Tuesday, August 4, 2009

An Introduction

Welcome to my site. I am an Anglican Benedictine monk living as part of the community at Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery. This monastery is a house of the Order of the Holy Cross, in Grahamstown, South Africa. Grahamstown is a university town and includes many other excellent primary and high schools. This population is about 40,000 to about 50,000 people when all the students are here. Our monastery is located in a rural area just outside of the town on 50 hectares of land. We are blessed with beautiful fauna, flora, scenic landscapes and exotic wildlife. Very few flat places. Our work consists of prayer first and foremost. Then, we provide a ministry of Benedictine hospitality to guests who come from all walks of life from all over the world. Organically growing out of both of these is our hospitality to the people and particularly children of the immediate area. We help children to have better educations from primary school on up to a tertiary education. This work includes the establishment and administration of scholarships and an intensive After-School tutoring programme. So naturally we are pretty busy.

My position here consists of providing the publicity for all of these projects and the news of our monastery. I edit a newsletter named Uxolo, published bi-annually and maintain the news for our website, www.umaria.co.za. I am also the novice master who is responsible for helping people discern their vocation to the monastic life as well as forming new men when they join our community.

So I was a bit reticent about beginning a blog. Would I have the time or the energy to maintain it? But the other thing I do is to write. I write every day whether it be poetry or any other piece of writing. Some of it has been published. Some of it has not. Some of it is garbage. (Don't worry. I don't plan to inflict you with it.) And some of it is well written. Such is the nature of writing every day. You have to dig through the mud and sand to get to the pearls. Some of those pearls are the mud and sand, just in a different more refined form. After some thinking, I realise that maintaining a page would not be quite the burden that I thought it would be.

I have named my blog The Monk on the Hill, with a nod to Paul McCartney and John Lennon's song, The Fool on the Hill. But it is also the title of one of my poems. It evokes the expanse and beauty of the hills in which we are settled as well as this beautiful country, South Africa. Hope you enjoy this site and if you have comments, I would accept them.

I thought it seemed only appropriate to post as my first piece of writing the title poem of the site. I wrote it a number of years ago as a reflection of the whimsical nature of many of our children. They instil in me a childlike desire for the impossible.

The Monk on the Hill

When the wind lifts the scapular

of the monk standing on the crest of a hill

he thinks he could fly .

A small child wanting to come with him

grabs hold from behind

keeping them both earth-bound

to dust and dry grass.

The monk's habit is smudged

by tiny feet

climbing on his shoulders,

as if together they were a

flightless bird.

(published in New Coin)