Ditching the 9-5: Life as a twentysomething monk

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By Dom Anselm Brumwell OSB, Downside Abbey

So often our schools and universities promote an idea of life which is based on a well-paid job, a successful career, with suitable opportunities for promotion and these are presented to young people as the only criteria for happiness. It was with great pleasure that we at Downside Abbey responded to a call from BBC Radio 1, asking whether we had a young monk who could talk to them about his choice to leave such ideas behind and embrace the religious life. Enter Br John, a junior monk in his late-20s, in temporary vows, who has been in the community for 3½ years.


A team from Radio 1 came to visit Downside in July for three days, and they followed his daily routine, interviewed him both formally and informally & filmed and recorded.

Br John’s choice to live as a Benedictine monk was viewed positively, and the Radio 1 team showed a real interest in trying to understand the meaning and importance of religious life for today’s world. The other young people in the programme are Zeki, a survival expert in the Scottish Highlands and Jess, an illustrator who lives on the edge of an estuary in Suffolk.


Br John said: “The Radio 1 programme offered a unique opportunity to see behind the scenes of the monastery and how we live out our life. What struck me most about the BBC Radio 1 team was their desire to genuinely listen to my vocation story. The fact that the programme was aimed at a young audience demonstrates how there remains a deep yearning for satisfaction in life among the younger generation. In light of the troubles that the Church is currently going through, the experience of taking part in this programme helped remind me the reason why I still remain a monk."

This is worth watching for anyone who is thinking of religious life and for those who want to hear the perspective of younger people about going against the grain: