Thursday 21 September 2017

Solitude and peace: new abbey pods offer hotline to God

Fr Cuthbert Brennan, left, and Abbot Mark Patrick Hederman outside a Glenstal Abbey 'God Pod', in Murroe, Co Limerick
Fr Cuthbert Brennan, left, and Abbot Mark Patrick Hederman outside a Glenstal Abbey 'God Pod', in Murroe, Co Limerick
Br Hederman inside one of the pods

Barry Duggan

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins could soon be taking time out to reflect in a 'God Pod' at a secluded monastery.

Mr Higgins regularly goes on retreat to Glenstal Abbey in Limerick – where there are now two new 'God Pods'.

According to one of the country's most prominent monks, Brother Mark Patrick Hederman, the pods – which are open to all from next month – offer solitude, peace, isolation and, most importantly, a hotline to God.

The small hermitage-like buildings are inspired by the world-famous beehive huts at Skellig Michael, off the coast of Kerry.

The huts were constructed from the sixth century onwards by monks who preferred remote locations for a life of devotion.

Brother Hederman, who is Abbot of Glenstal, said all modern communications are cut off in the pods, and the only sound is that of the natural surroundings.

"People who go there want to get away from everyday life," he said.

"There is the possibility here of having complete solitude if you want it. It is seclusion and silence – a hotline to God is available."

President Higgins last spent time there in November, and also prepared his inauguration speech over a few days at Glenstal after he won the 2011 Presidential election.

If they choose, guests can attend any of the four daily religious services with the 40 monks, who live in the monastery 1km away.

"Some find 6.30am is a bit early for saying hello to God, so they might prefer midday mass or vespers (evening prayers in Latin) at 6pm," the abbot said. The pods are equipped with a kitchen unit, wood stove, bathroom with electric shower, sitting area, bedroom area and front and back porches.

"Guests have everything there. It is not uncomfortable. There is very good heating, solar panels and you can microwave cook or get meals from the abbey," Brother Hederman said.

"There is a beautiful view of the Galtee mountains. You get terrific nature and are surrounded by trees."

The Glenstal Abbey Benedictine monks combine prayer and devotion with managing a boarding secondary school for boys and a farm.

The pods will be available from February 1 and are run on a donation basis.

Irish Independent

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