I Love Cadfael!

Youth Worker’s Bournville Parish Magazine article.

My sister-in-law recently bought my wife and I the complete television series of Cadfael, a medieval who-dunnit set in a Benedictine monastery, which you might remember was filmed in the mid 1990’s and was based on the books by Ellis Peters.Due to our daughter’s sleeping habits we have been splitting an episode over two nights and we try to stop it at the moment when all seems bleakest, and a poor (usually young) man is about to be hanged by Deputy Sheriff Hugh Beringar for a crime Cadfael knows he didn’t commit, but as yet can’t prove. We’ve been really enjoying it and know many others who also like the stories. And who wouldn’t, with the highly revered Sir Derek Jacobi playing the role of the lovable Brother?! Therefore, I was a surprised to hear a comedian bad-mouthing my beloved Cadfael on a radio game show this week. It went something like this, “it’s rubbish! Cadfael is made up of a bunch of hammy actors wearing rugs standing in a copse near the M25 saying crummy lines like, ‘the sword and the crucifix are similar in shape; do not confuse them in purpose.’” As you can imagine I was outraged and may yet be writing in to register my discontent. Then I thought, maybe my indignation was due to the fact that I so wanted Cadfael to be an accurate representation of what monastic life was really like in those days? – no two days the same; a suspicious crime each morning after Lauds; the freedom to explore beautiful countryside. But of course, monastic life is not like that.

A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting Worth Abbey (of TV’s The Monastery fame) and spent a week living the life of a monk. We would rise at dawn to pray, returning to the church numerous times during the day. This was interspersed with manual work and spiritual reading and, of course, there was daily Mass. I can report that no-one was murdered and no relics went missing during my stay! I suspect that the life of a medieval monk would probably have more closely mirrored my experience than that depicted in Cadfael. And I think that our lives too have more in common, in a myriad of ways, with those of the monks at Worth. Our lives are made up of much routine, as well as a struggling to see the hand of God at work in our day to day experiences and relationships. And we often need help.

On Sunday 20th April Revd Peter Babington shared some personal thoughts and reflections on the importance of laying foundations and constructing frameworks that can help us make the most of our journey towards God through this life. For example, do we make time to pray and allow the Holy Spirit to help us know ourselves and God better through reflection and self-discipline? Peter went on to say that the tools that we have in the Christian tradition for the health and growth of our spiritual lives are as sharp as any that exist in many ‘eastern’ religious traditions, and the structures we have inherited (such as the Rule of St Benedict) are also just as strong. The difference being that they have the Father of Jesus Christ as their goal.
It made me ask myself some difficult questions: am I ‘ordering’ my life in such a way as to allow God the opportunity to work in and through me? Am I helping my family to do that? Am I encouraging the young people I work with to begin to do that? I think this was also the reason why St Benedict wrote his rule. If I can capture something of the Spirit of Benedict, Francis and other religious founders by applying some simple rules to my own life then maybe I might have a clearer view of what it is to be a Christian. It might not appear as immediately exciting as the life of Brother Cadfael, but it is more likely to be based in reality. I’m looking forward to the next instalment!