On Easter Sunday, in School of Love, RTÉ's Would You Believe? spends a year behind the scenes in Ireland's only women's Cistercian Monastery. Nestled in the lush valley of the Blackwater, in Co Waterford, the nuns of St Mary's Abbey, Glencairn, dedicate themselves to a way of life first laid down by St Benedict in the 6th Century. It is a life of silence, solitude and prayer.
Each day of their monastic life, they rise at 3.30am and gather to sing the Lord's praise and to keep vigil with all those who wake during the night in fear, or sadness or pain. It is the first of seven prayer ceremonies which end at sunset and Sr Fiachra, a former horticulturalist, says of the early start, 'it is in the darkest hour of the night, at 4am, that people wake and worry about their troubles. So, that's why I'm on my feet praying for all the people that are suffering, whatever it is that they are suffering, so that they will feel God s presence and comfort in that trauma.'
Sr Sarah, Director of Vocations, is in charge of promoting vocations. She also runs the Abbey's website and organises regular 'Monastic Experience Weekends.' They are well attended and have led to a number of new postulants. One Dublin woman, Angela, an IT specialist with qualifications in science and social work, came for a weekend, stayed and is now thinking of taking her vows and joining the order. The film follows her journey throughout the year as she faces a life-changing decision. It would be a unique television experience to witness a postulant receiving the veil in a 'Monastic Initiation Ceremony,' but that is the choice that Angela will make during the course of the documentary.
St Mary's Abbey is a busy and happy place. The nuns work as a community, surviving by their own labour and running a number of businesses: Communion host production, greetings card printing, farming and cleaning, maintaining and restoring their large and demanding collection of buildings. They possess a wide range of skills and are hugely self-sufficient.
Most of all, though, they are a happy and caring community. They live a monastic life in a monastery which, in St Benedict's phrase, is a 'school of love'. The women, who include a former Central Banker, an IT specialist, a radio producer, a farmer and a midwife, are committed to a way of life that is counter-cultural in the contemporary world. And yet, they believe their chosen life is the best contribution they can make to that world. Join us for a unique insight into their challenging, but uplifting, way of life.