Category Archives: Benedictines

Pope encourages Benedictine nuns, sisters in vocation to hospitality

Dear Father Abbot Primate,
Sister Judith Ann
and Benedictine nuns and sisters,

Welcome to Rome! I thank Father Primate for his words of introduction: I have told him that his Italian has improved! Your Symposium is a good occasion for Benedictine nuns and sisters from all over the world to experience together a period of prayer to reflect on the various ways in which the spirit of Saint Benedict, after fifteen hundred years, continues to be vibrant and fruitful today. I am spiritually close to you during these days of your meeting.

For your theme, you have taken an exhortation from the fifty-third chapter of the Rule of Saint Benedict: “All are to be welcomed as Christ”. This expression has given the Benedictine Order a remarkable vocation to hospitality, in obedience to those words of the Lord Jesus which are an integral part of his “rule of conduct” found in Saint Matthew’s Gospel: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (25:35; cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 102-103). Today there are many people in the world who seek to reflect in their lives the tenderness, compassion, mercy and acceptance of Christ in their lives. To them you offer the precious gift of your witness, as you are instruments of God’s tenderness to those who are in need. Your welcoming of persons of different religious traditions helps to advance with spiritual anointing ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. For centuries, Benedictine houses have been known as places of welcome, prayer and generous hospitality. I hope that by reflecting on this theme and sharing your experiences, you may find new ways of furthering this essential work of evangelization in your various monasteries.

The motto Ora et Labora places prayer at the centre of your lives. The daily celebration of Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours puts you at the heart of the Church’s life. Every day, your prayer enriches, in a manner of speaking, the “breathing” of the Church. It is a prayer of praise to express the voice of all humanity and all creation. It is a prayer of thanksgiving for the countless and continued blessings of the Lord. It is a prayer of supplication for the sufferings and anxieties of the men and women of our time, especially the poor. It is a prayer of intercession for those who endure injustice, wars and violence, and see their dignity violated. You do not meet these people personally, but you are their sisters in the Faith and in the Body of Christ. The value of your prayer is incalculable, yet surely it is a most precious gift. God always hears the prayers of hearts that are humble and full of compassion.

I want to thank you for the special care you show towards the environment and for your efforts to protect the gifts of the earth, so that they can be shared by all. I know that the Benedictine nuns and sisters in the world are good administrators of God’s gifts. As women, you feel and appreciate especially the beauty and harmony of creation. Your monasteries are often found in places of great beauty where people go to pray, to find silence and to contemplate the marvels of creation. I encourage you to continue this style and service, so that God’s wonderful works can be admired and speak of him to many persons.

Your life in community bears witness to the importance of mutual love and respect. You come from different places and experiences, and each of you is different, and so the way you accept one another is the first sign you offer in a world that finds it hard to live out this value. We are all children of God and your prayer, your work, your hospitality, your generosity, all combine to reveal a communion in diversity that expresses God’s hope for our world: a unity made of peace, mutual welcome and fraternal love.

Dear Sisters, I accompany you with my prayers. You bring a precious gift to the life of the Church through your feminine witness of goodness, faith and generosity, imitating the Holy Mother of the Church, the Virgin Mary. You are icons of the Church and of our Blessed Mother: do not forget this. Icons. Who sees you, sees the Church as Mother and Mary as Mother of Christ. For this we praise the Lord and we thank you. I ask you please to pray for me and I cordially bless you and your communities, and all whom you serve in the name of Christ. Thank you!

Benedictine Oblates at the time of Church crisis

The St. Meinrad Oblates from the greater NYC area gathered as you know, for the 78th annual retreat this past weekend. As part of our Spiritual Exercises we have a Eucharistic Holy Hour. This year we prayed during this time for the Church which is currently in crisis as the consequence of clergy sexual abuse and cover-up, for the victims and victimizers.

Some of the Litany of the Sacred Heart that stand out:

Heart of Jesus, source of justice and love
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love
Heart of Jesus, well-spring of all virtue
Heart of Jesus, worthy of all praise
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts

Employing the intercession of the Blessed Mother, St. Benedict and all Benedictine saints and blesseds, we asked for a renewal of the Church: laity and clergy alike.

This is a time of prayer, penance and works of charity.

In Memorian: Columba Kelly, OSB

Earlier today, the memorial by Br. Stanley Rother Wagner, O.S.B. written for Dom Columba Kelly appeared. Br. Stanley captured in a few words the person of Columba –monk and pries and friend– wonderfully well. I am grateful for Brother Stanley’s work. Thanks be to God for Columba: with eschatological hope I am confident that he is now in the embrace of the Most Blessed Trinity.

From April 2017 until the death of Fr. Columba Kelly in the early evening of June 9, 2018, I had the privilege to serve as Fr. Columba’s valet (a novice or junior monk who assists an older confrere with day-to-day tasks). I tidied-up Fr. Columba’s cell, took his linens to our laundry room, and bombarded him with innumerable questions about the liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council and his role in them. Between my making his bed and vacuuming the carpet, he and I caught each other up on what occurred in our prayer and work that past week. Eventually, though, our conversations would drift to our observations on the liturgical life of the Church and monasticism as a way of life. I shared with Fr. Columba a confrere’s insight: “I have never been more in touch with my humanity than within the walls of this monastery.” Columba smirked and replied, “Benedict was truly a psychologist ahead of his time.”

