|Fr Mark at the main entrance|
The house, well out into the lush County Meath countryside, is a very fine late-Georgian building with fine proportions and beautiful ceilings. The Visitation Sisters who were the previous inhabitants hadn't quite appreciated the building in the same way as the Benedictines, for they had installed suspended ceilings to halve the height of some of the rooms (including the entrance hallway) and hide the elegant plasterwork, something which perhaps served to protect it, too. These false ceilings have been removed, and work is carrying on to restore the house and make it fit for purpose as a Benedictine priory.
|Bedroom for visiting priests|
You can read the story of how the little community from Tulsa, Oklahoma, came to be County Meath on the Priory's website. When I first read about this initiative, I was excited, but wondered whether it would work. Classic Benedictinism has never much appealed to the Irish, who have historically preferred the sparer Cistercian variant. That suspended ceiling hiding the elegant plasterwork is a good illustration of the general Irish preference for practicality over beauty. A weekday Mass with Gregorian chant, lasting the best part of an hour, is not calculated to appeal to the Irish. And yet, I gather there are several enquirers about vocations. And the point of a Benedictine house is to perform the opus Dei, to sing the liturgy, to pray; not primarily to run a parish.
|Mass: the Introit|
|Fr Mark with Hilda, the monastery dog|
|The Temporary Chapel|