Last year, Downside Abbey received an e-mail from Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland, asking whether we would like to participate in a project to receive young men to live and work in our community, who are seeking more meaning in their life, and may even be open to a vocation.

Not expecting anything to come of it, we said ‘Yes’. Then we were asked to receive Paul, a young man from Mainz, Germany. He has been with us for two months now, participating in the prayer of the community and helping in the library, gardens and even decorating the Refectory for Christmas.

His current project is the deep and careful cleaning of the monks’ choir stalls, last done (we think) in the late 1960s, when the Abbey Church was re-ordered. Why now? To prepare for a photo shoot of them in preparation for a book about misericords – it seems that the camera really doesn’t lie and that dust is invisible to the naked eye, is only too visible to the photographer.