The Monks of Farnborough
We took our Confirmation candidates to Farnborough Abbey (Subiaco Benedictines) today. This is one of my favourite places - it's so easy to get to from London and I've been going there for retreats and 'quiet days' since my last year at University. It's a great monastery for priest visitors (there's no problem saying private Masses, for instance) and it has an excellent printing press. Moreover, it is the resting place of the Emperor Napoleon III, the Empress Eugenie and the Prince Imperial.
The day consisted of Mass, Sext, various inputs on the monastic life and (most revealing) a walk around the grounds of the monastery. Our young people may be 'cool' on the streets of suburban London but they seemed awkward in a woodland setting - even the lads were reluctant to get their trainers dirty and genuinely seemed apprehensive of cobwebs, nettles or overhanging branches! Nor could they cope with the silence and, as soon as the lunch break began, they resorted to their MP3 players or portable radios. Perhaps a training in silence should be part of the Confirmation course. Still, many of them bought crucifixes and St Benedict Medals in the shop, which they will hopefully wear around the streets of London as the latest fad!
It's always hard to know how much they took in, though I wish I'd had such an experience when I was preparing for Confirmation 16 years ago! Here's a picture of the confirmandi, some of the catechists, Br Thomas (guest master) and me: