Benedictines: March 2009 Archives

A question of what is the difference between the March and July observances of the feast of Saint Benedict.

san benito.jpgThe July feast was the one celebrated in France, as being the date of the alleged translation of his bones to the Abbey of Fleury. Monte Cassino always disputed this claim made by Fleury, and it does seem doubtful, as the remains of Benedict and Scholastica (datable to the correct period) were found in the tomb at Monte Cassino after the Second World War.

The Church, however, certainly never rejected the July 11 feast, as the celebration of the translation of the bones is really not about Fleury-vs.-Monte Cassino but rather the establishment of a cultus of Saint Benedict beyond Italy, as a saint of universal importance for the whole Church and for all the monks of the West. So this feast (which is more convenient for a solemn celebration since it falls outside of Lent) was made by Pope Paul VI the feast of Saint Benedict as Patron of Europe, later changed to be a "co-patron" of Europe.

March 21 is the feast of Saint Benedict's death. It more specifically concerns his entry into heaven and his role as Father of Western Monasticism.


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The Benedictine monk vows obedience, stability and conversion of life.


Stability = God is not elsewhere; being in one place allows you to live your vocation in love and grace over the long haul, rejecting the novelty of moving here-and-there

Obedience = When my will is cracked open grace comes in

Conversion of Life = Our true selves are oriented toward the Divine Mystery. Why not be transformed into a living flame of love?

Novena to St. Benedict

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San Benedetto da Norcia.jpgO Glorious St. Benedict, sublime model of all virtues, pure vessel of God's grace! Behold me, humbly kneeling at thy feet. I implore thy loving heart to pray for me before the throne of God. To thee I have recourse in all the dangers which daily surround me. Shield me against my enemies, inspire me to imitate thee in all things. May thy blessings be with me always, so that I may shun whatever God forbids and avoid the occasions of sin.


Graciously obtain for me from God those favors and graces of which I stand so much in need, in the trials, miseries and afflictions of life. Thy heart was always so full of love, compassion, and mercy towards those who were afflicted or troubled in any way. Thou didst never dismiss without consolation and assistance anyone who had recourse to thee. I therefore invoke thy powerful intercession in the confident hope that thou will hear my prayers and obtain for me the special grace and favor I so earnestly implore (mention it), if it be for the greater glory of God and the welfare of my soul.

This is a rather important talk Pope Benedict XVI gave while visiting the Oblates of Saint Frances of Rome. Every pope since the 16th century has visited this monastery. Pope John Paul was the last 25 years ago.

Dear Oblate Sisters,

Francesca Romana oblation.jpgAfter my visit to the nearby Municipal Hall on the Capitoline Hill, I come with great joy to meet you at this historic Monastery of Santa Francesca Romana, while you are still celebrating the fourth centenary of her canonization on 29 May 1608. Moreover, the Feast of this great Saint occurs this very day, commemorating the date of her birth in Heaven. I am therefore particularly grateful to the Lord to be able to pay this tribute to the "most Roman of women Saints", in felicitous continuity with the meeting I have just had with the Administrators at the municipal headquarters. As I address my cordial greeting to your community, and in particular to the President, Mother Maria Camilla Rea whom I thank for her courteous words expressing your common sentiments I also extend my greeting to Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara, to the students who live here and to everyone present.

As you know, together with my collaborators in the Roman Curia, I have just completed the Spiritual Exercises which coincided with the first week of Lent. In these days I have experienced once again how indispensable silence and prayer are. And I also thought of St Frances of Rome, of her unreserved dedication to God and neighbour which gave rise to the experience of community life here, at Tor de' Specchi. Contemplation and action, prayer and charitable service, the monastic ideal and social involvement: all this has found here a "laboratory" rich in fruits, in close connection with the Olivetan nuns of Santa Maria Nova. But the real impetus behind all that was achieved in the course of time was the heart of Frances, into which the Holy Spirit had poured out his spiritual gifts and at the same time inspired a multitude of good initiatives.

