HIDDEN TREASURES OF THE GOLD COASTHIDDEN TREASURES OF THE GOLD COAST?A LOOK AT GHANA?S UNTAPPED RESOURCES
?You?ve always been a tourist here. You just didn?t know it? ? Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner.
This week?s tourist site may generate mixed reactions from readers mainly because of its religious foundation. Though some may argue that it is not a tourist site, its unique background and foundation holds a lot for people who would always want to discover something new.Located in the Brong Ahafo region, it perfectly blends religion, work and reception of guest in the most spectacular way. Welcome to Kristo Buase Monastery, a unique enclave of spirituality, hospitality and communal labour.
Kristo Buase Monastery
We are Benedictine monks of the Subiaco-Cassinese Congregation, in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. The monastery was founded in 1989, at the request of the Catholic Bishop of Sunyani, as a joint foundation of three UK monasteries: Prinknash Abbey (Gloucester); Pluscarden Abbey (Scotland) and Ramsgate Abbey (Kent). The Ramsgate community have since relocated to Chilworth Abbey, in Surrey.MONASTIC LIFE has been part of the Church from the very earliest centuries. It grew out of the community life of the first Christians in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2:42; 4:32) but we look on the Desert Fathers of Egypt, living in the 3rd to 5th centuries, as the ?founding fathers? of a way of life which combined prayer, work and voluntary poverty with a strict discipline and solitude as a way of drawing closer to the Lord. It was, and is, seen as a radical acceptance of the challenge of Christ laid down for us in the Gospels (e.g. Mt 19) and of St Paul?s injunction that we should ?pray without ceasing? (1 Thess 5:17). The basic function of any monastery is to provide a climate of prayer, in which we can grow in our relationship with God.Kristo Buase is home to a small community of ten Benedictine monks. It is also a place of great beauty and historic interest which every year welcomes visitors from around the world.
About The Monks
BENEDICTINES are men and women who live according to the Rule of St Benedict. The Rule is ancient ? now nearly 1500 years old ? but full of spiritual wisdom and practical guidance. Historically, Benedictines have undertaken many particular works in the life of the Church. In some countries they run schools and parishes, in others the monasteries have been mission centres for primary evangelisation, or seminaries for the training of priests, but Kristo Buase Monastery is a ?contemplative? community, which means that our primary function is prayer. We aim to support ourselves financially by our manual labour, but our only apostolic work lies in the reception of guests. Our day is spent in the balanced alternation of three elements: prayer, work and study, within the framework of a stable religious community.
PRAYER for St Benedict means primarily the ?Work of God?, the solemn recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. Monks have as their basic prayer book the one hundred and fifty Psalms of David found in the Bible. These, together with hymns, readings from Scripture, prayers and intercessions form the core of our public prayer. The psalms are so arranged that the monk sings his way through the entire psalter once every week. In all we spend about three and a half hours a day together in church at regular intervals throughout the day.Obviously liturgical prayer alone would soon become dry and lifeless. A monk needs also a more personal encounter with the Lord through silent prayer. There is a period of about thirty minutes of prayer in common before the Blessed Sacrament each evening, but the intention of our way of life is that prayer should spill over into everything we do. That is why we have a general rule of silence: it fosters recollection and an awareness of the presence of God at all times and in all places.
Monks have their own distinctive form of prayer, known as Lectio Divina. This is a slow and meditative reading of the Scriptures, or the writings of the Fathers, as a way to ?chew over? their meaning, extract more of their richness, and lead us on to prayer. Often it consists of no more than a word or a phrase repeated over and over to oneself in silence.WORK has always played an important part in the monastic day. St Benedict says in his Rule, ?They are truly monks when they live by the labour of their hands?, and that ?Idleness is the enemy of the soul? (RB 48). Manual work has been the lot of man ever since the time of Adam. It may at times seem like a burden ? something perhaps we would prefer not to do ? but monks throughout the ages have discovered that it is necessary for the health of both body and soul. In a modern Benedictine monastery work also has an essential role in the financial support of the community. Through a simple lifestyle, close to nature, the monk seeks to live in harmony with God?s creation.There is also a monastic tradition of STUDY and scholarship and the community has a well-stocked library of more than 7,000 books. The main subject areas are Scripture, Philosophy, Theology, Liturgy, Monastic Spirituality, Sufi-Islam and African Studies.
