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Conception 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.
The 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.
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.”
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.
“A life spent seeking God is to many the most useless of occupations. But that, of course, is the great reason for the monk’s joy. The more he seeks God, the less he needs to know why he does so. The answer takes away the question. Joy is the fruit not of having, but of no longer needing to have.
—Fr. Benedict, O.S.B., Monastero di San Benedetto, Norcia, Italy
Something you don’t find everyday in the modern world, much less in the U.S., is a twin community of nuns and monks. Such a community of Benedictines exists in Petersham, MA. The St. Scholastica Priory houses a group of nine nuns and the Monastery of St. Mary, a group of seven monks. Both live a contemplative life of prayer in service to God, the Church and world.
St. Scholastica Priory is an independent priory of Pontifical Right. St. Mary’s is a dependent house of the Abbey of Pluscarden in Scotland. When there are enough members in the men’s community, they will become an autonomous community as is typical for Benedictines.
The nuns and monks live a monastic life according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and pray the office in Latin using Gregorian Chant , except for Matins and Vespers. Monks from St Mary’s serve as the sisters’ chaplains. The monks’ Novus Ordo Mass is in English with sung parts in Latin and Greek.
As it says on the St. Scholastica website: The Benedictine life is both ordinary and human, extraordinary and divine. It is ordinary and human because St. Benedict in his Rule encourages us to get on with the business of monastic life; it is extraordinary and divine because it is a response to a call from God and it is a life lived for others.
The sisters will hold a Monastic Experience weekend for young women who may be called to this life from February 15-17, 2013. Please email email@example.com or call 978-724-3213 for more information.
To thee, therefore, my speech is now directed, who, giving up thine own will, takest up the strong and most excellent arms of obedience, to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King. Rule of St. Benedict
The Benedictines have always been in the forefront of evangelization, most notably in Europe where “with the cross, the book and the plow,” they carried Christianity to scattered people (Pope Paul VI). When the Holy Father declared Saint Benedict the Patron of Europe, he called him the man who “dispelled the darkness by the light of Christian civilization and radiated Christian peace.”
There are shining examples as to the rebirth of Benedictine life. Just look at the growing community at the birthplace of St. Benedict in Nursia, Italy, founded by an American. Then there are the Benedictines of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma, and the Benedictines of Mary in Gower, MO.
There is also a group of Anglican nuns in England who have crossed the Tiber. Their community, the Community of St. Mary the Virgin in Wantage, Oxfordshire, was founded in 1848 and has always been “at the heart of the Church of England’s religious life” since it was founded.
The current community comprises 40 or so members, of which 10 have left to join the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, organized to allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while retaining their beloved forms of liturgy and prayers. They sisters plan to follow the Rule of St. Benedict.
One of those joining the Church is the Mother Superior while another sister was a “priest” in the Anglican Church. They will be leaving their monastery, fellow sisters and all means of support behind. Three of the sisters are in their 80’s. They are courageous women. Mother Winsome says, “We are doing this because we truly believe this is God’s call. The Bible is full of people called to step out in faith not knowing where they were going or how they will be provided for and that truly is the situation we are following.”
Mother Winsome adds: “We believe that the Holy Father’s offer is a prophetic gesture which brings to a happy conclusion the prayers of generations of Anglicans and Catholics who have sought a way forward for Christian unity.”
May Saint Benedict’s intercession bring more monastic communities under the Vicar of Christ.
See the full story in the Catholic Herald.co.uk.
In an article in Religious Life magazine, Very Rev. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B. was asked about the resurgence of men entering contemplative Benedictine life. What is drawing them, specifically, to his monastery San Benedetto? It is, he said, the experience of a radical faith in God lived out among like-minded brothers.
Father Cassian views monastic life as the perfect instrument for the New Evangelization. It is the best medicine for the God-lessness that pervades society for it is a life imbued with God at every turn, a life filled with His presence and beauty.
Over and over again, people have come into San Benedetto “by chance” and have emerged changed by their experience of the liturgy, reverently celebrated. The Benedictine’s witness of prayer and awe-inspiring liturgy is the contribution the monks can make to the New Evangelization.
Father also mentions the eight vices that are part of the pre-Benedictine tradition: gluttony, lust, avarice, acedia, vainglory, anger, pride and sadness. It is interesting that sadness is mentioned because there is a lot of sadness and aimlessness in the world today. It seems to me that this is the age-old sadness with the age-old answer: Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.