Your monastery is located in the heart of the city. How is it possible not to see in this, as it were, the symbol of the need to bring the spiritual dimension back to the centre of civil coexistence, to give full meaning to the many activities of the human being? Precisely in this perspective your community, together with all other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a sort of spiritual "lung" of society, so that all that is to be done, all that happens in a city, does not lack a spiritual "breath", the reference to God and his saving plan. This is the service that is carried out in particular by monasteries, places of silence and meditation on the divine word, places where there is constant concern to keep the earth open to Heaven. Then your monastery has its own special feature which naturally reflects the charism of St Frances of Rome. Here you keep a unique balance between religious life and secular life, between life in the world and outside the world. This model did not come into being on paper but in the practical experience of a young woman of Rome; it was written one might say by God himself in the extraordinary life of Francesca, in her history as a child, an adolescent, a very young wife and mother, a mature woman conquered by Jesus Christ, as St Paul would say. Not without reason are the walls of these premises decorated with scenes from her life, to show that the true building which God likes to build is the life of Saints.

Santa Francesca Romana.jpgIn our day too, Rome needs women and of course also men but here I wish to emphasize the feminine dimension women, as I was saying, who belong wholly to God and wholly to their neighbour; women who are capable of recollection and of generous and discreet service; women who know how to obey their Pastors but also how to support them and encourage them with their suggestions, developed in conversation with Christ and in first-hand experience in the area of charity, assistance to the sick, to the marginalized, to minors in difficulty. This is the gift of a motherhood that is one with religious self-gift, after the model of Mary Most Holy. Let us think of the mystery of the Visitation. Immediately after conceiving the Word of God in her heart and in her flesh, Mary set out to go and help her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Mary's heart is the cloister where the Word continues to speak in silence, and at the same time it is the crucible of a charity that is conducive to courageous gestures, as well as to a persevering and hidden sharing.

Dear Sisters, thank you for the prayers with which you always accompany the ministry of the Successor of Peter and thank you for your invaluable presence in the heart of Rome. I hope that you will experience every day the joy of preferring nothing to love of Christ, a motto we have inherited from St Benedict but which clearly mirrors the spirituality of the Apostle Paul, venerated by you as Patron of your Congregation. To you, to the Olivetan monks and to everyone present here, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.

The Pope's visit to the monastery founded by Saint Frances of Rome today was a spectacular example of pastoral solicitude for the sisters and for their vocation. The Pope illustrated his love for the Benedictine charism and value today. Read and watch the video clip:


Tor de Specchi.jpgThe spiritual dimension of life must be brought back to the centre of civil coexistence. Benedict XVI said this during his visit to the historical monastery of Saint Francesca Romana in Tor de Specchi near the Campidoglio.

The Oblate sisters' community of contemplative life, in close connection with the Olivetani monks, is called to be society's "spiritual lung", in order maintain the reference to God and to His plan of salvation. The Pope noted that the convent, which was founded by St. Francesca Romana, is characterized by a singular equilibrium between religious and secular life.

Rome currently needs women who, following the saint's example, are capable of committing themselves to God and neighbour, capable of obeying the Church and assisting its pastors with their propositions, after being matured in dialogue with Christ and in concrete experience of charity. (courtesy of H2O News)


Contact the oblates:


Monastero delle Oblate di Santa Francesca Romana (Tor de' Specchi)
Via del Teatro Marcello, 32

Roma, Italia

The patient monk

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The truly patient monk is one who has trained his mind to look beyond present pain to ultimate realities. Patience is, accordingly, a work of faith. Without such a vision suffering is meaningless


There is no doubt that negative experience is the great challenge to faith and a source of temptation to abandon one's commitment. It is also true that patience has a purifying effect on faith and commitment and leads to a more naked definition of selfhood.


One who has survived suffering knows that personal integrity is independent of goods and status and owes nothing to the attitudes and actions of others. It is the quality of a heart that has been hammered into humanity by this most universal of human experiences.


