- Sunday, 12 December 2010 17:48
Since the beginning of Benedictine monasticism monks and nuns have written original works of art that were used in the monastery library or assisting the praying community. Some of the monks and nuns copied existing manuscripts in order to have copies of a text in their own monastery or to send to other people. The Benedictine way of life creates new things and it preserves others. Kindles and iPads are somewhat foreign concepts in a culture that’s manual, personal and original. But modern means ought not be totally dismissed as incongruent to the old ways of doing things.
The monks of Saint John’s Abbey and University have commissioned the Saint John’s Bible, the first handwritten, Illuminated Bible, the first work of this type in 500 years, that is, since the advent of the printing press. Certainly, the monks are leaving their mark on Catholic culture in the US for centuries to come. The artists commenced in 1998 with the idea of igniting the theological, liturgical and spiritual imagination of all people. The Saint John’s Bible illuminates the Word of God for the 21st century.
The dimensions of Saint John’s Bible is a manuscript that stands 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide when open. The head calligrapher is Donald Jackson, the calligrapher to Queen Elizabeth II. Jackson proposed the idea to Benedictine Father Eric Hollas who then waited three months before proposing the idea to Abbot John and the monks of Saint John’s. It’s written on vellum, using quills, natural hand-made inks, hand-ground pigments and gold leaf while incorporating various 21st century themes, images and technology. Artwork includes images of the World Trade Center towers, ashen skulls recalling the Cambodian killing fields, flora and fauna of Minnesota
On April 24, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI received the Books of Wisdom literature of the Saint John Bible and said it was “a work of art, a great work of art” and w “work for eternity.”
More info on the Bible project can be seen here.
Portions of the Saint John’s Bible is on display at The Church of Saint Paul the Apostle (9th Avenue & West 59th Street, NYC) until December 17.
- Tuesday, 30 November 2010 17:49
The Abbey of Regina Laudis is a special place in Connecticut; and one of the special Benedictine monasteries in the USA. I’ve been spending more time there in recent months either attending the Divine Office and/or Mass or spending a few days in St Joseph’s Guest House (for men, there are guests for women, married folks, & clergy).
One thing I learn going to monasteries or other types of religious houses is the wide variety of people who come for a brief visit to the gift shop and chapel to those visiting for professional reasons and those who are there to spend a few days making a retreat, bugging out of the “world” for a respite or those like me who just love monasteries, nuns and the culture. This past weekend we had Jesuit seminarians and a man from North Carolina connecting with distant family who happens to be a nun.
Being among the guests you see the monastic life unfold in profound and simple ways. The profound is exemplified in thinking about contours of the nuns and a couple of laymen considering making a monastic foundation of brothers and priests at the abbey. And there were the simple ways of spending time with one of the Oblate brothers who was Holy Apostles Seminary, or another Oblate brother preparing for his diaconate ordination on Saturday. And your own learning discerning a new of living what the Lord has given. So much at Regina Laudis is rooted in the prayer and work of the land. Being a land preserve, the nuns care for the land in extraordinary ways like farming, caring for the natural way supplies, raising much of their own food, etc.
Want to know more about the Abbey of Regina Laudis and the monastic culture found there? Come for a visit, spend a few days at the abbey and/or read Antoinette Bosco’s Mother Benedict
(and read Bosco’s essay on
Antoinette Bosco, a resident of Connecticut, journalist and friend of the nuns, wrote an accessible and inspiring account of the abbey’s founder, Mother Benedict Duss, OSB (+October 5, 2005). Mother Benedict was forward thinking and a pioneering nun who founded an abbey of nuns who take seriously prayer, work, culture and humanity. Bosco’s narrative tells the story of a woman who risked everything, was obedient to the Church, and trusted profoundly in God.
The abbey is home to a nun who bears a tired clichè –but all clichès are shopworn– of “the cheese nun,” who went back to school at a later age for further education which landed her a stellar PhD in microbiology that has enabled her to make brilliant contributions in the field of making cheese and promoting culture the world over. A Fullbright scholar, Mother Noella never thought that entering a monastery would lead to studying science, milking a cow, making artisanal cheese, travel extensively. Except that in all these things she followed the aphorism, that in all things God is gloried.
So, watch the 2006 PBS presentation “The Cheese Nun
” telling the story of Mother Noella Marcellino learning the ways of God and humanity through the exacting study of science, cheese-making and prayer all in an effort to know the grace of creation given by God: biodiversity reveals the ever beautiful face of the Creator.
- Tuesday, 02 November 2010 18:45
If the crèche at
the Abbey of
Regina Laudis strikes you as a little out place, there’s a good
reason. The austere Yankee barn that houses it is a world away from its previous
home. Handcrafted by artisans in Naples, the intricate nativity scene was
presented as a coronation gift to Victor Amadeus II, king of Sardina, in 1720.
It remained among Italian nobility until it was purchased by Loretta Hines
Howard, an artist and collector, in 1949. She immediately donated it to what
was then a fledgling Benedictine Abbey in, fittingly, Bethlehem, Connecticut
(although the nuns insist the name is a coincidence).
The crèche takes a few
liberties with the traditional nativity story. Instead of a Judean village,
Bethlehem appears here somewhere on the coast of Italy. The stable has been
replaced by Corinthian columns, and the traditional kings and shepherds are
joined by a whole host of other characters, who have shed their New Testament
robes for 18th-century knickers and coats. In one corner, some
peasants argue over the contents of a stem pot. In another, a noblewoman walks
her whippet on a leash. The crowd is puzzling at first, though it may
serve a distinct purpose. “For as
many people as there are, there are attitudes toward the birth of Christ,” says
Sister Angèle Arbib, who helps care for the crèche. She points out some figures
who seems reverential, others who seem distracted or dis-believing: “It’s so
representative. When people come here to see the crèche, they identify with
someone in here.”
And people of all faiths do come to see it. The mass of
Christmas pilgrims has returned after a recent restoration had taken the crèche
out of public view for three years. Conservators from New York’s Metropolitan
Museum of Art painstakingly repaired each of the 68 figures and the tiny
hand-sewn outfits they wear. The results are stunning. The crèche now stands as
a testament to the continued support of the community of nuns,
preservationists, and believers that has formed around it. It’s fitting. After
all, what is a nativity other than a story of people coming together?
November/December, Vol. 74, No. 6.
Abbey of Regina Laudis
273 Flanders Road
The crèche is open to the public daily 10-4 through Jan. 5 (closed Jan. 6-Apr. 24)
- Saturday, 09 October 2010 14:43
The monastic family of Saint John’s Abbey and the American Cassinese Congregation mourns the passing of Abbot Timothy Kelly who died on October 7. He was 76 and had been suffering from cancer.
Abbot Timothy was the 9th abbot of St John’s Abbey (1992-2000) and was the Abbot-President of his congregation of monks from 2001 till this past June. The Abbot’s monastic life was rich in service to abbey and the wider Church.
The present abbot of Saint John’s, John Klassen, has an obit here
Saints Benedict and Scholastic, pray for Timothy and the Saint John’s community.
May the angels lead Abbot Timothy to the Kingdom.
- Saturday, 02 October 2010 07:30
Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do no rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him. (Exodus 23:20)
O leaders of the heavenly armies, although we are always unworthy, we beseech you that with your prayers you may encircle us with the protection of the wings of your angelic glory. Watch over us as we bow low and earnestly cry out to you: Deliver us from trouble, O princes of the heavenly armies.
Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day (night) be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
Let’s remember Abbot Hugh Anderson, abbot-president and the Benedictine monks of the American Cassinese Congregation who observe today as a patronal feast of their congregation.