Life and Study at St. Finnian’s Monastic School

English Language Study for Russian Orthodox Learners

Life and Study at St. Finnian’s Monastic School

The monks who came to study at Fr. Finnian’s school lived in small huts that they built themselves.  Sometimes one person lived in a hut, sometimes it was shared by several people.  There was not enough stone in Clonard, so cells were made mostly of clay and wet soil.  The pupils grew their own corn and barley; they ground the grain by hand using rocks, or with the help of simple water-wheels.  The rivers surrounding the monastery were full of fish, and cows grazed in the pastures.  If the monks ran out of food, they put sacks on their shoulders and went to ask for help from the villagers, who never refused to supply the brethren.

The pupils did not need to pay for their education or the books.  At that time, books were very expensive and rare; there were only a few manuscripts in the monastery.  Education was oral.  Lessons were conducted in the open air for the greater part of the year.  The green fields of Clonard gave space for everybody.  During a lecture, Abbot Finnian stood on the summit of the highest hill,  and the pupils sat around.  In this way, not only hundreds but thousands of people could hear their teacher.

The study of Scriptures was especially important at Clonard.  Fr. Finnian considered it the most difficult of all the branches of divine knowledge.  He also believed that prayer and meditation could do much more for his pupils than human wisdom.  Wisdom and instruction only aid in understanding God’s word, but the best teacher is the Holy Spirit.

Like Abbot Finnian, the monks studying at Clonard believed that the best way to dedicate one’s life to God is by following the ascetic tradition.  The brethren strictly observed fasting and wore rough, ragged clothing.  Many pupils practised constant prayer.

The monastic school at Clonard raised prominent disciples who excelled in sacred learning.  After leaving the school, they founded new monasteries in Ireland and beyond, inspiring numerous souls to strive towards God’s Kingdom.

Celtic Cross