A house of prayer for all people

About halfway between Belfast and Dublin in Rostrevor, Northern Ireland is a Benedictine community called Holy Cross Monastery. Begun by the Abbey of Le Bec in France just over 10 years ago, its hope is to follow the vision of Isaiah 56:7, "My house shall be a house of prayer for all people."

These brothers want to contribute to reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants "in a land marked by reciprocal violence and stained by the blood of Christian brothers and sisters."

Our group spent a day at the monastery attending prayers, working in the gardens and visiting with the brothers. Brother Thierry said the monastery was established here when the abbot in Le Bec said it was time to try something painful.

So, in 2004, the new monastery was dedicated on the ecumenical day of prayer with a prayer of forgiveness. But forgiveness, whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the world, is not easy.

Brother Thierry observed that both Protestants and Catholics in this community are too narrow in their perspectives. He said they need to be challenged, but with humbleness, because "we did not suffer as they did." There are many ways to shoot at people, he told us, "and the people here are deeply wounded."

The words of Paul's epistle, "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism," greeted us each time we walked through the doors of the chapel. And as the priest prayed, he prayed for all people who call on Christ's name, and he specifically prayed for Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical and Catholic churches.

Brother Thierry said the community wants to serve both the Protestants and Catholics in the community. A majority of the people who come through the monastery doors are Protestant.

"It's important to provide a space to listen to people who can come without hiding or wearing their masks. That is enough," he said.

"My house shall be a house of prayer for all people," we hear in Isaiah. As I walked through the grounds of the monastery and reflected on what I had heard, I wondered what would happen if churches in my country began to pray and live that vision.

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