Those looking for a quiet retreat are unlikely to find it in Dusseldorf’s Dominican monastery. The monks there live in the heart of the city’s nightlife district. Their evening prayers are accompanied by drunken bawling from the street. Revelers and homeless people are a permanent challenge. How has this community of eight priests come to terms with their very unusual monastic environment?
Dusseldorf likes to boast that it’s a city that doesn’t sleep - at least on weekends. But the Dominican monks who live downtown need their rest. Morning Prayer in the St. Andrew’s church starts at seven-thirty on six days a week. The Dominicans took over the city parish in 1972. Even back then it was pretty lively around the former royal chapel and Jesuit church and the newly-built monastery: the monks knew what they were letting themselves in for. The current prior, Father Elias, puts a positive spin on the turmoil: "Jesus went out to the people, and the people came to Jesus. Basically, we do the same. We are there where the people are. That’s great!” But the monks’ unusual location makes special demands on them: Father Manfred relates how he once kept a lookout while a junkie shot up undisturbed in the church. Father Wolfgang runs the soup kitchen and takes care of the homeless. A monastery amidst the party scene is entirely in keeping with the Dominicans’ tradition. This Catholic Order never hid behind monastery walls; it has always gone out to the people.