Welcome to The Mount
Nestled comfortably in Mount St Benedict lies yet another of Trinidad & Tobago’s exalted historic religious sites; The Abbey of our Lady of Exile. Our travels this time led us through the Tunapuna area in Trinidad to the foothills of Mount St Benedict with our final destination, of course, being the abbey at the top. The long winding road to the top was generously filled with adequate signage to ensure we did not lose our way. After leaving the sparsely populated area and what little signs of human life behind us the journey began. Along the way one should keep eyes out for the Stations of the Cross markers which, during Easter time, serve as a guide for the reenactment of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion all the way to the top of the mount. Driving up the mount with the car’s windows down provided a sense of serenity and calm. The cool wind rushes in takes away all of your troubles and the chirping of birds bring you closer to nature in its most simplistic form. It’s as if this is the reason why many people journey to the Mount. If for any reason you are unable to make it to the top there are shuttle services available until 5PM. The white 7 seater minivans with “Mount St. Benedict” emblazoned across it will ensure that you reach the destination safely.
Upon reaching the top of the hill, you are immediately presented with breathtaking views of the lush green hills on one side and on the other, a spectacular view of the Caroni plains and southern lands expanding as far as the eye can see with faint outlines of the San Fernando Hill, the Pointe-A-Pierre Oil Refinery and the vast Gulf of Paria.
Go ahead and find a parking spot quickly because there is a lot to explore! We first visited the courtyard area which provided us with spectacular views of the Chapel and the Monastery. A sort of outdoor balcony area provides covered seating for you to relax, think and enjoy the experience which cannot be described by mere words. It’s definitely something you have to see with your own eyes and feel with your entire being. It is truly something spiritual.
Looking across the courtyard the majority of the building’s architecture is adorned with religious crests and sigils. “Pax in virtue” meaning peace in strength can be seen on the face of the building and hints to the mission of the founders. Make you way past the grotto and step into the chapel.
The hallowed halls of the Chapel provide ample space to sit alone, deep in thought or admire the early nineteenth century edifice. Wide arches and countless pillars graced with the Stations of the Cross depicting the incidents leading to death of Jesus Christ add to the rustic feel of the hall.
Dark wooden pews flow from the back of the chapel all the way to the platform before the altar.
There are many statues throughout the Chapel, from The Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the most impressive being that of Saint Benedict himself.
It is said that monks of the Abbey base their life around the Rule of Saint Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia somewhere between 480-550 AD, which is a code of conduct so to speak and influences all that they do, following the golden rule of Ora et Labora – pray and work. The Rule of Saint Benedict comprises of seventy-three chapters divided into spiritual wisdom and administrative which looks at the effective and efficient operation of a monastery. Being home to at least 10 Benedictine Monks, it’s safe to say that there are no shortages of devotion at the abbey. Prayer times are as follows:
Holy Mass – Monday to Saturday: 6:45 am and Sunday: 5:15 am; 7:00 am; 8:30 am;
Morning Prayer – Monday to Saturday: 6:00 am and Sunday: 6:15 am
Evening Prayer – Monday to Saturday: 6:00 pm and Sunday (with Benediction): 3:00 pm
Lighting of candles is also carried out daily. Worshipers are allowed to bring their own candles and light them in hopes of achieving enlightenment and guidance in life. The following prayer describes such faith:
At the end of the day all candles are removed so that other devotees may partake in the practice. It was astounding to see the number of candles alight in the enclosure and it definitely showed us how important religion is for uniting people under a common teaching.
Our journey saw us stay at the abbey for a couple of hours and in that time we experienced a wealth of history and knowledge of life at the Monastery. It allowed us to reflect upon life and all that it has to offer in the calm, peaceful outdoors. Being allowed to let your mind free is one of the most liberating feelings one can experience and we absolutely recommend that you take the time to visit the Abbey and discover a little bit more about yourself.