Paul writes – Sebastian Moore, a Benedictine monk of Downside Abbey (UK) for 72 years (aged 94-years), Moral Theologian and one of the most-read Catholic spiritual writers of the last 70 years recently featured in an interview broadcast on ABC Radio National – Sunday Nights with John Cleary.
It was a fascinating interview, not least because of Moore’s colourful language, but more especially on account of a depth and perspective of years that is brought to the conversation by Moore. Topics of conversation include: sexuality, monastic formation, love, friendship (referenced is the wonderful little medieval text Spiritual Friendship by Aelred of Rievaulx (b 1110, d. 1167)), spirituality, and Christianity (and also some of the topics contemporary monk/writers like Richard Rohr popularly develop).
Diverse contemporary influences on Moore’s thinking and practice include Eckhart Tolle, James Alison, and French Philosopher Rene Girard (himself a big influence on Alison). Also mentioned, though not by name, is the controversial (but fascinating) work of German theologian, critic, psychotherapist and former Catholic Priest Eugen Drewermann (the most accessible book on Drewermann’s thinking, in english (that I’ve discovered is A Violent God Image: An Introduction to the Work of Eugen Drewermann by Matthias Beier.
Excerpt from the interview:
Noel Debien: You mentioned two very important things there, you talked about silence, and you also talked about this aloneness. Is loneliness something you felt early in your work and life as a person and as a monk? It has been many decades now.
Sebastian Moore: Oh yes, certainly. I think I chose the monastic life because I couldn't cope with people, with getting married, what everyone did. Basically yes, it was an escape into...I suppose into being alone, and obscurely knowing that that's where something was going to happen. Yes, I had a sense that that was how I was going to be shown who I was and what I was. And I was. I think that was the other biggest experience of my life. As novices we were tortured with this thing called mental prayer, we had to spend half an hour twice a day just getting into the presence of God, and I had been doing it for years and doing myself brain damage I think, trying to induce a kind of God consciousness, that sort of thing.
And on this particular occasion in 1944, early autumn, it is very clear, I was going through this torture and suddenly something in me said 'be honest', and I said, 'This is a bloody bore, I can't stick to this anymore,' you know. And I still don't know what happened but I knew I was in love, and I just heard myself say, 'Look, I'll give you anything you want,' and that's always been absolutely basic to me. Then I read John of the Cross and all these experts, and I sort of knew what they were talking about because I had been given a taste of it…”