30 June 2009

Because of the hot weather I have been waking up just after 4am and rather than try to sleep, I have been indulging in reading some of my old and favourite books.

House of Brede by Rumer Godden. I can remember buying this book many years ago and it will be the last time I read it as it is being donated to the book swap. I hope it gives whoever reads it the same amount of pleasure it has given me over time. Rumer Godden is probably better known for her book, later turned into a film, the
Black Narcissus filmed in 1947 and starring Deborah Kerr as Sister Clodagh and Jean Simmons. Though they did make a film of House of Brede it wasn’t until 1975 and starred Diana Rigg as the main character Philippa Talbot who entered a Benedictine Monastery when in her forties.

This was, and still is, a great book. The trials of joining an enclosed order of nuns where your will is no longer important, only the will of the community. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to adhere to the strict rules and lifestyle changes necessary and yet I am fascinated by it.

I was a keen watcher of both the Monastery (filmed in Sussex at Worth Abbey) and later The Convent, filmed at a Poor Clare’s Convent in Arundel, West Sussex. While the behaviour of the men involved in the Monastery wasn’t always good, it was never disrespectful unlike those women in the programme the Convent. Both were expected to participate for 40 days, living as one with the Community, and while the men had sometimes anger issues, they didn’t deliberately flout the rules unlike some of the women involved in the Convent who left the grounds to go to a pub one evening, didn’t attend the services or the personal meetings with their personal/spiritual guide and generally ignored the rules about their behaviour.

I felt like they had wasted their time and that someone else could have had a much better experience than they did and that the Sisters deserved more respect than they got.

The monastery programme had a follow up programme where the men’s lives were updated with what changes had happened after the programme, while the Convent never had a follow up and it didn’t surprise me but it would be interesting to know how/if any of them were affected by their time with the Poor Clares.

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