Category Archives: Benedictines

Pope Benedict: follow the witness of Saint Benedict


Every time we celebrate Holy Mass, we hear echo in our heart
the words that Jesus left with his disciples at the Last Supper as a precious
gift: “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you” (John 14:27). How much
the Christian community and the whole of humanity need to taste completely the
riches and the power of Christ’s peace! St. Benedict was a great witness,
because he welcomed it in his existence and fructified it in works of authentic
cultural and spiritual renewal. “Pax” (“Peace”) is posted
as a motto at the entrance to the Abbey of Monte Cassino and every other
Benedictine monastery: the monastic community in fact is called to live
according to this peace, which is the paschal gift par excellence
. As you know,
in my recent trip to the Holy Land, I went as a pilgrim of peace, and today —
in this land marked by the Benedictine charism — I have the opportunity to
emphasize, once again, that peace is in the first place a gift of God, and
therefore its power is in prayer.

It is a gift given, however, to human care. Even the energy
that is needed to actualize it is drawn from prayer. So, it is essential to
cultivate an authentic prayer life to assure the social progress of peace
. Once
again the history of monasticism teaches us that a great growth in civilization
is prepared by daily listening to the Word of God
, which moves believers to a
personal and communal effort in the struggle against egoism and injustice
. Only
in learning, with the grace of Christ, to combat and defeat the evil within
ourselves and in relationships with others, can we become authentic builders of
peace and civil progress. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, help all
Christians, in their different vocations and situations in life, to be
witnesses of that peace that Christ gave us and left us as a demanding mission
to realize everywhere.

Today, March 24, liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, Help of Christians — who is venerated with great devotion at the shrine
of Sheshan in Shanghai — we celebrate the Day of Prayer for the Church in
China. My thoughts turn to all the people of China. In particular I greet the
Catholics of China with great affection and I exhort them to renew on this day
their communion of faith in Christ and of fidelity to the Successor of Peter.
May our common prayer obtain an effusion of gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that
unity of all Christians, the catholicity and the universality of the Church
always will be deeper and more visible.

Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli Address, Miranda Square, May 24, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI visits Monte Cassino

Montecassino.jpgPope Benedict XVI with great affection for Saint Benedict of Nursia, the Rule of Saint Benedict and Benedictine spirituality made a visit to Monte Cassino, 75 miles southeast of Rome, today. The Abbey of Monte Cassino was founded by Saint Benedict in 529 and it’s the sight of great holiness and humanity.

Among the various pastoral engagements the Holy Father had, he celebrated Mass for the diocese in the heart of the city, prayed Vespers with the monks, offered prayers for the dead, and visited the House of Charity. (This house works for peace and the promotion of life.) He also visited the monks of the monastic community there and addressed visiting abbesses and abbots. The Pope was hosted by Abbot-Nullius Pietro Vittorelli, 46.

Regola di S Benedetto.jpg

Historically Monte Cassino is a center of art, culture, learning, and faith. The monks at Cassino are quick to recall that the abbey’s culture is Neapolitan. Nevertheless, the sole purpose of life in the abbey, indeed in any Benedictine abbey, is the search for God, pressing forward announcing the Paschal Mystery, of which is the incredible fact of Christ’s presence known now, that is today. Thus we comprehend the reason for the holy Rule of Benedict: keeping our gaze fixed on Christ.

In Saint Benedict we have a genius who gave cohesion to Europe and the rest of the world through his Rule for monasteries and Lectio Divina. Some will say it is one of the centers of humanity, of Western civilization because the Benedictine life gave voice to the aspirations of men and women. The notable archive at Monte Cassino attests to the search for God and the conscience of the Christian life. A new humanism is underlined by the Rule because it is attentive to one’s real humanity seen particularly in the vulnerable of society.

A fascinating heritage of Cassino abbey is the historic presence of the Greek monks who lived there for a few hundred years prior to founding the Abbey of Grottaferrata. Without digressing the Abbey was destroyed four times (in 577, 883, 1349 & 1944) and rebuilt four times. The last time the abbey was destroyed it was bombed by the American military during the Second World War because the Allied armies feared the advance of the enemies. The destruction, however, was carried out under wrong intelligence which the cost the lives of many. However, Succisa virescit! It is the 65th anniversary of the rebuilding of the abbey and city, the icon of beauty, strength and peace all people.

Pope and Abbot listen Cassino.jpg

This visit of Pope Benedict is in continuity with the visits of past popes. This is not a first visit of Benedict XVI since he made several visits before as cardinal (but it is the first visit as the first as pope) to Monte Cassino; significantly in 1992 made a few days of retreat with his brother and personal secretary at the abbey and then he worked with Peter Seewald on his book, Salt of the Earth (1997) there. So, as an honor, the Mayor of Cassino announced today that Miranda Square was renamed today to “Pope Benedict XVI Square.”

The Pope’s homily was incredibly striking and we wait for a proper translation in English.

Blessed is he comes in the Name of the Lord.

Sister Mary Irmina Blatt at 102

Sister Irmina 102 bday with Sister Denise.jpgSister Mary Irmina Blatt recently celebrated her 102nd birthday. Sister Blatt is a Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration.

The monastery’s presser

May God grant her more years!

Father Theodore Heck, OSB: RIP

Fr Theodore Heck.jpgRemember not the sins of my youth and all my follies, O Lord.

Early this morning the Lord called home the Reverend Father Theodore Heck, OSB. Father Theodore was the oldest Benedictine monk and priest in the world at the time of his death at 108.
Father Theodore was a priest and monk of the Archabbey of Saint Meinrad.
A slideshow of Father’s life and ministry can be seen here.
O God, Who didst raise Thy servant Theodore to the dignity of priest in the apostolic priesthood, grant, we beseech Thee, that he may be joined in fellowship with Thine Apostles forevermore.
May Father Theodore rest in peace.

Visiting Portsmouth Abbey

Abbey church & lawn.JPGThis past week I spent it visiting friends at Portsmouth Abbey. Savoring the graces of Easter was an important part of my desire to be away from that which is “normal”  plus visiting friends who I haven’t seen in a while was refreshing. There are 13 monks resident.

Portsmouth is a monastery of Benedictine monks under the patronage of Saint Gregory the Great. The abbey has been in Portsmouth, Rhode Island since 1926 located 7 miles north of Newport and 20 minutes south of Fall River on Narragansett Bay. The location is beautiful and for me, quintessentially “New England.” Among many things the abbey is famous for historically being populated by monks who converted to Catholicism and for the school the monks run, Portsmouth Abbey School.

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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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