Posted on 26 June, 2016Comments (0)

Hampshire Federation of WI

Hampshire Federation of WI

Report of June Meeting 2016 – The Benedictine Way of Life – Speaker Mr Fletcher

Mr Fletcher introduced himself dressed in the black robes of a Benedictine monk. He started his talk by explaining that the monastic tradition actually originated with Buddhism, many centuries before Christianity. He showed us slides of very grand rulers from the Asian continent and explained the spread and the age of all the major religions.

Then we were sidetracked by a dispute between Ambrose (later a saint) but then a Bishop in somewhere in Asia Minor and the Pope (Gregory) in the early middle ages. Quite how this topic came up escaped me, but it was interesting and quite entertaining.

Apparently Ambrose decided to ‘jazz’ up plainchant by introducing a convoluted Alleluia – which Mr Fletcher sang for us in his rather imposing baritone voice. It spanned several octaves and cadences and seemed to go on for several minutes! Pope Gregory was having none of this and insisted Ambrose reverted to a plain Alleluia as always used in plainchant and that was that! We dutifully sang this much simpler version at Mr Fletcher’s instigation (I thought we did reasonably well considering).

We then digressed to Egypt – where Mr Fletcher had travelled to a Coptic Monastery, This was a vast ancient walled set of buildings with an imposing fairly recent bell/water tower. When constructing the water/bell tower, the monks who had been living in a small adjacent building, uncovered the whole site, which had been hidden for centuries under layers of sand.

Then we were back in Europe, viewing slides of the re-built Monte Cassino monastery in Italy, and a fine Benedictine monastery in France, before we were then shown slides of very obscure and antique scripts that seemed to consist of vague scratch marks. Mr Fletcher explained to us (and sang) with the aid of his electronic pointer, that each scratch was in fact a musical note! Fortunately we were not encouraged to join in this impromptu rendition.

We were shown one last slide showing St Benedict seated on an imposing throne surrounded by adoring nuns – one of whom, the Abbess, knelt before him (she had a halo too, so was obviously also a saint) – well it turns out she was his long lost sister!! But that is another story and time had run out … and the tea was getting cold!

What had all of this to do with the Benedictine way of life you may be thinking and so were many of us – but we had enjoyed an interesting and entertaining evening that included all sorts of odd snippets of information quite new to us.

Our meeting on Thursday, 7th July at 2.30pm will be a Tea Party to be held at Brick Kiln Cottage, Lasham by kind invitation of our Vice-President, Barbara Jeremiah. A lovely sylvan setting for a very relaxed afternoon.

Jean Spottiswoode Clark

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