Real conversion experience for reality TV atheist
Five men, ranging from an atheist in the pornography trade to a former Protestant paramilitary, have found their lives unexpectedly transformed in the latest incarnation of reality television in the UK - the monastery.
The London Telegraph reports that the five underwent a spiritual makeover by spending 40 days and 40 nights living with Roman Catholic monks in Worth Abbey, West Sussex.
The experiment, which will be shown on BBC TV this month, was designed to test whether the monastic tradition begun by St Benedict 1500 years ago still has any relevance to the modern world.
Although participants were not required to vote each other out - like Big Brother - they faced the challenge of living together in a community and following a disciplined regime of work and prayer. By the end, the atheist, Tony Burke, 29, became a believer and gave up his job producing trailers for a sex chat line after having what he described as a "religious experience".
Gary McCormick, 36, the former Ulster Defence Association member, who spent much of his early life in prison, began to overcome his inner demons.
Peter Gruffydd, a retired teacher, regained the faith he had rejected in his youth and Nick Buxton, 37, a Cambridge undergraduate, edged closer to becoming an Anglican priest.
The fifth "novice", 32-year-old Anthony Wright, who works for a London legal publishing company, started to come to terms with his childhood traumas.
The three-part series called The Monastery shows the five abiding by the monastery rules, with a strict timetable of instruction, study, prayer, reflection and work duties. They are also shown holding intense and often painful sessions with their religious mentors, individual monks assigned to guide each of them on their spiritual journeys.
Reality TV in monastery changes five lives forever (London Telegraph 30/4/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Monastery opens its doors to BBC TWO (BBC 22/4/05)
Saint Benedict at work on reality TV (Catholic News Agency 3/5/05)
4 May 2005