we have many distractions in life, not least when it comes to modern
technology. Typically I might be sat on the sofa and think, shall I
go on my I Pad to look something up or check emails, check my phone
for texts or Facebook, or maybe switch on the telly? All whilst I’m
eating my lunch!
I’m not one to criticise too much the marvels of modern technology
and the benefits they bring. Standing outside the phone box as a youngster
because we didn’t have a house phone, seems a world away now.
All those long queues and getting irritated because someone was spending
too long in there, and you’d already been waiting twenty minutes!
I remember once when I was a lad of about sixteen, I was intending to
ring a girl and ask her out, but the queue outside the telephone box
was so long and I waited so long, it gave me too long to think and dwell
on it. So much so that by the time I got to the front of the queue,
I’d lost my nerve and gave up and went home!
Now all those phone boxes, whether the old red ones which I particularly
identify with or the more ‘modern’ ones that came after
that, look very sad and neglected, with not one person in them, never
mind a queue. So yes, means of communication etc. have massively developed
in recent decades and there is much to be said for it. Look how easily
we can educate ourselves at a click or a touch, of a phone, I Pad or
However with all this great progress of instant access, comes greater
distraction and the temptation to pick up your phone even when you think
you’re quite absorbed watching something good on the telly, is
always there. Thank goodness for SKY Plus when you can press pause!
So as with many things there is an upside and a down side. One thing
is certain; too many distractions are not great for us. I was just looking
at a video on You Tube and it featured a community of Benedictine Monks
called the Monastery in the Desert. Possibly one of the most isolated
monasteries in the western world, it was out in the wilderness of New
Mexico. The stillness within the monastery and outside of it and that
sense of untamed landscape and natural environment came across strongly.
The monks as is typical within their order would theoretically live
there all their lives and the discipline of work and worship and generally
living by the Rule of St Benedict, gives them a greater chance of focus
and less chance of distraction. And yet amidst all this, forms of modern
media feature in some way within the monastery; albeit contained and
The video featured the monks engaging with the world through Sony Music,
as they recorded Gregorian Chant, a feature of the daily offices when
the monks gather in chapel and focus on God seven or eight times a day.
Through this recording, which the monks had never expected to do, something
of the Monastery in the Desert would be able to reach out into people’s
lives. Often busy and hectic lives that are in need of stillness and
some sense of spirituality. However, for all the listeners out there,
if there isn’t some sense of focus; and if people succumb to too
many distractions, the music of the Gregorian Chant is merely reduced
to something vaguely pleasant in the background, which is okay in itself
and has a place, but probably doesn’t take us too far in encountering
One of the monks said, ‘Listen with the ear of your heart.’
And then he said, ‘To listen you have to be quiet inside.’
The liturgical seasons of the church’s year help us to focus on
our Christian faith. As we pass from Epiphany through Candlemas and
into Lent, perhaps we might pray that God helps us to find him amidst
our busy distracted lives. Find him in stillness, where we might find
ourselves too and realise how much we need the peace that is God. May
we at some point in our day, listen with the ear of our hearts to the
God whom we so ignore, but who never ignores us.
Fr Carl Peters
The Clergy House
Tel: 0191 680 3875
Other Contact Telephone Numbers
Churchwarden - David 3789718
P.C.C. secretary - Denise 3781285
Brancepeth, St. Catherine's
Reader – Liz – 3731554,
Churchwarden - Joe - 3739927