Second Year seminarian for the Aberdeen diocese, Chris Doig, has recently been published in the Scottish Catholic Obsever with his memories from his time in Montserrat this summer. Chris and his brother seminarians, along with Bishop Hugh Gilbert, made the pilgrimage from the north of Scotland to the Benedictine abbey, in the Catalonian mountains. It takes its name from the mountain it nestles below, that of Montserrat, which literally means, “serrated mountains”. The abbey is a big part in Catalonian life. The statue of the Black Virgin rests in the sanctuary of the monastery as well as being home to L’Escolania de Montserrat, one of the oldest boys choirs in Europe. The site is second only to Santiago de Compostela as a place of national pilgrimage, and this summer, this group of brave Aberdonians joined the pilgrim route.
Our reporting seminarian writes in his article about the power of the place, calling to mind especially the words of Psalm 72.
“May the mountains bring forth peace and the hills, justice!”
The surroundings manage easily to send all who pass by on their way with “…a heart full of peace, joy and serenity.” Chris and the Aberdeen contingent where in Spain for a summer retreat and he writes candidly about his expectations and the reality of staying in this awesome place.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when going there but whatever was in my mind was blown into pieces as the days unfolded. I thought that staying in a Catalan monastery for a few days would be a familiar experience… and it was. We got up early and said our prayers, we had our lunch and went for walks, but in that ordinariness of life there was something extraordinary – beautiful simplicity. That is the way to holiness: carrying out your duties and doing the most ordinary of tasks with love.”
For the pilgrims, there was also another aspect to the pilgrimage, and that was the monastic hospitality, as Chris describes:
“The monks really went out their way to make sure we felt at home…” and for their hospitality, how could the Aberdeen diocese repay their hosts? “…trying to teach the monks some Doric.”
If you want to find out the whole story of Chris’ time in Montserrat, then turn to page 8 of the Scottish Catholic Observer, published on the 13th November. Or pay the spectacular place a visit for yourself. As Chris says, “Montserrat, the place where listening to Benedictine chant at high altitudes makes you praise God more than ever!”