010