Notebook

Foundations

On this day in 1835, a group of monks who had set out from the Breton abbey of Melleray founded the monastery of Mount Saint Bernard in Leicestershire, the house in which I was blessed to make my profession. Though to speak of a ‘monastery’ at that early stage is to evoke the wrong kind of association. The founders settled in a poor cottage with a leaky roof in Tynt Meadow, a field on the property given them by Ambrose Phillips de Lisle. To establish the community was a matter of naked faith, holy perseverance, and sheer bloodymindedness. We often speak now, and rightly, of ‘refounding’ communities. It is good, when considering this prospect, to brace oneself for radical poverty, perhaps for a very long time; also, to nurture that sense of excitement, of having something wonderful to share, of wanting to give all without half-measures without which no foundation ever got off the ground.