Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 21st 2014 Contents to those in need. To study the works of the
spiritual writers help to ground my own
spirituality and to be of greater service to
others. My work also includes some admin-
istrative tasks that necessarily go along with
any leadership role.
Can you give me an example of one such
Sure. One which many people may be
able to identify with has to do with our
popular Pax Yogurt. It is sold in most of
the recognised supermarkets in T&T. It is
also in great demand in our own shop at
the Mount: The Pax Abbey Shop. This latter
is another one of my administrative tasks
as the monastery owns the shop and is ulti-
mately responsible for what is sold there.
With regard to Pax Yogurt, it is the brain-
child of our most senior priest at the abbey,
Fr Cuthbert van der Sande, who grew up
on a farm in the Netherlands and at the
abbey was always experimenting with
improving the diet of the monks using milk
products. He is now 90 years of age and
still reports for duty at the yogurt factory
each day. He started making goat cheese
for the monks. Eventually, he introduced
the production of yogurt as a small cottage
industry, primarily for the monks. We started
sharing it with our employees and with
some of the embassies in Port-of-Spain.
Little by little, the word was spreading that
the monks were making yogurt. The demand
increased daily and so on March 14, 2003,
the Pax Yogurt Company Ltd was established
at the Mount. The manager, Mr Maxime
De Comarmond, is a former student of the
abbey school. In addition to the yogurt, the
company also produces a yogurt spread and
a yogurt drink, both of which are now very
What goals and aspirations do you still
I aspire to continue witnessing to the
monastic charism and to allow the con-
templative face of the Caribbean church to
shine out in the midst of our Caribbean
people. It means as well recognising the
thousands of anonymous monks who make
up the membership of an invisible
What do you consider your most sig-
My most significant accomplishment is
remaining faithful to the monastic journey
in spite of my own failings.
If you had an opportunity to meet any-
one in the world today, who would it be
Pope Francis. I am inspired by the manner
in which he lives out the joy of the gospel.
What advice would you give to the lead-
ers of our country, separate and apart from
our earlier question about advice to the
I would advise the leaders of our country
to rise above party politics in the national
interest and always to seek the way of col-
Describe yourself in two words, one
beginning with J, the other with P, your
I describe myself as jagged and patchy,
yet seeking joy and peace.
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt December 21, 2014
implications for the manner in which we relate
with each other. The possibilities for good are legion.
We cannot be defined solely by the manner in which
we relate with each other today. Because we each
have a spark of the divine in us, then good is our
destiny and good is our course. The present appear-
ance of evil in our land with the rampant escalation
of senseless crime cannot be our destiny. There is
a good that is waiting to be tapped. This is the good
which follows as a consequence of the incarnation.
Good will only triumph over evil, however, if we
would wake up to the reality of the fact that God
has indeed taken flesh and has come among us.
What advice would you give to a young person
who is contemplating a vocation such as yours?
I would ask the young person to consider whether
he/she is willing to forgo self and live for the other.
Life as a monk is one of service to God and to the
other. One has to abandon a life centred on self and
live a life centred on God and the other. If he/she
is not willing to do so, then I would discourage
him/her from embarking on this way of life. A monas-
tic way of life is one of dedication and service, and
one cannot live such a life unless one is truly seeking
What are some of the challenges you face in your
A major challenge is that of juggling limited per-
sonnel resources in meeting the pastoral demands
laid upon us. Mount St Benedict is a centre of pil-
grimage for people of all religions. To be faithful to
this centre we need to be faithful witnesses of ded-
icated commitment to Jesus. Another major challenge
is that of preserving the monastic element of our
witness. Before being a centre of pilgrimage, Mount
St Benedict is essentially a monastic community.
The monastic values of prayer, silence and contem-
plation can be eroded if we are not faithful to our
daily round of prayer and reflection. In other words,
the balance associated with a life pleasing to God
must be maintained if we are to preserve our identity
as a monastery on the mountain top.
Who were the people who have influenced you
My parents and my siblings...my family. It was in
my family that I learnt the values which prepared
me for life's journey.
Most people will not know what life as a priest
is like, what would you say to them? What is your
typical day like?
The life of the priest is one which reflects the life
of Jesus. It is one of total service to God and the
other. It can be described as a life of selfless giving.
A typical day in the life of a priest consists of
prayer, work and reflection. My day is punctuated
with intervals of prayer (both private and communal).
Our community meets five times a day to pray. In
addition to this, I have quiet times when I commune
with God in private. Without these times of prayer,
then our life of service becomes hollow and we can
no longer offer to others what is uplifting and prayer-
ful. At the Mount, a portion of my day is also spent
meeting with pilgrims who are in need of some sort
of spiritual guidance and counsel. As abbot of the
monastery, I make time to meet with the monks,
both at a personal and communal level. Reaching
out to people in need of God's mercy as in the Sacra-
ment of Reconciliation is also a primary function.
Each day, I put aside time to read the scriptures and
other sacred writings so as to find resonance with
God and also to be able to offer some spiritual food
Fr John Pereira:
I offer a message of hope to T&T
From Page B1
Fr John Pereira, abbot of Mount St
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