Wednesday, April 8, 2009

(3) Summer

Being a prior nearly immediately taught me that I could no
longer follow just the daily rhythm of the ordinary monk. I
discovered that I had many other duties beyond this quiet
pace that I had come to cherish. Being responsible for the
priory, I had to attend far more to practical business! I had
to adjust, else the priory would go under.

Christ Church Priory consisted of only choir monks. We had
no field monks who worked nearby agricultural holdings,
like those in country abbeys. Of course the priory owned
major tracts of land, rented out to villagers in the region.
Hence, I had to visit these areas, make sure that our food
supply was readily replenished. This meant getting out
amongst ordinary people; but, after even those short years
my being a monk, it was a bit of an adjustment for me.

Within the confines of the priory, I had to review the books
that marked our expenditures. As for "books," well I began
to realize that we had well over 500 books--on many monastic
topics--that were scattered all over the priory. Not easy to do,
but it was my intent to collect these books from hither and yon
and place them in the common room. I had in mind creating
a small library.

As for my teaching, during some of our chapter meetings I
would give a small talk. But it didn't equate to my teachings
when a Master. I had to let go this pleasurable duty and
delegate such to another qualified monk. The chapter
meetings were periodic, bringing the entire community
together to discuss their needs and their ideas.

During one chapter meet, the discussion turned to the topic
of music. Yes, we were choir monks--but our delivery of the
Psalms was mostly in monotone, rather than in song as was
put by choir monks in some of the Continent's major abbeys
and cathedrals. I decided that we need start developing a
true choral capability. Easier said than done, however, in
that finding musically inclined monks with good voices was
a hair-pulling endeavor. Still, slowly and sometimes painfully,
we made headway towards enhancing the liturgy and the
monastic hours into more beautiful ceremonies.

Also, we began to insert illuminations into our copies of
the Bible. Some of our monks were really excellent artists.
So under my tutelage, Christ Church Priory established a
small workshop where these monks could work copying
the Bible, adding their illuminations, for the purpose of
supplying them to other abbeys and priories in England.
In due course we became a center for such efforts.

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