Archive for the 'Men’s communities' Category

A Chinese Prime Minister Turned Benedictine Monk

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

lou osbDid you know that Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Chinese Republic, and his successor, Gen. Chiang Kai-shek, were Christians? And that a Foreign and Prime Minister of China, Lu (Lou) Tseng-tsiang, became a Benedictine monk under the name of Dom Pierre-Célestin? We think of China as a non-Christian country but there are illustrious men and women who carried the banner for Jesus Christ. Lu himself was a reformer who tried to simply the bureaucracy and institute fairness into government.

Lu was born a Protestant in Shanghai in 1871. Due to the influence of his father, he developed a love for the Bible and good literature. In 1892, he was sent to Russia as part of the Chinese delegation where he served for 14 years. An impressive man that he worked for old him:

“The strength of Europe is not to be found in her armaments; it is not to be found in her science; it is to be found in her religion. In the course of your diplomatic career you will have occasion to study the Christian religion….Take the most ancient branch of that religion, that which goes back most nearly to its origins. Enter into it. Study its doctrine, practice its commandments, closely follow all its works. And later on, when you have ended your career, perhaps you will have the opportunity to go still farther. In this most ancient branch, choose the most ancient society. If you can do so, enter into it also. Make yourself its follower, and study the interior life, which must be the secret of it. When you have understood and won the secret of that life, when you have grasped the heart and strength of the religion of Christ, bring them and give them to China.”

lou osb2It was in St. Petersburg that Lu met his Belgian-born wife, Berthe Bovy, and they were married in 1899. The same priest who presided at their wedding would receive him into the Church in 1912. After the war, Lu became involved in famine relief work but when his wife became ill, they moved to Europe where he became China’s ambassador to Switzerland. After her death, he surprised everyone by becoming a Benedictine monk at the abbey of Abbey of Saint-André-lez-Bruges in Flanders. He was ordained a priest in 1935 in his 64th year! He died on January 15, 1949 at the abbey, never to return to China. His prayers for his country must now be entrusted to Our Lady of China.

 

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Patriarch of Constantinople Meets With Conventual Franciscans

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

istanbul2On Sunday, January 4, 2015, the Conventual Franciscans at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Istanbul, Turkey, received a surprise visitor – His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. It’s rather like having Pope Francis suddenly pop over for an afternoon!

Patriarch Bartholomew is regarded as the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians. He is the 270th Patriarch of the see of Byzantium (Constantinople), a see that traces its roots back to St. Andrew the Apostle.

The Patriarch came to St. Anthony Church to view the exhibit: “ENCOUNTERS OF LASTING LOVE”, which was set up in the courtyard of the church on the occasion of the visit of Pope Francis. The exhibition was curated by Friar Martin Kmetec, a Conventual Franciscan from Slovenia, who made the news in 2006 when he was threatened with death by some Turkish Islamic youth but managed to thwart the attack.

When Pope John XXIII was Vatican Ambassador to Turkey, he preached at St. Anthony’s, the largest Church in Istanbul, for ten years. Amazingly, the Holy Father was fluent in Turkish and for this reason, he was known as the Turkish Pope!

ofm istanbul patriarchFriar Iulina Pişta and a few guests welcomed the Patriarch despite the short notice. The exhibit highlighted three ecumenical moments: the Jerusalem meetings between Pope Paul VI and Athenagoras I, and later Pope Francis and Bartholomew I, as well as the recent meeting that Pope Francis and Bartholomew I had in Constantinople (Istanbul) in November of 2014.

Later, Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Basilica of St. Anthony where a group of Filipinos welcomed him at the church door with Christmas carols. Inside the church, the Patriarch lit candles while Romanian clerics sang. As he visited the manger scene, he met and blessed Friar Giuseppe Robu’s sister and her family who were there for the baptism of their child. Patriarch Bartholomew then blessed an icon depicting Peter and Andrew and affixed his signature on the back. He then went down to the crypt to see the Byzantine style paintings.

The meeting symbolizes the importance that the Churches of the East and the West place on ecumenical dialogue. It also highlights the courage of the Christian community in an Islamic country where they are a very tiny minority.

During his visit to Turkey in November 2014, Pope Francis said, “We are already on the way, on the path towards full communion and already we can experience eloquent signs of an authentic, albeit incomplete union. This offers us reassurance and encourages us to continue on this journey. We are certain that along this journey we are helped by the intercession of the Apostle Andrew and his brother Peter, held by tradition to be the founders of the Churches of Constantinople and of Rome. We ask God for the great gift of full unity, and the ability to accept it in our lives. Let us never forget to pray for one another.”

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Norbertines Break Ground!

