Truro Cathedral assumed the atmosphere of a Benedictine monastery on 18 October as the Abbot of Landévennec, Frère Jean-Michel, led clergy and Readers in a quiet day.

The acts of worship at the beginning and the end of the day were based loosely on the services of Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer) as celebrated at the Abbey of Landévennec in Brittany, with sung parts featuring recordings from the Abbey.

At several points during the day − which included extended periods of silence − Frère Jean-Michel gave delegates an insight into his personal perspective on the Rule of St Benedict and what it meant for people living their lives outside a monastic environment.

In his first address, he explained that in biblical stories, the wilderness was a particular place of silence into which people were invited to enter in order to listen to the word of The Lord. This was the background to the Benedictine Rules about listening and silence; through which people can “turn and come to someone, come to The Lord Christ, be taught the word of God and learn obedience”.

“Benedict doesn’t ask us to keep silence, but to listen,” said Frère Jean-Michel. “They are very different things. Listening allows God and his love to fill the space inside us. To guide us. Silence then is not a matter of discipline, it becomes a matter of love.”

He spoke of the Benedictine Rule asking monks to open their eyes to the Divine light, especially through scriptural references of transition from dark to light, from sleeping to waking. “Christ is the light that frees us from the darkness,” he said. “His truth.”

Frère Jean-Michel told delegates that it is easy to focus on what is wrong in the world; but Benedict asks us to focus on the light − to see what is good in others and in ourselves. To see the joy in others and what they are capable of through love. “God saw all that he had made and saw that it was very good,” he reminded everyone.

He spoke of Benedict’s call for people to ‘choose life. hear God’s call, to turn away from evil and seek peace for ever. “Mankind is an incomplete being who seeks life,” he suggested. “When fear comes into our relationship with God, then it loses its truth. We need to look at Christ’s example of how we should build our relationship with God.”

In his second address, Frère Jean-Michel, began by quoting words from the Prologue of Benedictine Rule, ‘Listen carefully … to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart’. He noted that this was a simple, rudimentary instruction that had resonances with pupils joining a primary school.

He went on to explain that this Rule was really a school for the laws of service. “For beginners,” he suggested. “Whoever you are, you are seeking true life. If we recognise in ourselves this desire for true life, we are welcome in the School. All human beings have this desire deep inside.

“This is a place to cultivate hope and develop closeness with God. He is a mystery of presence. In silence, we can recognise his presence. Worshipping God is an act of service. Not of servitude, but of closeness.”

Frère Jean-Michel turned next to the Benedictine Rule that asked for insistent prayer. “First thing in the morning is the invocation, ‘Lord open my ears’,” he explained. “This is a filial relationship of a disciple who wishes to do God’s will. It is not polite, but insistent. Stop. Wait. Listen to word of The Lord before entering any action.

“The disciple listens to God before going on. The disciple of Christ hears his voice … listening to it and then walking with him.”

Speaking of monastic life, Frère Jean-Michel said: “God is present everywhere. Our behaviour is transformed by the presence of God, whether at work, in the oratory or in the silence of the cell. God is not present as a supervisor but as a father who loves his children. God is love.

“Prayer is not apart from everyday life. It is part of everything we do. Sometimes, when we are serving people, prayer seems to come as an interruption to our daily routine. But if we believe that God is part of the service we are doing, then leaving work to pray is simply ‘leaving God for God’.”


Abbot Jean-Michel’s Morning and Afternoon Addresses

Abbot Jean-Michel’s Homily for the Feast of St Luke 


Link to Abbey of Landevennec