Columba never eulogized himself, claiming he was an extraordinary man or that he single-handedly renewed chant after Vatican II. On the other hand, he acknowledged his role and the contributions that the monks of Saint Meinrad made to the liturgy and sacred music in the 1960s and beyond. He did not allow his work to overshadow the goal: That all English-speakers would be able to offer one actual, conscious, and fruitful sacrifice of praise to our triune God. Up to the last week of his life, he told me that, “No one person created this.”

During one of our Saturday morning chats, I asked Columba to sum up in a word or phrase the rationale behind his use of the Solesmes Method of plainchant composition. He stated – after a few ponderous moments – “Speech blossoming into song.” Columba was not shy about sharing his love for how chant should be viewed as “sung speech”; no doubt an idea he borrowed from our holy father, St. Benedict: “Prayer should therefore be short and pure, unless perhaps it is prolonged under the inspiration of divine grace. In community, however, prayer should always be brief” (The Rule of Benedict ch. 20, vv. 4-5a). Benedict wanted his monks and nuns to pray the psalms, the arrangement of which takes up 13 out of 73 chapters in the Rule (not to mention the countless liturgical-catechetical nuggets in other chapters). Columba composed his eight psalm tones so every Christian could pray the same words that Christ offered to our Father. He quite often said: “I’d much rather sing scripture; straight, no chaser.”

As a musician as well as a theologian, Columba saw his work as not his own – or even of our community’s – but as the work of God. Some scholars and academics may dissect the word “liturgy” to manufacture an agenda, but the monks of Saint Meinrad know even today that the liturgy is God’s work that, through our baptism into Christ’s one priesthood, we are ever-invited to participate in through our respective states in life – lay, clerical, religious, married, and even monastic. Saint Meinrad’s contribution to the work of liturgical renewal after Vatican II came about with God’s providence manifesting itself through the talents of several monks: Fr. Gavin Barnes, whose input on choral recitation still influences our prayer; Fr. Cyprian Davis, whose vast historical knowledge helped hand on the Church’s tradition of liturgical prayer; Fr. Simeon Daley, who gave to the liturgical renewal an authentic understanding of rubrics and custom; and Fr. Aidan Kavanaugh, one of the more well-known of the twentieth century liturgiologists, who brought an encyclopedic knowledge of liturgical aesthetics and best practices that have influenced extensive numbers of churches beyond the Catholic Church.

In those moments of cleaning and solving the Church’s liturgical problems, a friendship blossomed. I no longer saw Columba as an elder confrere, but as my brother. God called us both to Saint Meinrad Archabbey for reasons we one day may be told. For now, though, I remember fondly the informal monastic formation Columba gave me, not just in the areas of liturgy, the Solesmes Method, Gregorian seminology, or a vibrant history lesson; he taught me how to bear wrongs patiently, how to live in community, and, most of all, how God’s grace has a transformative effect over the course of one’s whole life.

Columba was many things – a monk, a priest, a theologian, a musician, and a teacher. Beyond these, though, the most important is that he was a disciple of Jesus Christ. He may have had his flaws and quirks like all the rest of us, but he will be remembered for his way of preaching the Good News through a medium that drew people into the very mystery of Salvation: The loving dialogue occurring timelessly between our Heavenly Father, his Sole-Begotten Son, and their Spirit of communion. Fr. Columba did not just bring chanting to the people or people to chanting, but he served as a bridge between Christ and his people; a task he undertook using the gifts and talents our Provident God gave to him during a decisive moment in church history. This will certainly not be the only tribute to make the rounds of the Catholic blog-o-sphere, but I hope it gives some insight into what I learned from a monk who wished to bring Christ’s words closer to people’s lips and, most of all, to their hearts. That is how I will remember my friend and brother, Fr. Columba Kelly, O.S.B.

Br. Stanley Rother Wagner, O.S.B. is a junior monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. He made first vows, upon the completion of novitiate, in January 2018.

Columba Kelly, monk, dies

In your kindness please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB, who entered eternal life this evening. Fr. Columba is a monk of Saint Meinrad and renowned liturgical composer.

Today was Fr. Columba’s feast day.

Eternal memory.

On Benedictine Life

The BBC profiled 3 Benedictine monasteries in the Great Britain: Pluscarden Abbey (Scotland), Downside and Belmont Abbey. The video is modeled on the way the Carthusians were portrayed in the documentary “Into Great Silence” no interviews or telling of the narrative, just observing the daily routine and some insight into life of a Benedictine monk. Quirky, yes, but worth the view even if videos are long and a bit tedious at points.

The whole point is to follow the Rule of Saint Benedict with as much faithfulness and reasonableness for today’s era.

The description of one of the three documentaries, in part reads,

Filmed with an eye to the beauty and peace of the ancient surroundings, the film has a painterly quality that creates a feeling of restfulness and quiet contemplation. And by focusing on the natural sounds of nature and the peace of the abbey we have created a meditative soundtrack that adds to this unique experience.

  1. Downside Abbey
  2. Pluscarden Abbey
  3. Belmont Abbey

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]yahoo.com.
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