Friday, December 5th, 2014
Wilmington Sisters

Wilmington Sisters

Last July, earth moving equipment began to level the ground in Silverado Canyon in preparation for the construction of the new abbey for the Norbertines, replacing the old one which is really bursting at the seams with students and vocations.

This past August, the California abbey welcomed six young men who are studying to become Norbertine canons. Three young women as well became the first Americans to enter the Nobertine sisters from Slovakia (Sr. Adriana, Sr. Roberta & Sr. Benedicta)  who reside in a convent nearby Wilmington.

The new abbey will include a church, convent, welcome area/meeting rooms, monastery and cemetery chapel. These buildings will comprise only a small portion of the hundreds of acres of the original Holtz ranch thus preserving an important part of the rural California landscape.

The Norbertine also have a cloistered community of Norbertine Canonesses that is growing rapidly in Tehachapi. The Norbertine Sisters of Wilmington are one of the newest branches on the family tree of the Norbertine Order founded by St. Norbert (1080-1134). They were founded in 1902 in the Czech Republic by Fr. Vojtech Frejka, a Norbertine Father from the abbey of Strahov in Prague. The Slovakian Norbertines reside in SS. Peter and Paul Convent in Wilmington, CA, which was established in 2011.

“Our congregation of Norbertine sisters in Slovakia received an invitation from the Norbertine fathers in California to help them establish a new community of Norbertine sisters in the United States,” said Sr. Benedicta.

In Wilmington, they minister to needy families, teach religious education, and work in the Catholic book & gift store, and in the parish office. Like St. Norbert, they live a common life, “prepared for every good work,” centered daily on the Mass and chanting of the Divine Office.

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The Tattooed Monk

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

andreBrother Andre does not look like your typical Benedictine. But religious brothers have always swum against the cultural tide so it should come as no surprise to see such uniqueness in the halls of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon.

The Statesman Journal tells his fascinating story from hippie biker to monk. Born with the name Bobby Love, he quit school in the 11th grade and joined the military. An artist at heart, like his mother, he got his hands and neck tattooed because in those days it was a “job stopper,’ ie, no one would hire you. He wanted to be an artist not a businessman like his father. He made a living as a tattoo artist and by exhibiting his pictures.

br andre iconDivorced and remarried three times, he says: “I had no clue what love was. I had no clue how to love or how to let other people love me and that’s why I was miserable.” His addictions to “drugs and booze” masked a spiritual bankruptcy. He decided to learn about his childhood Catholic faith, joined RCIA, wrote 25 pages in preparation for his confession and apologized to those he had hurt.

Six years ago he came to Mount Angel Abbey on a retreat. Now he has the name of Brother Andre, taken from the humble sainted doorkeeper who worked miracles in Quebec. On September 12, 2014, Br. Gregory, Br. Jesus Maria and Br. Andre Love professed solemn vows, permanently binding themselves to Mount Angel Abbey in their commitments to conversion, stability and obedience.

God draws straight with crooked lines.

For a look at Brother’s icons and religious art, click here!

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An Abandoned Monastery Rises

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

vinaTraveling around Europe, especially in England, there is no sadder sight than an abandoned monastery. That is why is heartening to read about some old stones that have been restored to their original purpose.

It is an amazing and miraculous story….

The Cistercian (Trappist) monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, California, recently celebrated the reconstruction of an ancient Cistercian Chapter House on their grounds. Originally part of the Santa Maria de Óvila monastery in Spain, it was built between 1190 and 1220 AD.  The monastery was founded by King Alfonso VIII of Castile who had it built after recapturing the area from the Moors. It became a home for Cistercian monks who, following the Rule of St. Benedict, flourished for many centuries. By 1835, however, four monks remained and the monastery was closed.

In 1931, the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst bought and brought part of the dismantled monastery stones to San Francisco with the intention of building a magnificent home to replace his mother’s burned down house. However, with the onset of the Depression and his financial woes, the stones were given to the city of San Francisco with the hope that it would become a museum in Golden Gate Park. But this too never came to pass and the stones were left abandoned and decaying in the park.

In 1984, the monks convinced the city to give the stones to them so they could be used on their property for their true purpose—a place where God could be glorified and served. The Chapter House, when completed, will include a reception room, display area and archival library.

New Clairvaux Abbey was a daughter house of Gethsemani in Kentucky. They in turn became the motherhouse for Our Lady of Joy, a Cistercian monastery of exiled Chinese monks in Hong Kong.  Subsequently, in 1984, a new foundation, Holy Mother of God, was opened in Taiwan.  In 2001 New Clairvaux accepted “paternity” of Our Lady of Peace, a house of nuns located in Nicaragua. The CIstercian abbey is the only one in California.

The monks support themselves by growing prunes and walnuts and since 2005 growing grapes and producing their own wine. They also, with a brewing company, produce a Trappist-style beer called Oliva

New Clairvaux Abbey is named after Clairvaux in France, St. Bernard’s founding abbey, the place where he was made abbot when only 25 years of age. When Bernard died in 1153, seven hundred monks lived at Clairvaux.  The abbey in Vina currently has 22 monks. May the New Clairvaux be blessed with holy and persevering vocations ala St.Bernard!

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Conception Abbey Welcomed!

Friday, October 24th, 2014

osbConception Benedictine Abbey is welcomed as a new IRL Affiliate. They are perhaps one of the best-known abbeys in the US for a variety of reasons. First, they have a printing house that supplies beautiful Christmas cards, icons, note cards and other Christian gifts. Secondly, they have a thriving seminary college, one of the largest of the 40 college seminaries in the US. Thirdly, they have a bustling retreat house. And finally, they are a large community of monks – almost 60 in number!

The abbey was founded in 1873 when Abbot Frowin Conrad and seven novices arrived from Engelberg, Switzerland, to establish a monastic community in Missouri. I like what the abbot wrote in his diary after the founding, in 1883, of a fledgling high school at the monastery: “Omme initium durum,” – All beginnings are hard!! The seminary college was founded in 1887. Currently, 25 dioceses in the U.S. send students to Conception, and student enrollment has increased nearly 75 percent since the mid-’90s to over 100 students.

03_Presentation_of_MaryThe magnificent basilica houses the famous Beuronese murals that were painted by the monks between 1893 and 1897. They depict scenes from the life of Mary, Jesus and Sts. Benedict and Scholastica (See Presentation of Mary at right). Some of the murals are replicas of ones done in Europe that were destroyed during World War II and as such are precious mementos of lost treasures. Many of these images are reproduced on the note cards.

St. Benedict said that “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for He himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” The retreat house welcomes guests for private and group retreats. You can also become a Benedictine oblate, that is, a Christian who shapes his or her life in the wisdom of Christ as interpreted by the great St. Benedict.

Young men between the ages of 18-35 who are discerning their vocation may be interested in their Monastic Experience weekend retreat. The next one scheduled is October 31-November 2, 2014.

 

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Benedictine Brother Bede

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
Abbot Charles

Abbot Charles

Abbot Charles of Oceanside Abbey in California, recently celebrated 50 years of his Profession of Vows. That is, the vows of Stability, Fidelity to the Monastic way of life (Conversatio Morum), and Obedience.

He also gave a beautiful homily on the occasion of the final profession of Br. Bede, who at age 39, begins a new chapter in his Benedictine of life. The homily was a fresh look at the vows, which he described as Stability of Feet, Stability under Obedience, Stability under the Rule and Stability in and to the Community. As the Abbot reminds us, the vow of stability is unique to monastic orders. It can all be summarized as stability of heart in which the monk binds himself to God. “The more one remains rooted in God, the more he progresses in virtue.”

Stability of Feet: “As the tree which is often transplanted brings no fruit, so the monk who wanders can bring no fruit.” This also means perseverance in ones’ obligations, as a contrast to acedia (listlessness, torpor, diversion from the task at hand).

Stability under Obedience: When obedience is seen as a negative, one will always hold something back. When you do someone else’s will (as long as it is not sinful), you are free of your own self-will. “That is following Christ who came to do not His own will but the Will of Him who sent Him.”

br bede

Brother Bede, OSB

Stability under the Rule: “From this day, he is no longer free to leave the monastery, nor shake from his neck the yoke of the Rule” which after a long “period of reflection, he was free to reject or accept.”

Stability in and to the Community: The bond is not so much to a place as to a community. “The one who is to be received comes before the whole community” (RB 58.17). Like the apostles and first disciples, Br. Bede has given up body, soul, will and possessions to follow Jesus.

Said Abbot Charles: Brother Bede, you have given up all and die symbolically today by having the pall placed over you. This powerful and poignant symbol indicates that you are giving up your old life of individuality and are donating the new man, as it were, to the Lord and to the community.

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The Passionists of England

Sunday, October 12th, 2014
Fr. Ignatius

Fr. Ignatius

In the news recently, was an item stating that while Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, was in Malta, he attended his first official Catholic Mass. It was noted that one of his distant forebears, Fr. Ignatius of St. Paul (1799-1864), born Hon. George Spencer, is potentially on the road to canonization.

Fr. Ignatius is the great-great-great-uncle of his mother, Princess Diana (nee Spencer), may she rest in peace. An Anglican vicar before he became a Catholic and a Passionist, he spent his life working for the conversion of England back to the Catholic faith. Because of his tireless efforts for this cause, he is known as the Apostle of Prayer for England.

