English Heritage launched an ‘hour of contemplation‘ at the monasteries in its care in a month-long trial this autumn  which recently finished. From 22 September until 22 October 2021, the historical charity encouraged visitors to turn off notifications on their phones, finish up their conversations and enjoy the final hour of public access to its abbeys and priories in contemplative quiet, enabling them to experience these spiritual buildings as they were intended.

Actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry, a tireless campaigner and advocate for mental health, worked with English Heritage to record an audio introduction to this ‘hour of contemplation’. The recording, available from the English Heritage website, invited visitors to seek peace and inspiration at the monasteries in the charity’s care and included an evocative reading from Saint Aelred, 12th century abbot of the magnificent Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire (see above).

It’s fascinating to note how a secular organisation appreciates the importance of stillness, silence and the benefits of a life of contemplation. We are fortunate in having Trefeca as a place where silence can speak.

 The words and meditation of Thomas Merton might help us appreciate how we can benefit from such a use of silence:

When I am liberated by silence,
when I am no longer involved in the measurement of life,
but in the living of it,
I can discover a form of prayer in which
there is effectively, no distraction.
My whole life becomes a prayer.
My whole silence is full of prayer.
The world of silence in which I am immersed contributes to my prayer.
Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, … and solitude,
where everything I touch is turned into prayer:
where the sky is my prayer,
the birds are my prayer,
the wind in the trees is my prayer,
for God is all in all