It was one of those dull occasions – I was waiting at the airport for my gate to come up on the flight announcement board and was bored and playing my favourite game of people watching when it happened . . .  A monk came and sat directly opposite me.

I remember how out of place he looked in his habit and sandals, with the classic monk hairdo to boot.  It was like he had walked off the set of ‘The Name of the Rose’.  As he reached into his leather satchel, I fully expected him to pull out some ancient manuscript or scroll.  Instead, he produced the Wall Street Journal and started checking how many points the Nasdaq had dropped overnight.

This just seemed so wrong!  Shouldn’t he be travelling by horse and cart on a cobble-stoned road or through wolf-infested woodlands? I mean, who ever heard of a monk in business class?  Next thing, I thought, he’ll be ordering the sushi!

There weren’t many things I still believed I could rely on in life.  But monks living in the past was one of them.

Then it dawned on me.  Monks are just regular people too.  Regular people who sing Gregorian chants between long bouts of not talking at all - but regular people all the same.   As the temptation to be bad and collect air miles surrounds us all, the job of being a monk must be tough. Just like in any job, there’s got to be some who are better at it than others.  And some that are downright awful.

These are their stories . . .

Alexander Bar