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Nuns’ and monks’ prayers and tips on enclosure and self-isolation

By Ann Marie Foley - 31 March, 2020

Abbess Marie Fahy, Glencairn

The enclosed sisters at Glencairn Abbey have offered prayers and tips on coping with new restrictions that have been put in place in Ireland to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

“We are united in prayer with all of you, asking the Lord to shield you and protect you under His wings. We are confident that the Lord in his infinite mercy will not delay in answering us and will drive away this dreadful virus. May our efforts to control the spread be blessed and successful,” stated Mother Marie Fahy, Abbess, Glencairn, in a special Facebook message issued as the numbers of people sick and dying from COVID-19 increase in Ireland.

She stated that as everyone goes into some kind of isolation or imposed enclosure, she and the other sisters who live monastic life and enclosure may be able to offer a few tips to help people to survive these challenging weeks.

She highlights the importance of keeping a daily structure such as getting up, having meals and going to bed around the same time each day. Other essential activities done at fixed times each day could include cleaning and cooking; some outdoor work (including cleaning windows!); and communication, emails, phone calls, texts. “Contact different people each day,” stated Mother Fahy.

It is important to do something purposeful each day, such as decluttering an area or wardrobe or drawer; or sorting out old photos; cleaning out the kitchen cupboards; and even keeping a journal – “something that will give you a sense of achievement at the end of the day,” she added. This is also a time to read all those books that we never have had time for.

She offered spiritual suggestions, stating: “If you are a person of faith, pencil in some times for prayer throughout the day, maybe a Hail Mary or some of the lovely prayers we know by heart from the Mass, e.g. the Gloria, the Creed, Our Father, Lamb of God. Read a psalm or a story from the Gospels. Pray the Rosary. Have a fixed time for this. Here in the monastery we have to drop everything when the bell goes for prayer!”

She also invited people to join the 31 or so sisters at Glencairn in “keeping up a constant and trusting prayer for all our medical and healthcare workers and for all humanity.” She stated that one of the psalms which they pray at each night prayer is Psalm 90, part of which states:

under his wings you will find refuge.
You will not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the plague that prowls in the darkness
nor the scourge that lays waste at noon.

St Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn, Co. Waterford is home to Ireland’s only community of Cistercian Nuns.

Separately, an Irish monk has offered his contribution to helping people get through this period of worry and self-isolation. Fr Simon Sleeman, OSB Benedictine monk of Glenstal Abbey, Co. Limerick, has produced a video blog titled Heart Centre. In the latest and second talk he describes how he prepares each day for what lies ahead and the challenges that he will inevitably meet.

This includes lighting a candle given to him by his sister when he faced mental health issues last year and received help at a St John of God facility. He spoke openly about this period in his life with Brendan O’Connor on RTÉ Radio 1 at the weekend, and about the video blog.

Fr Simon Sleeman

In talk two on meditation, he prayed: “lead us from darkness to light… sadness to joy… death to immortality”. He gave tips about how he meditates and tends to his spiritual needs. “This is a time to connect with our heart, our soul, our inner world…” he said, and that takes time, quiet and space.

In the first video, he spoke about his life as a Benedictine monk. He said that the COVID-19 virus has stopped people in their tracks, and given them time to slow down and connect with what is important, and to be in touch with nature and with each other.

Glenstal Abbey is a Benedictine Monastery in Murroe, Co. Limerick, Ireland and is home to a community of 34 monks.

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