Instrumental in his life was Bl. Dominic Barberi, CP, the priest who brought the Passionists to England in 1841. Fr. Ignatius first met Bl. Dominic while studying in Rome and received the Passionsist habit from him in 1847. Bl. Dominic was also the one who received Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman into the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Newman had said: “If they (Catholics) want to convert England, let them go barefooted into our manufacturing towns—let them preach to the people like St. Francis Xavier—let them be pelted and trampled on, and I will own they can do what we cannot.”

Bl. Dominic, CP

Bl. Dominic, CP

Well, Father Barberi came barefoot; he was pelted with rocks and showered with obscenities. But he persevered. Cardinal Newman’s conversion in 1845 was a crowning achievement. Bl. Dominic had a heart attack while on a train in 1845 and the passengers, fearing he had cholera, had him removed and he died later that day. Strangely enough, Fr. Ignatius also died after leaving a train. He had a heart attack and collapsed into a roadside ditch in 1864. The two bodies now reside in a new shrine in Lancashire which also includes the remains of Elizabeth Prout, Mother Mary Joseph of Jesus, the Foundress of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion.

Cardinal Newman called Fr. Barberi a zealous missioner and preacher. “When his form came within sight, I was moved to the depths in the strangest way. The gaiety and affability of his manner in the midst of all his sanctity was in itself a sermon. No wonder then that I became his convert and his penitent. He was Bl. Dominic of the Mother of God, C.P., great lover of England.”

 

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It’s Never Too Late to Live!

Monday, September 29th, 2014

msToday, on the great celebration of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, I would like to thank a special priest with a great devotion to the Archangel Raphael—Fr. Joe Whalen, MS. Father is a LaSalette Missionary who was ordained to the priesthood in 1989 at the age of 66. Father’s favorite motto is: It’s never too late to live! If you can imagine the odds he overcame to be ordained at that venerable age, you can believe he truly lives by that motto!

Father’s other favorite saying is: “God writes straight with crooked lines.” Father should know. He was once married and an alcoholic but managed through the grace of God to turn his entire life around. It is an amazing story. All glory goes to God, he believes, for the mercy shown to him by our loving Father.

I was fortunate to meet Father on a pilgrimage, and then accompanied him on a trip to LaSalette, Lourdes and Knock. He reminded me and my friend every day and in all circumstances to call on our Guardian angels for help. He has a deep devotion to St. Raphael, the Archangel whose name means “Medicine of God.”

St. Raphael and Tobias

St. Raphael and Tobias

Father had a St. Raphael healing ministry that continues on, even though he has retired. If you go to their website you can ask for St. Raphael oil and a prayer card and testimonials testifying to the wonder of St. Rapahel’s intercession. I can personally attest to the miracles that this Archangel still works in the world today. (Staph infection, out of control).

The main ministry of the LaSalette missionaries, of which Father is one, is to reconcile people to God. God bless Father for pouring out his life and strength for over 25 years to bring people to knowing the loving Savior. May God bless him all the remaining days of his long life. Help us to remember too that “It is never too late to live!”

 

PRAYER TO ST. RAPHAEL THE ARCHANGEL

Glorious Archangel St. Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, you are illustrious for your gifts of wisdom and grace. You are a guide of those who journey by land or sea or air, consoler of the afflicted, and refuge of sinners.I beg you, assist me in all my needs and in all the sufferings of this life, as once you helped the young Tobias on his travels. Because you are the “medicine of God” I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities of my soul and the ills that afflict my body. I especially ask of you the favor (here mention your special intention), and the great grace of purity to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 

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“The Best Evangelizers are the Poor!”

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

friar mariusFriar Marius-Petru Bîlha, OFM Conv., recently recounted his experience of visiting the parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Tegucigalpa, Nicaragua. It is on the outskirts of the capital in a poor and highly dangerous area. The Conventual friars there also serve another 16 chapels which they reach weekly or monthly to administer the sacraments and minister to the people. Or, in this case, have the people minister to them!

Friar Marius-Petru says, “One can’t help noticing the contrast between the joy and happiness of the people and the outward ugliness of a society where violence, corruption and poverty are everyday news. I have often wondered; where does it all come from, this joy, the desire for goodness and the outlook for a hopeful future? It can only come from hearts filled with love of God, hearts which put all hope and trust in Him.”

The friars in the US have a close relationship with their brothers from Honduras. Since 1997, their St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute, Indiana, has been sending friars and parishioners to assist in various ways at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish. Many of the missions have offered much needed medical aid to the local community in Tegucigalpa.

The best evangelizers are the poor! “I return from Honduras evangelized by the poor, strengthened to live out my own gift of self with love, joy, simplicity, humility and generosity.”

If you think you might have a vocation to serve Christ in the missions and in the poor, visit the Conventual Franciscans’ website.

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