The timetable of a typical day is: Rise: 0430; Vigils: 0445; Morning Prayer: 0600; Mass: 0645; Breakfast: 0730 Mid-Morning Prayer: 0810; Followed by 3 hours of manual work or studies. Midday Prayer: 1230; Dinner: 1245; Followed by Siesta. Afternoon Prayer: 1445, followed by Manual Work or Studies. Evening Prayer: 1730, followed by time for silent prayer. Supper: 1830; Compline: 1945; Retire to Bed: 2030.Sunday Mass is at 0930 and open to all. The third Sunday of the month is set aside for the local Dagaaba community with northern music and translations into Dagaare. The last Sunday of the month is for the Twi-speaking community of Tanoboase. On the remaining Sundays, Mass is in English.
Part of the hospitality offered by the monks of Kristo Buase is ?eating and living with the monks in return for a small donation? but both Wayne and Alexis make it quite clear that they?d rather sleep between the mongoose and the spitting cobra than with the monks, plus the invitation was for persons of the male persuasion only, so the hospitality part was out. But there was no denying the beauty part, with the driveway lined with flowering trees, and the (surprisingly new looking) monastery build right into the sandstone outcrop that protected it.
Brother Anthony Benjamin eventually appears and in typical Ghanaian fashion, asks Wayne and me who we are, and where we are from. Then he turns to Alexis ?and you are in the Peace Corp? he announces. She concedes this, but although he can name some friends of hers from the Corp, one of whom appears to be a fairly regular visitor, it still doesn?t explain his confidence in her connection. ?Can I interest you in a refreshment? A glass of water perhaps?? Of course we quickly decline. ?It?s all right,? he continues, ?it is Peace Corp approved.? Alexis wants nothing to do with the whole concept, but Wayne and I take him up on his offer to show us around, however first he asks us to wait because they?re about to go to prayers. By the time they are done, Wayne has also wandered off and so I?m alone when the next monk to greet me is not only white-skinned, but he has a distinctly non-Ghanaian accent, which for the moment I can?t put my finger on. Usual question, usual answer: ?the US.? ?Yes, yes,? he replies with what in a different setting I would have said was impatience. ?Boston, Mass? I offer. ?Ah,? he says ?The Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
We have a sister monetary there, in Harvard, Massachusetts.? There is indeed a monetary in Harvard, Massachusetts, and it is about five miles from our house in Stow. ?You do not sound as if you are from there, or here? I probe. ?No, I?m from Scotland.? ?Ah? I say, ?I too am half Scot?my father is from there.? ?What did you say your name was?? ?Richard Thomson.? ?How do you spell that?? ?Without a ?P?.? ?Hmph.? he says, satisfied. (Thomsons are Scottish, Thompsons are English.) And with that, he turns and glides back into the bowels of the monastery.The monastery owns 100 acres of cashews, (4000 trees) and while I was on the tour inside, Wayne and Alexis had made themselves useful by finding the interesting?very interesting?things on the outside. The cashews drying in the sun were okay, but the ones being turned into akpeteshie were much more up our street.
They were very proud of their fancy-schmancy German-built, stainless steel condenser. Of course we had to sample the output, of course it was delicious, and of course it was not for sale. They did open up their little store though, and we bought mango/mahogany schnapps (Wayne) which was like drinking liquid furniture, and straight mango (RT) which in comparison to Wayne?s was mah-velous, but was still drunk on principle rather than for pleasure. I also bought some cashew jam (made with the fruit part that is normally discarded).