Michael Casey, OCSO

Truthful Living

Your prayers are requested for the peaceful repose of Benedictine monk Father Conall R. Coughlin who fell asleep in the Lord on 1 March 2009.


Father Conall was a monk for 58 years and a priest for 51; he was given the obediences of being a teacher and a decorated Navy chaplain.


A Mass of Christian Burial was offered this morning with burial in the abbey cemetery at the Abbey of Saint Mary-Delbarton, Morristown, New Jersey.


Father Conall's obit

Saint Bernard, the great Cistercian Abbot, gave a Chapter talk to his monks during Lent. In it he admonished them:


St Bernard detail.JPG"Observe carefully what you love, what you fear, what makes you rejoice, what causes you to be sad. See whether under your religious habit you have a worldly soul, and whether, hidden by the cloth of conversion, your heart is perverse. The whole of the heart is in these four affections and in these four is comprised, as I see it, all that is involved when you turn to God with your whole heart" (Sermo 2.3 in Quadragesima PL 183: 172D).


It is interesting the way Saint Bernard speaks of the heart. Our own Holy Father, Saint Benedict began his Rule for Monasteries by teaching us to listen with the ear of our heart. Listen to the love, fear, rejoicing, and sadness that lie in our heart.  The life of the monk allows us to take seriously the heart, and to raise the heart in our prayer. Saint John Damascene put it this way in commenting upon the Transfiguration, an event the Church celebrates this coming Sunday, the Second Sunday of Lent:


"Why did he lead his disciples up the mountain? Scripture in its moral sense refers to the virtues as mountains. The apex of all the virtues and, as it were, their citadel is charity.... Accordingly, it is fitting that we leave behind all worldly concerns of the earth and pass beyond the body of lowliness as we ascend to the highest and divine eminence. There we may behold at last those things that transcend every other view"(Homilia in Transfigurationem Domini, 10 PG 96: 561-2).
On the feast of Saint Scholastica (February 10th), The Portsmouth Institute was launched.


"The Portsmouth Institute is a summer conference, study, recreation and retreat center for Catholic intellectuals, scholars and all those who are interested in questions pertaining to Catholic leadership, life and service in the 21st century."


Portsmouth abbey school.jpgWhat is labeled as "America's Premiere Catholic Boarding School" a center for summer study has been founded to explore the relevant matters pertaining to Catholic life in 21st century. Akin to what Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Msgr. Luigi Giussani and Pope Benedict XVI and other like-minded intellectuals would say: faith broadens reason. This Institute envisions a comprehensive look at Catholicism from many vantage points that will appeal to scholars interested in Catholic faith and life. As you would expect, the Institute will engage faith and reason by engaging experts in the fields of spirituality, theology, history, science, the arts, politics, sociology as well as other aspects of contemporary society.


Portsmouth Abbey.jpgThe Institute's webpage indicates that


Initial funding for The Portsmouth Institute has been established with generous contributions from National Review Institute, the William E. Simon Foundation, the Healey Family Foundation and other generous alumni and friends.  Accepting the role of director is Jamie MacGuire, Senior Development Officer of the Portsmouth Abbey School and 1970 graduate of The Portsmouth Abbey School.


The Portsmouth Institute will feature leadership and participation by Portsmouth Abbey's resident Benedictine monks and faculty of the Portsmouth Abbey School. Institute programs are designed to offer attendees frequent opportunities for informal discussion, as well as access to recreational opportunities on the School's campus at Carnegie Abbey, and in nearby Newport.  In keeping with its mission, the Institute's yearly sessions will also provide opportunities for attendance at Mass, the Divine Office and "mini-Retreat" sessions centered around the Abbey's landmark Church of St. Gregory the Great.


The Institute's inaugural conference will be "The Catholic William F. Buckley Jr.: In Gratitude" June 18-21, 2009 at the Portsmouth Abbey School, Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Benedictines category from March 2009.

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