I went to Buckfast Abbey for the Good Friday service, to my local church in Bovey Tracey for the Easter Vigil and to the Anglican church in Widecombe-in-the-Moor for the Sunday morning service. The reason for this now well-established sequence is that my brother’s widow comes to stay with me for the Triduum and likes the majesty of Buckfast, but wants to get home as quickly as possible after the end of Lent to have our first drink in 45 days.
I had not been to Buckfast for some time and it has certainly changed. The scaffolding which had seemed in danger of becoming a permanent fixture has gone, the buildings are sparklingly clean and the tourist facilities modern and bright.
So much for the outside; but it is changing inside as well. When I first started going there 10 years ago there was a longish procession of monks, but this year there was just a handful and all seemed elderly.
Buckfast will survive as long as there are any monks at all because it draws a large income from its most famous products: honey and especially Buckfast tonic wine, the proceeds from which it spends generously on local community projects.
The latter is a source of grievance north of the border where it is said to fuel violence among the youth of Glasgow, a claim which resulted in a demand for the abbey to lose its charitable status last spring.
It seemed an odd demand to me. Many things in this world, from alcohol to the internet, from television to pop music, from freedom of speech to law itself, can be used for good or ill and abusus non tollit usum, as Cicero would say.
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