Reading at meals

The custom in most monastic communities is for a book to be read at meals. One of the monks is on duty as reader and takes his own lunch after the others. At Pluscarden, a short reading from the scriptures was read at lunch, followed by a secular book. At the end of lunch (I think), a list was read of those from the Subiaco Congregation who had died on that day. At supper, a more religious book was read.

The lunchtime book was the autobiography of Frank Muir. We were at the point where he was recounting his wartime experiences with the RAF in Iceland. Some of it was a little hard on the stomach; the indignities of wartime living do not always make for pleasant associations even with a frugal meal. However, Muir is a very amusing writer; his anecdotes and brilliant puns caused some ribaldry, skating close to the mark in some cases.

In the evening, we had the life of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. , telling of his experience in the army, and of his spiritual direction at the hands of Fr Athenasi. The priest who directed him seemed quite ferocious to me, almost inhuman at times. At the same time, there were elements of an approach to the spiritual life which were very telling of the immediate post-war era. The insistence, for example, on not being overly pious or devotional seemed very dated. Sadly, this is the kind of thing that some older priests continue to promote in today's culture where it is usually inappropriate. In modern England at any rate, any devotion at all is welcome and very much to be encouraged. If only we had the problem of excessive devotion!

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