Category Archives: Benedictines

Sister Marie-Zita –50 years of Benedictine monastic witness

The 6th century rule of life by Saint Benedict states that a monk (nun) vow stability, obedience and conversatio morum (fidelity to a monastic manner of life). A Benedictines’s “fidelity to a monastic manner of life” frequently spoken of as “conversion” instead of “fidelity,” so as to echo a centuries-long tradition of concept of conversio rather than conversatio. (Scholars have various opinions about the right word conveying what Benedict really meant and what was in the water at the time; conversatio means in our context monastic manner of life.)

Theologically for those who follow the Benedictine charism, conversatio means a person’s ongoing conversion to the Triune God lived in the monastic life which deepens virtue and extroverts grace. Conversatio, conversio, brings to mind that person seeks a return, a moral conversion, an upright moral life, an intense relationship with the Lord. The true conversatio is a recognizable sign of Christian maturity.

A sign of one’s maturity as a Christian is a life of generativity. That is, the adult Christian is going to be a witness to others of that particular union he or she has with the Trinity in a way that fruit is produced. The mature person does not live a life of reductions, but is filled with wonder and awe, and is willing to change even when it is difficult. Moreover, the mature Christian knows that he or she is not defined by the sins of youth, or the sins of the present. Grace in an a mature Christian, therefore, always is extroverted in some way.

The adult Christian comes his or her maturation in fidelity to the gospel, the sacraments, Church teaching and tradition, and mutual obedience by following (listening). The trouble is, most of us are asleep. We are converted when we can say with certitude that we are awake and that in Christ Jesus lives in me.

With outstretched hands the monk or nun sings the Suscipe (Psalm 118:116): Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum et vivam, et non confundas me ab expectatione mea. (Receive (or, sustain) me, O Lord, according to thy word and I shall live, let me not be disappointed in my hope.)

Today, a friend, Benedictine Sister Marie-Zita of the Heart of Jesus celebrated the 50th anniversary of professing her Benedictine vows as a nun of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified. Her stability is lived at the Monastery of the Glorious Cross, Branford, CT. She gave thanks, we all gave thanks to God for a life of seeking the face of God in community. With hands held up in prayer Sister Zita stated her prayer to be sustained according to the Word.

Mass was offered by Dominican Father Jacob Restrick and the homily preached by Father Damien Schill with concelebrating priests Abbot Caedmon Holmes, OSB, of Portsmouth Abbey, Father David Borino, Father Robert Usenza and Father Gerry Masters. Deacon Sal assisted. About a 100 family and friends were in attendance.

I am grateful for the friendship I share with the nuns of this School of the Lord’s Service; I am elated that God has given Sister Zita the grace to mature in the monastic way of life.

Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus.

The Digital Nun: A Benedictine continuity in social media

Can you believe that Benedictines can do anything in addition to prayer, and more prayer? Well, I hope so. Benedictines and nuns to boot, have given the world lots of innovative things that continue to use today. For example, writing, singing different forms of music, social communications, different forms of alcohol, etc.

The Benedictines are always interesting people, whether in the 9th century, 18th century or the 21st century. Sister Catherine Wybourne, OSB, and the nuns of Holy Trinity Monastery (Howton Grove, Herefordshire, UK).

Sister Catherine is the prioress of the Benedictine nuns at this small monastery with competencies in the secular world and in the world of God and the Church.

Sister Catherine and the nuns of Holy Trinity Monastery engage us on level of faith formation, the Benedictine Charism and social communications. Her disposability for the sake of Christ’s Gospel and His Church.

Listen to Laura Lynch’s interview of Sister Catherine. You won’t be disappointed.

And if you are still interested in social media and the search of God, or least the perspective of this Benedictine nun, Dame Catherine, may I suggest:

  1. How Many iPhone Developers Wear Wimples?” (WSJ, May 2, 2011)
  2. Catherine Wybourne: The Digital Nun
  3. Prayer and Work (1994) with Dom Columba Cary-Elwes (who by the way is the founding prior of St Louis Abbey)

Pacis Nuntius: St Benedict as “exemplar and type of absolute beauty”

Why is Saint Benedict so important for us today? Why spend so much energy trying to promote his cause and to recall his influence upon civilization? One answer is: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” You may want to read “Translating St Benedict” by Dom Hugh of Douai Abbey (UK) who does a fine job at locating a piece of our interest.

