The 25th of January 2022 will mark the second anniversary of COVID’s entry into Australia. On that date the first known case of the disease was detected in a Victorian man returning from China. I, for one, will not be throwing a celebration for this second anniversary! Like many people I enter 2022 somewhat glad to see the end of 2021 hoping that this year will be better, at least a little better.

But now, two years into the pandemic, we’ve had time to reflect a bit on this experience. Our thoughts, naturally, can turn easily to the sense of grief, loss and disruption that has marked this time. Many people have done it hard and many people still do. We do not overlook that.

However, there’s another aspect of the pandemic experience on which I’d like to reflect for a moment. When COVID first hit we were, I think, taken by surprise. We’ve made so many advances in medicine and science we perhaps thought that an event like this would not happen. But it did and we had to make some drastic and quick changes. We were restricted in what we were able to do- we couldn’t mix with family and friends, celebrations were cancelled, church services closed down and so much more.

Nevertheless, not too far into the lockdowns, I started hearing something else from people. Not able to engage in their usual activities and prohibited from fulfilling many of their commitments, several people were expressing that this easier, more relaxed pace of life was welcome. Indeed it gave an opportunity for them to reflect on their life and then make some adjustments, finding a rhythm of life which was less busy and more authentic.

Which brings us to a gift that monastic life offers, the gift of balance. The Rule of Benedict, to draw on one monastic source, holds together several aspects of life giving due weight to each without any one dominating to the exclusion of others. For example, the timetable he sets out for each day holds prayer and work in balance. Not too or too little of one to the exclusion of the other. In Chapter 48 he lists five activities the monk is to weave into the seamless garment of life: prayer, work, rest, study and eating. All important, all in balance with each other.

Assessing our life’s balance may have been forced on us by COVID but Benedict reminds us we don’t have to go back to our old ways once it is over. Some people find it helpful to use a prayer of examen periodically, for example, at the end of each day. Perhaps at the end of each day or week or month we might look back and ask ourselves; what did I do in this period of time that I didn’t need to be doing?

Maybe a life more balanced will be a positive gift this pandemic offers us.

Rev Gary Stuckey

How will we live now the world has changed the “new normal” for anything to be normal it has to have had a life, so how will we live now. Everything has changed some things are here to stay. Sanitizing, mask wearing, doctor’s appointments by phone, testing before we travel etc.

Seems to me the only constant is God. When plagues and floods, famine and loss (crucifixion) that still small voice whispers to the world ‘seek me and my kingdom and all will be given unto you’ Matt.6:33.  So we say how? What about the sermon on the mount for starters: ‘blessed are you who…’ Matt 5:7 It’s all there now let’s get on with it!! Lord have mercy…

The rivers don’t drink their own water,

Trees don’t eat their own fruits,

The sun does not shine for itself,

And flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves.

Living for others is a rule of nature.

Life is good when you’re happy,

But it is much better when others are happy because of you.

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I recently contacted Dr Paul Pearson, Director and Archivist at the Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University, to help me identify a quote that I thought was written by Thomas Merton: ‘a monk either drinks or prays.

He wrote back and said that he has never come across the quote as being written by Thomas Merton and added that Merton also did not say another quote about beer that he is often quoted as saying. ‘I drink beer whenever I can lay my hands on any. I love beer, and, by that very fact, the world.’

The reason for my enquiry was, like so many other people post-lockdown, I am trying to cut back on an increasing amount of alcohol consumption. What fascinates me about the phrase a monk either drinks or prays, is that the phrase implies that a person can choose either to drink or pray to help towards a particular condition whether to: fill a void, elevate stress, lift a low mood, reduce over excitement; the list goes on. It’s not rocket science to understand that prayer may have better health benefits: physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional, but the point is the person has a choice.

Please CLICK on the link here to read the entire post: A Monk Either Drinks or Prays

This is quite a tough command! I suppose we all head for danger at certain times in our lives and I know from personal experience it’s with the help of people around me that I have been rescued from the pit so I guess care for the person, try to help in the best way you can. The Lord will notice and we hope and pray for them then we haven’t just ignored them and pretend we new nothing then at least we have tried.


I was speaking with a young man this week who was telling me of his journey to the UK. He started in Sudan Lybia then travelled across Europe, lived in Italy for a while and finally reached us here in England. We talked about faith and when I asked him of his, he said that he came from a Muslim family and I asked if he was able to practice his faith? He said yes, I go to the Mosque every Friday for prayer but he said I see good in all people. At that I thanked him for going to the Mosque every Friday and praying for us all and said I will pray for you every Friday in our chapel and with that we blessed one another without any more words…

Joshua Heschel beautifully summarises the notion of finding God in the ordinary beauty around us , but are we too busy to be amazed ? Always doing , head down , eyes half shut…….. on that hamsters wheel of success and making money ?

By stopping and breathing and looking up to appreciate our reality we may begin to find amazement.

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement, to get up in the morning and look at the world and take nothing for granted , everything is phenomenal , everything is incredible never treat life casually , to be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Forgive a personal introduction, but it will make sense! I am glad I am merging my calling as an Eastern Catholic with a return to my love of the Benedictine spirit, having transferred to the Greek-Catholics from my abbey, I now return as an affiliate-Oblate of the Monks of Turvey, a community, that with the Nuns, has a rich tradition of openness to ecumenism. Their founder Abbot, Dom Constantine Bosschaerts had a vision of new forms of monastic witness with a deep connection to Eastern Christianity and the necessity of dialogue between the Christian traditions of East and West. The Benedictine Congregation of Monte Oliveto to which they belong, has a number of monasteries involved in this outreach, so as I learn what retirement means, from leading a very active life of academic teaching, writing, research, coupled with a deep involvement in ecumenism and pastoral work as a priest, there is a real sense of losing a whole manner of life, and loss is hard. But there is the gain, my old monastic vocation resurrects itself in a new way.

There it is, the link I promised would come, for in our Gospel Jesus teaches us that we will have to lose our lives in order to find new enrichment in a different form of life, so the following words about the condition of discipleship are very real to me at the moment: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny themself, take up their cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake and that of the gospel* will save it.” (Mk 8: 34,35)

Read the rest of Fr Robin Gibbons Blog Post here:

I’ve been reflecting quite a lot recently on Jesus words on the sermon on the mount ‘blessed are the peacemakers they will be called the children of God’ and realising the wisdom but then thinking about the reality and the enormous challenge that brings to us. Can we actually forgive even on a small level forgiving our neighbour for playing music too loud and after trying to reason with them nothing changes. What chance is there for much bigger situations such as war etc. seeing all the footage of Afghanistan lately you really have to battle against the feelings we have to get back at such atrocities. Where do we start? Perhaps we start with ourselves; our attitudes, acknowledge our feelings and try to meditate on what we know to be wise words from Jesus and see what we can achieve……….and hopefully we can start to ‘build bridges’ no matter how small each step is a triumph.