Fourteen years ago, Benedictine monks from the French Abbey of Notre-Dame de Fontgombault (a member of the Solesmes Congregation) arrived in Oklahoma to start the new foundation of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey. In 1998, Most Rev. Edward Slattery welcomed the 13 monks who began a new chapter of Benedictine life in the United States. It was a long journey home for some of them who had actually left America years before in search of “the purely contemplative form of Benedictine monastic life that seemed to be missing in their homeland.”
It all started in the 1970’s at the University of Kansas when some professors inaugurated the Integrated Humanities Program, a study of Western Civilization as expressed in the Great Books. I know of what they speak for I was a Humanities Major in college taught by a professor dedicated to the classic truths and legacy of Western Civilization. I like to say that my Business major got me a job but my Humanistic Studies major prepared me for life. I am very grateful to my professor.
Anyway, as the students read such things as The Aeneid and The Confessions of Saint Augustine, conversions to Christianity, especially to Catholicism, abounded. A couple of the students went to Europe in search of a monastery that used the ancient Latin liturgy. They found a home at Fontgombault. In 1999, several of the Americans along with some Canadians and Frenchmen, arrived in Tulsa to found Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey under the Patronage of Mary’s Annunciation. Today, there are forty-one monks in residence living in buildings built to last the ages.
Today is a special day at the abbey as His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, will celebrate Holy Mass with the monks in Oklahoma.
If you would like to support the Benedictine monks, please visit their website. You can order Gregorian chant CDs, books, rosaries and other items. They have a beautiful monastery partially completed but more is planned to handle the growth of this young community.
I am writing about Saint Benedict at the moment and am intrigued by one of the three vows professed by Benedictines: stability. Msgr. Charles Pope has an interesting article on the subject contrasting the Benedictine vow of stability with the instability of family and societal life today. As always, the saints are way ahead of us. Especially Saint Benedict who lived 1500 years ago.
The vow of stability means that a Benedictine will live out his or her life in one monastery. There’s no looking over the fence for where the grass is greener. It means that problems have to be worked out, difficult people have to be loved, selfish desires have to give way to the common good.
Look how it is today: no one lives in their hometown, parents move to Florida, no one stays with one company for their entire life, people don’t seem to want to settle down and establish roots. This is especially true in marriage where 50% of marriages end in divorce.
Monsignor says, “Stability, though difficult to find in our times is very important to cultivate wherever possible and to the extent possible. In particular, the gift to seek is the kind of stability that is content with what God has given and is not always restlessly seeking a more ideal setting. For again, as we have noted: Ultimately there is no escape from oneself, and the idea that things would be better someplace else is usually an illusion.”
Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.
May 31, 2012, was the solemn profession day for two Benedictine nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga. St. Benedict says in his rule, “Let him who is to be received make in the oratory, in the presence of all, a promise of stability, conversion of manners and obedience before God and his saints. This petition is to be written in his own hand.” The two sisters, Sr. Lioba and Sr. Maria-Gertrude, followed their spiritual father, Saint Benedict, by doing just that.
Mother had an interesting insight into what it means for a Bride of Christ to die to self. She said, “You have embraced the very heart of what John the Baptist has said, ‘He must increase, I must decrease.’ If a nun’s deaths do not make her more alive to God, she is still living in the Old Testament, she will not be very good news to the world; but you are good news to the world. You have embraced the Paschal Mystery.”
The Abbey is the newest IRL Affiliate Community. Located in the Archdiocese of Denver, they were founded in 1935 from the Abbey of St. Erentrud in Austria. In addition to participation in the daily Eucharist, spiritual reading and liturgical prayer, they also run a gift shop and retreat house.
On April 14, 2012, Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., will receive the 2012 Pro Fidelitate et Virtute award at the 2012 IRL National Meeting banquet. Fr Folsom founded a new monastery in a small apartment in Rome in 1998 and in 2000 moved the community to Norcia, the birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. The Vatican II document Perfectae Caritatis urges religious to rediscover to their roots which Fr. Folsom surely did!
A 40-minute video, “Quaerere Deum,” showing what life is like for the monks has recently been released and is available to all for viewing. The title comes from the first task of all monks, “To Seek God,” as described by the Rule of St Benedict.
In 2009, the monks were given a new apostolate by the Holy See: to make both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman rite available. “This practice of offering both forms (in utroque usu) allows us the possibility to drink deeply from the riches of the tradition and, at the same time, to open our doors wide to the Church as she is today.”
For registration information for the IRL National Meeting and/or banquet (April 13-25, 2012), please visit our website or give us a call at (847)573-8975. The theme of the meeting is “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts: The Liturgy as a Foretaste of Heaven.”