A Benedictine education gave me...
As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of St Benedict on Monday 22 March, three of our Old Amplefordians reflect on what a Benedictine education at Ampleforth means to them:
Beatrice Byrne-Hill (B17)
St Benedict’s rule entered my life at the age of 13 when I joined St Bede’s House as a full-time boarder, though I had been coming to Ampleforth for the Triduum all my life. The Rule remains in my life now as I am about to graduate from university. The influence of the rule lives in the stability of the friendships made in those five critical years of growing up at Ampleforth. Throughout my school years, the Benedictine ethos permeated those GCSE classrooms, snowy sports pitches and Windmill nights. Unconsciously, this ethos was serving as a basis for my understanding of true and genuine friendship; it is one founded on love. Without me ever realising, or probably even thinking about it, the Rule had led me to the most important people in my life.
COVID has created both a strange reality and strange realisations in how one evaluates day-to-day life. I have been writing my dissertation at home, will be graduating in absentia and have not seen many of my university friends for over a year. However, what I have missed most, and still miss, is Lourdes – a week of spent submerged in the service of love and obedience to others, a thread in that web weaved by the Rule of St Benedict. I end up leaving Lourdes feeling more served than having served – this is largely because of the rejuvenating presence of real friends. For me, these are the people I met when I was 13. St Benedict speaks of running in an inexpressible sweetness of love along the way of the Lord’s command in the Prologue; I experience that love in service and my friendships.
Mary Hirst (nee Townsend) (A13)
So many things have been given to me through the Benedictine education I received at Ampleforth, often without me fully recognising how central they are to my life and the path it has taken since then. It has, in fact, remained pretty Benedictine! I have lived for a total of 3 years with the lay Benedictine community, The Manquehue Movement, both in Chile and in the UK, and I am part of the Weave of Manquehue Prayer which is a network of Lectio Groups, seeking to help one another to pray. Being part of this over the past years and seeing it grow has been an exciting experience, deepening my faith through encountering the Lord in His Word and experiencing the joy of seeking Christ with others.
Something about the Rule which has helped me enormously has been the rhythm it generates: prayer, work and community life. It pushes me along and keeps me where I want to be, which is on my way to God and trying to do His will. It has been a real source of stability alongside the irreplaceable gift of being part of a community from the day I stepped foot into the valley. So many friendships have endured, been re-kindled and new ones have arisen, all because we share this experience, not just of life in that place, but because our school was centred on Christ.
Gavin Williams (W04)
I have always maintained a strong connection with Ampleforth beyond school, through my close friendships from my time in the valley, and through continued service in Lourdes with the Ampleforth Pilgrimage and Stage Groups. The Benedictine values I gained from Ampleforth are central to my life now, the focus of which is stability in family life with my wife and two small children. We are privileged to now live in the valley, as my wife works at Ampleforth, and the tolling of the Abbey Bell serves as a daily reminder of the rhythm of life here, that there is something larger at work in our lives than simply secular values and successes.
Thanks to Ampleforth we feel very much part of a strong and supportive global community, one to which we must give of ourselves as much as we take. Hospitality is something we try to always live out, whether that be through always providing a warm welcome to our home, over our Friday night zoom calls with Pilgrimage friends or catch ups with friends from my school years. We are grateful to be part of this community, with friends spanning generations, all of whom are connected by a shared experience and values that we try to live out every day. It is now our privilege to pass these on to our children as we teach them to pray, to be kind, to love others and to understand the value in life of being part of something much bigger than ourselves.