June 2016

Mount Melleray Abbey, Ireland

Roots

The massive monastic edifice featured on the front of this month’s A Word and above, is not New Melleray Abbey, Peosta, but Mount Melleray Abbey, Cappoquin, County Waterford, Ireland. Father Jonah and I had the privilege of visiting Mount Melleray last month. As the name of that Irish abbey suggests there is a connection between New Melleray and Mount Melleray, the connection of a daughter to her mother. Mount Melleray Abbey is the mother house of New Melleray. They were Irish and English monks of Mount Melleray who in the first part of the 19th century set out to claim the offer of land made by Bishop Loras to the Irish abbey. It was the time of an Gorta Mór, the Great Hunger, what we know as the Potato Famine, in Ireland, 1845 to 1852, that precipitated the monks’ leaving the old sod. New Melleray was founded in 1849. In a similar way Mount Melleray itself was founded less than twenty years earlier by Irish and English monks who were driven from their monastery, Melleray Abbey, in France because of government hostility to the Church and to non-French persons. Melleray Abbey, then is New Melleray’s grandmother. New Melleray Abbey’s pedigree includes not only the Anglo-Celtic (English and Irish) influence but also the experience of the political and economic refugee. New Melleray, in its turn, has its own daughter, Assumption Abbey, Ava, Mo. (for some reason the Melleray name was not passed on to this daugheter). Assumption Abbey was founded in 1950 on land given to New Melleray by a Chicago journalist whose name, sorry to say, escapes me at the moment. A community that over more than sixty years has not succeeded in incorporating new members, Assumption Abbey is in the process of turning over its physical and liquid assets along with its spiritual patrimony to another Roman Catholic monastic institute, thus assuring a monastic presence in the place founded sixty-six years ago by monks of New Melleray Abbey. Our own mother house, Mount Melleray, along with most of the five Irish monasteries of our Order, is itself in a state of decline and fragility. A monastery and a monastic institute know all the joys and challenges of family life, where generations succeed one another in sometimes creative new ways.

Fr. Mark

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.

-- Alex Haley

  

Film

Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015 ) tells the story of Ellis Lacy (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish woman who leaves her restricted life in her hometown of Enniscorthy to create a larger future for herself in America. Brooklyn vividly portrays the extreme homesickness of our heroine in a strange land. Ellis’s life takes a major turn when she meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) at a parish dance. The Italian Tony early on admits to Ellis, “I just love Irish girls.” A working man, he is as gentlemanly as any of the aristocrats in Jane Austen’s stories. They grow closer until they realize that they are in love and want to get married. However, when Ellis’s sister dies in Ireland she returns there to comfort her mother. During the weeks back home a handsome upper-class fellow, Jim Farrell (Domnhall Gleeson), takes a shine to her and a romance between them develops, leaving Ellis in a dilemma: Should she return to Brooklyn and Tony or should she pursue a comfortable life with Jim? The suspense surrounding her deliberation is only one feature of the story. The story is solidly set in the early 1950s, when the prosperous post-war economy gave Americans plenty of opportunities. Meanwhile, Ireland’s economy stagnated with few employment opportunities and modest standards of living. Both Enniscorthy and Brooklyn are depicted as romantic but confining in their own way. As a piece of nostalgia, a romantic little gem, and a portrayal of the plight of immigrants, it is a film hard to beat.

 

New Melleray Abbey Fields of Corn

 

Author: Fr. Mark Scott

Tags: Mount Melleray, Roots, Brooklyn

This simple communication is one way for me as abbot of New Melleray Abbey to communicate with the abbey’s employees and volunteers. My intention is to give our stakeholders some idea of the values and lifestyle of the monks and to share things that I have found worthwhile, thoughtful, and/or humorous. It is hoped that this sharing from the abbot will strengthen the bonds of partnership and collaboration between the monastic community and our extended community of employees and volunteers.

Fr. Mark

Abbot