“Refresh Your Spirit” it said and that sounded just like the sanctuary I needed. In the Southeast County of Limerick in the village of Murroe lies Glenstal Abbey. Built in 1839 It’s nestled in a parkland demesne of some 400 acres and home to the Benedictine Community of over 40 Monks. It would be a welcome change from the usual sun destinations I have travelled to in the past.
I was collected at the train station by a very jovial taxi driver from Plassey Cabs (061 336 336)and was offered a special rate of 20 euros for a one way transfer to the Abbey. As we drove through the large entrance I noticed over the main arch the distinctive bronze letters PAX ( Latin for Peace) and I immediately knew this would be a break with a distinct difference and the perfect place to slow down and recharge from the hustle and bustle of life back in Dublin City.
The guest house was a nice surprise, comfortable and smoke free with 12 en suite rooms. The rooms are a good size and simply furnished. The little extra touches were a great idea – a high viz jacket, an electric heater, a hot water bottle and an umbrella! If you are expecting a TV there are none as Glenstal Abbey is a place where one seeks peace and serenity away from distractions . There are lots of quiet areas to sit and reflect in the house or outside in the small courtyard. My stay was on a donation basis but the suggested donation was 70 euros per night per person inclusive of all meals and facilities. Breakfast is a very relaxed affair and available up to 11.00 am. Guests have use of the kitchen where everything is supplied and help themselves. (The home made brown bread is incredible!) Lunch is at 12.45 just after mass and it’s good wholesome food with a nice traditional dessert.
Supper is held at 7.15 pm in the Monks refectory and eaten in silence. I found this a little challenging given my penchant for talking! I found memories flooding back of my times in Loreto College, Stephens Green Boarding School with it’s the large refectory and saying our grace before meals. We were always starving! It was so unusual but refreshing to sit and eat in silence whilst listening to a member of the Benedictine community read aloud. It is a lovely tradition. We drank our tea from a small bowl and the whole experience which lasted less than 30 minutes was very humbling and quite emotional. For me personally It was akin to an invitation to a very special ceremony to eat with the Benedictine community and experience their way of life. I feel extremely privileged to have had this opportunity.
I was booked in for 2 nights and had requested the 2nd floor which had a lovely view of the Abbey church where visitors to the Abbey are welcome to join the monks for all the liturgies that take place throughout the day. I found attending Vespers (Evening prayer in Latin) each evening at 6.00 pm enthralling and the power of the singing stirred up many emotions. Unfortunately during my stay the Abbey church was closed for refurbishment and a temporary chapel had been set up beside it. This did not take away from my experience and the Gregorian Chant in Latin will be etched forever in my mind.
I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet with one of the Monastic community on my first day and to have a discussion for almost an hour. For this I am very grateful to the Benedictine Monks and I have definitely returned from my visit refreshed and renewed with a lighter feel. The meeting was very uplifting and inspiring.
Guest are very welcome to walk the gardens and woods which have an amazing variety of trees and flowers. It is important to point out that some areas are marked ‘private monastic enclosure’. I am not a great walker although I am trying, so for me this was a challenge however with the beautiful surroundings it was a pleasant task! To the west of the castle and church is the Lady Garden, the Lake and the Monastic cemetery. Also located on the abbey grounds offering a very tranquil setting are the God Pods (hermitages). The wooden structures are on the edge of a field surrounded by trees offer a view of the Galtee mountains but more importantly offer guests real solitude and peace. They are fully equipped with wood stove, electric shower, small kitchen unit and front/back porches.
If you decide to travel to Glenstal Abbey don’t forget to visit the Abbey gift shop and sample the famous Glenstal Liquer Truffles and their very own chocolate bars not to forget a large selection of religious books and goods. They also have the most beautiful handmade cards and a selection of CD’s in particular the Gregorian Chant. Throughout the year Glenstal Abbey hosts lectures, workshops, retreats and concerts.
Although initially I found it hard to unwind from a busy life and with nothing to do than just BE the serenity of Glenstal Abbey eventually flowed through me. I would highly recommend it to anyone to escape the business of life and to recharge one’s soul.
“Refresh Your Spirit” ? – Yes, it did for me for sure.!
For more information – www.glenstal.org
Susan Maxwell Dublin/Ireland 00353 87 997 4880
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