I also think it’s a good day to remember that Europe –and the USA– needs its heavenly patron to get it out of the moral, political and human confusion that is wreaking havoc today. I wonder what life in the USA would be like if we had a “new” Benedict? The Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote Pacis Nuntius (1964), an Apostolic Letter by which he names Saint Benedict as the principle patron of all of Europe. In this document we read in an abbreviated form why Abbot and Saint Benedict was important not only to the Pope, but to a continent.

In everlasting memory

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Messenger of peace, molder of union, magister of civilization, and above all herald of the religion of Christ and founder of monastic life in the West: these are the proper titles of exaltation given to St. Benedict, Abbot. At the fall of the crumbling Roman Empire, while some regions of Europe seemed to have fallen into darkness and others remained as yet devoid of civilization and spiritual values, he it was who, by constant and assiduous effort, brought to birth the dawn of a new era. It was principally he and his sons, who with the cross, the book and the plow, carried Christian progress to scattered peoples from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, from Ireland to the plains of Poland (Cf. AAS 39 (1947), p. 453). With the cross; that is, with the law of Christ, he lent consistency and growth to the ordering of public and private life. To this end, it should be remembered that he taught humanity the primacy of divine worship through the “opus Dei”, i.e. through liturgical and ritual prayer. Thus it was that he cemented that spiritual unity in Europe, whereby peoples divided on the level of language, ethnicity and culture felt they constituted the one people of God; a unity that, thanks to the constant efforts of those monks who followed so illustrious a teacher, became the distinctive hallmark of the Middle Ages.

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Glastonbury Abbey monks elect new abbot, Fr Thomas O’Connor

abbot thomas of Glastonbury.jpgToday, the monastic chapter (the solemnly professed monks) of Glastonbury Abbey (Hingham, MA) met to elect the third abbot of the abbey. 

The election of an abbot brings greater normalcy, according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and tradition, to the monastic life after several years of having a prior administrator. Having an administrator was requested by the monks of the Abbey for a transition period. 
The 10 monks gathered under the presidency of Abbot Vincent de Paul Bataille, Abbot President of the Swiss American Congregation. Abbot Vincent confirmed the election. The monks of the Congregation number about 511 in 18 monasteries and priories in the USA, Central America and Canada.
Benedictine Father Thomas O’Connor, 62, was elected the Third Abbot of the community.
Abbot Thomas’ abbatial blessing will be bestowed by Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap on 11 August.

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Glastonbury Abbey was founded in 1954 from Saint Benedict’s Abbey, Benet Lake, WI. It is situated in the Archdiocese of Boston and is located in the historic south shore of Boston.
Father Edward Campbell was elected the first abbot (1973-1986) and Father Nicholas Morcone served as the second abbot (1986-2008).
May God grant Abbot Thomas many years of faithful and fruitful service.
Our Lady of Glastonbury, pray for us.
Saints Benedict and Scholastica, pray for us.
Saint Hildegard, pray for us.

Being a missionary as a Benedictine Sister

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Most people conceive of living the Benedictine charism –the Benedictine way of life given to us first by Saint Benedict in his Rule, and many centuries of living that Rule– as only being suited for life in monasteries.  In history Benedictine monks and nuns have indeed been missionaries. Think of Augustine of Canterbury, Anselm, Boniface, Frowin, Conrad, Martin Marty and many more. Men and women following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the needs of the Church have been called from the monastery to make new foundations, often they have moved from one culture to another sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. You might say that they raised the bar in the way the Christian life is lived.

In the USA Benedictine life has great diversity: monks, nuns, sisters, and lay oblates; Benedictines with schools, retreat houses and farms; others with focussed contemplatives and others ready to do what is asked. We also have Cistercians of two observances, the Camaldolese and a growing population of laity who live the Rule in secularity. What is true, Benedictines evangelize culture and build society by their presence. Some monasteries having the members doing everything imaginable for one reason: that in all things God would be gloried. How else would you live your life if you truly believed in the Incarnation?

There is a group of Benedictine sisters whose vocation is to be missionary. Either they are sent as apostles to another place, or they are missionary in the place where they are. Since July 31, 1923, The Norfolk Priory of Missionary Benedictine Sisters have ministered here in the USA. The sisters bring the gift of St Benedict’s wisdom to the health care and education ministries, but there are engaged in Hispanic ministry, domestic service, ecumenism, environmental concerns, justice and peace issues, parish ministry, and religious education. Share the idea of following to women who want to serve the Lord in community, as a missionary, and in prayer and service of the neighbor.

Here is a video on the Norfolk Benedictine Sisters.

The Missionary Benedictine Sisters belong to  serving Christ and the Church in various parts of the world.

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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