Life at Bonnevaux

Who will Bonnevaux welcome?

Bonnevaux will be not only a home for all members and friends of the WCCM. It will welcome everyone of any faith or background with whom we share a contemplative approach to the problems of our world. Rooted in our wisdom tradition it will be open to all sources of wisdom, ancient and modern.

  • Individual meditators will be welcomed to deepen their personal journey.
  • Community leaders and national groups will come for retreat, training, personal deepening and for special courses. What they receive at Bonnevaux they will take back to their communities.
  • Professional and social leaders will meet in the peace and beauty of Bonnevaux both to renew their commitment as servant-leaders and to be active proponents of social change.
  • Monastics of all forms, traditional and modern will join a core group of resident oblates who will nurture Bonnevaux’s Benedictine spirit.
  • Interns who may be mid-age, third age, university gap year students or young professionals will reside and work with the core community.
  • The Oblate Novitiate year will be developed and expanded.
  • Partners in other faiths and organisations will be warmly welcomed.
  • Solitaries seeking to come closer to God and to the world
  • Passing pilgrims will today, as St Benedict said in the 6th century, be ‘received as Christ himself ’.
  • The next generation of teachers will be nurtured and empowered to share the gift of meditation with others.

Daily Life at Bonnevaux

As in its original 12th century Benedictine foundation, the mission and programmes will be guided by stability, simplicity and silence. The daily life of the community and guests will be founded on the ancient monastic wisdom of ora et labora, the wise rhythm of work, study and prayer, hospitality and service. It will live this wisdom in contemporary and inclusive ways. Individual meditators and groups will be welcomed to the life which will be integrated with the programmes and retreats.
A programme of events will run throughout the year.
Each day will be nourished by set times of prayer and meditation and spiritual study. During these times the work of the centre and teaching will rest and move into silence.
All will be invited to share in the daily running of the centre.

Over time Bonnevaux will be developed as a space comprising:

  • A core community of twelve members
  • Self-contained guest rooms
  • Retreat ‘cells’ each with a small garden
  • A Meditatio Conference Centre
  • Hermitages
  • Outside space for young visitors in the summer

The spirit of the centre will be contemplative, simple, hospitable and beautiful. The healthy need for solitude will be balanced with an experience of community – shared in times of meditation, meals and in all the teachings and events hosted by Bonnevaux.

Who will run Bonnevaux?

Laurence Freeman OSB, the WCCM Director will be resident at Bonnevaux. The centre’s organisational and financial administration will be in the hands of a strong team which Fr Laurence will work closely with and to whom he will delegate practical responsibilities. The Centre team will also consult regularly with the Director of the School and the
Chair of the Meditatio Council (inreach and outreach).

The Centre team, in which several key positions are already filled, will include:

  • A Director and general manager of the centre
  • Directors responsible for programmes and publicity
  • Coordinators for the grounds, house maintenance and hospitality
  • A core community, including resident oblates.

The Location

On the outskirts of Marcay, near Poitiers, France, standing amidst woods and streams, the surrounding rolling hills are covered with dense woods and modest-sized fields forming a landscape that has remained unchanged for more than a century. The region is renowned for the Romanesque architecture including numerous chapels and abbeys.

The gate house at the entrance marks the entrance to the 65 ha (160 acre) property. The driveway, bordered by tall trees and wild hedgerows, leads to a crossroads and an opening to beautiful space. The small verdant valley and its buildings communicate a sense of deep peace and tranquility:

  • On the south is the main house
  • On the east is the chapel
  • On the west, partially masked by immense plane trees, stand the old stables and the barn, extended by a succession of support buildings: a piggery, henhouse and storage areas
  • On the north, the garden is flanked on one side by the hillside and on the other by a narrow river.

The small Romanesque bridge which crosses the river goes down toward a vegetable garden of 3,800 m2. It is bordered on two sides by a small escarpment, the bridge and the river enclosing the other two sides. On the north side, the garden is protected from winds by a wood. Its location was appreciated as ideal for contemplation since it was adopted by Benedictine and then Cistercian monks of the 12th century.

The topography and the diversity of this land which extend over 65 hectares provide the property with major assets. It follows the relief of a small valley which has a river running through the middle. Comprising woods, meadows, grazing lands and fields, the grounds offer a range of activities for nature lovers. The woods are well managed and predominately consist of wonderful oak trees that grow well as the valley is relatively sheltered from the winds. The grounds where small game nest are frequently visited by stags and roe deer. Although some fields were cultivated some twenty years ago, the property’s land was converted to organic farming very early on as it has not been treated with any phytosanitary products for fifty years.

fr-thomas-headshot-300x250THOMAS KEATING OCSO (Founder of Contemplative Outreach)
The need for a place to train leaders and teachers and to provide space for special groups to hold important meetings is a sign of significant growth. WCCM is enjoying immense expansion and is being constantly enriched by maturing meditators, some of who will want more advanced training. The house and grounds of Bonnevaux look very beautiful and well suited to your purpose. As an ancient monastery, the walls are exuding grace all the time, like the special shrines of Europe and the Near East. It will help those who come to relax and find deep refreshment in the gift of profound silence that this facility is certain to provide. With my prayer and friendship

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If you have any questions about how to support Bonnevaux please do not hesitate to contact us.

Briji Waterfield, Director of Special Projects
WCCM International Office, St Marks, Myddelton Square, London EC1R 1XX, United Kingdom
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7278 2070