It is recorded in the Orkneyinga saga (Ch. 18) that there were still monks living here 955 years ago when, in 1045, the Viking Earl Rognvald came to Papey minni to collect malt for his Christmas ale. The monks apparently produced malt from barley and to this day the island's small peninsular is called Corn Graand. The Earl in his viking barge, replete with shields covering its bulwarks, and a host of oarsmen did not return home alive. They were warmng themselves in the monastery when the house was surrounded by Rognvald's rival, Earl Thorfinn whose men quickly set fire to the building. They let the religious escape but slaughtered Earl Rognvald and his men.
In 1999 after an unknown break that could have been as long or longer than 700 years, the wilderness rejoiced as the little Priests' Island of Papa Stronsay became inhabited again by priests and monks, the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (Transalpine Redemptorists). After many centuries the holy Mass is offered again on this island in the same Latin language as by the Irish monks who lived here over a thousand years ago, and as the Viking priests living here at the time of the Orkneinga Saga. It is true that if they appeared here we could neither speak to them in Old Norse nor in a Celtic tongue but the language and the actions of our Masses would be perfectly understood; so we could pray together as members of the same Mystical Body of Christ that knows a living unity that transcends the limits of time. It is a privilege to continue the Holy Mass here on the island that was the site of the most northerly early Christian monastery ever found.
From this holy desert, the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, leave their contemplative life and set out on voyages, from this island in the North Sea, like so many Irish or Viking monks, to preach the Eternal Truths in the form of Missions wherever they are invited; which means in any part of the world. They also spread devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and pray for the holy souls in Purgatory.
Fundamentally our message is this: Remember O Christian soul that time passes quickly and you too must soon die, be judged and enter into your eternity of heaven or hell. You have only one soul to save; that is your chief, nay your only work. For what does it profit you if, by your work, you gain the whole world which must soon end, and lose your immortal soul in an eternity of sufferings that will never end. What exchange can you give for your soul? There is none. At all cost then, save your soul. Lead the life of a good Catholic (for there are many bad Catholics who will lose their souls). Avoid sin and the dangerous occasions of sin, go frequestly to Confession and Holy Communion. To save your soul, to save your immortal soul: That is your only work. Do it with great love and care and invoke the assistance of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour to help you.
Need help finding your way? Just click here for all the information you will need in order to reach Papa Stronsay with ease.