Aussie RT – Day 28: Finding Jesus in New Norcia

Australia, Learned something new today, WA Roadtrip — By on November 23, 2010 11:18 AM

After our detour inland to find wildflowers, we stumbled upon the small town of New Norcia. We heard that monks resided in the town and I suggested we go to the evening service as I love to listen to monks chanting. As we entered the building the first thing I noticed was a large photo of Jesus hanging from the cross. Confused I asked Stacy, “What is Jesus doing here?” assuming I would be seeing Buddhist monks.

I learned that New Norcia is Australia’s only monastic town of Benedictine monks. I knew nothing of these Christian monks  and was very curious as to how they are different to other monks. We sat quietly in the pews as the elderly monks entered wearing long black robes. They split up sitting on opposite sides of the chapel in pews facing each other.  We followed along as they sang hymns from a book, each side would take turns singing a verse. They sang for about thirty minutes and then quietly exited the chapel.

After the service Stacy and I decided to go to the bar at the New Norcia hotel. I am sure my mother is loving this part of the story. But you see mom, the monks actually brew their own beer, Abbey Ale, and they believe drinking alcohol is not a sin (if consumed legally and in moderation of course). While I felt the monks could use some singing lessons, they certainly do know how to make a good beer and a fine port!

In the light of day we were able to explore the town. A Spanish influence apparent in the architecture of the buildings. The commune was established in 1847 by Don Rosendo Salvado, a Spanish Benedictine monk originally with the hopes of converting the Aboriginal tribes in the area. The last Spanish monk died last year, but there are still eight monks that live in New Norcia. They pray six times a day and farm the 30,000 acres of surrounding land. I liked a story I read about how Salvado saved the monastery and the church back in the day from a raging bush fire by holding up a painting of Mary and yelling into the oncoming blaze. It is said the fire retreated and the monastery was saved.

To see more photos of New Norcia CLICK HERE.

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