There is fruit on Papa Stronsay, they are in the middle of harvest in the green house, the cherries have just past, but then they are fruitful; all those young men they attract, despite or maybe because of the ghastly weather, the distance from anyone's home, the extraordinarily uncomfortable looking habits, the long hours in prayer, the penance, and although I haven't visited, though I have met some, what people remark on is the joy they have.
Fr Hugh writes about a meeting of the English Benedictines that has just ended, they have been discussing their future. In many ways their discussion is emblematic of the rest of the church, they are the 'canary down the mine'. The health of contemplative religious is an indication of the health of the wider Church.
One could make the that suggestion that the Traditional liturgy seems to make monastic life flourish, if one did, one could cite Norcia or Fontgombault and its several daughter houses or La Barroux or the Franciscans of the Immaculate, and Silverstream too have just professed Benedict Andersen, my congratulations. It might well be 'trad' communities do seem to flourish, but I would suggest that was only part of the answer. Some might be attracted to the religious life just because they are liturgical pedants, most monasteries need at least one. Liturgy is certainly important to monastic life as it is to the rest of the Church but there is something more, liturgy is the fons et origo but it is a means to an end, as the Church itself is, that end is union with God.
Ultimately religious life is about holiness, about saints, about growth in the supernatural virtues, about Faith, Hope and Charity, it is about effective brotherly love, as should the Church as a whole.
The big question, which we dare not ask is, can we see the theological virtues being lived out, is the Church, is a monastery producing saints? Are vessels of clay shining with supernatural light?
The great problem in religious life is perhaps the modern heresy of Gradualism, it infects parishes too, the idea that we cannot be saints today, that we do not encounter God, that we are not changed by God. What this means in reality is that there is no need for Faith, we are not reliant on God, or Hope, that God will take care of all things, or Charity that we are called to love with supernatural power. Whether it is the Universal Church, a parish, or a monastery or even a Synod the loss of the supernatural, of Grace is the killer, and yes the Sacred Liturgy is the key! Does a community believe it is a supernatural act, and therefore a fruitful thing, or just a community exercise.