Benedictine saints & blesseds: March 2011 Archives
Permanent commitment is an awesome gesture. It is, however, becoming a thing of the past these days. I remember a few years ago when my parents were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and one of my mother's clients said to her: "I can't believe you've been married to the same man for this long." I was taken aback by the statement. In my mind what else would you do but be faithful to your vows. Of course this woman is on her second marriage and from all reports pretty self-absorbed. There was a time when you entered into a "life commitment" by vows and you did what they indicated: live them forever, unto death is there parting. Times have changed: prenuptials are "in" and convenience has replaced permanency. Have we become too fickle? Just recently an event in Rome gave me hope: Father Angelo's 80 years as a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Tre Fontane. Imagine 80 years do anything! Imagine living your monastic profession in the place where Saint Paul was martyred! Saint Paul's head bounced three times. Hence three fountains of water sprung up.
Father Angelo (Archangelo Buccitti in history), just celebrated his 94th birthday on March 3. Bishop Paolo Schiavon, a long-time friend of the community offered Mass for Father Angelo's intentions.
Father Angelo's monastic journey included entry at Frattochie abbey at 14 years of age, his journey to solemn profession, ordination to the priesthood, time as chaplain for the Trappistine nuns at Vitorchiano, his election as abbot of Tre Fontane and his ten years in that capacity. All of Father Angelo's life can be seen as a homage, a testament to grace and grace's living through his deep humanity known through fraternal charity, humility and faithfulness to God's call.
Father Angelo said: "The Lord does not count the number of one's years, but weighs their quality" and "A man is never taller than when he is on his knees before his Lord."
Today the Church --though localized to the Cistercian Order-- celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saint Stephen Harding, one of the 3 founders of the Cistercian reform of Benedictine monastic life. Most of the faithful would not know of Saint Stephen unless they had contact with the Cistercians or remember their church history class.
Several things distinguish Saint Stephen Harding: he was English, he was the third abbot of Cîteaux, he was a man of great pragmatism, he was the author of the Charter of Charity (the foundational document of the Cistercian life), and was responsible for the liturgical formulations for this way of life, cleaning up the corruptions inserted into the Divine Office over the years.
On Saint Stephen's deathbed he said, I assure you that I go to God in fear and trembling. If my baseness should be found to have ever done any good, even in this I fear, lest I should not have preserved that grace with the humility and care I ought.