Ampleforth Prayer Groups – reflections


Ampleforth Abbey and College

Looking back on this experience I realised that God has been speaking very clearly to us about the way to cope with faith among the boys.   It is not the institution of the Church or the sacraments of the Church which are the way into the spiritual life of the boys.  It is persons who are the key.  Christians who themselves  have a living relationship with God and who share this with the young by revealing their own prayer life and ways and words with the groups.   As the Father shared his Word Jesus with the world and they came to know Him through his Son, so the Holy Spirit makes it possible for Christians to share the words He gives them. Those words carry the gift of faith in to the lives of the others.   Monasteries exist as prayer groups in the world and share their prayer with the others.  This is a key to the role of monasteries in the century.  In the past before Vatican 2 monasteries shared their life with the boys in the schools through teaching and the Sacraments and this was effective in bringing the young to faith,building them up in faith, and allowing those who were called to enter the priesthood and the religious life. They gave their lifetimes service to Jesus and his followers.   Since the Vatican council and the experience of the 1960s in English societies, it is obvious that this not longer works either in building up faith or in encouraging the youth to give their lives to God.  The small group is seen in all kinds of ways round the world and round the Church to be the way forward.  Persons to person, spirit to spirit, life to life, heart to heart, faith to faith.   one to one.   But at Ampleforth we are slow to develop this insight, and have resolutely not encouraged the formation of such faith and prayer sharing groups either in the school nor in the monastery where this spiritual initiative has to start.(It could start with laypersons on the  teaching staff but this would be unsatisfactory because it might produce a gulf or division between the monks and the spiritual life of the boys and raise suspicion that hat is going on is not monastic.   If the monks know how, then they can share with the boys, if the monks don’t know then they can’t share what they have.   The basic problems is that monks have to go out of their monastery for retreats, conferences and courses to learn what the spirit is doing outside so that they can pass on to the young from conviction and experience.

At Ampleforth such groups should start in the First year as soon as possible in each house.  A Junior monks should run them and there should be retreats for each group during the year for a weekend. As the first group of boys goes up the house they should be responsible for the groups of younger with the occasional presence of the monk.   If this system flourished then it would become apparent that it was not necessary for monks to be housemasters either for the spiritual and personal life of the monks nor for the influence they should have on the boys.