Category Archives: Benedictines

700th anniversary of the Divine Comedy, Dante’s masterpiece

commedia medalTruly one of the world’s great texts is the Divine Comedy by Dante. Next year and in subsequent years, we’ll hear about the honoring of Dante by bestowing annual award for artistic genius dealing with

The Best Digitally-Produced Rendition of Any Aspect of Dante’s Divine Comedy

The first recipient of the Commedia Medal will be announced on 1 December 2014 and it will be award annually until 2021.

The image of the award is posted here. It’s the creation of Dom Gregory Havill, a Benedictine monk of Portsmouth Abbey and a teacher in the Portsmouth Abbey School.

Dante published the Inferno in 1314, the Purgatorio in 1315 and the Paradiso in 1321. Dante died in 1321. What a terrific way to acknowledge cultural icon by having a Benedictine monk create an artistic piece for an award of excellence and beauty! Benedictines have always had their fingers (and their hearts and minds) in matters of faith, reason,and art to communicate the Divine Mystery.

Interested in the competition, visit the website here. Dr Sebastian Mahfood is organizing the competition.

Christ’s voice heard through Cistercian nuns in Syria

The Cistercian nuns of the Monastery of Blessed Mary of Font of Peace (in Arabic, Dier al Adrha Yanbu’a-s-Salam) Azeir, Syria are speaking out:

The people are straining their eyes and ears in front of the television: all they’re waiting for is a word from Obama!

A word from Obama? Will the Nobel Peace Prize winner drop his sentence of war onto us? Despite all justice, all common sense, all mercy, all humility, all wisdom?

The Pope has spoken up, patriarchs and bishops have spoken up, numberless witnesses have spoken up, analysts and people of experience have spoken up, even the opponents of the regime have spoken up…. Yet here we all are, waiting for just one word from the great Obama? And if it weren’t him, it would be someone else. It isn’t he who is “the great one,” it is the Evil One who these days is really acting up.

(excerpt from 29 August 2013 letter, the full text is here)

This is a matter of faith and the public order. These voices need to be heard and prudent action needs to be taken up. Killing more people to save face is not the Christian way.

Typically, you don’t hear from Cistercians in this way. They are now speaking up for justice and peace at a time when another World War is possible. Following the 6th century Rule of Benedict and the Constitutions of the venerable order of Citeaux. You may say, the small group of nuns of Blessed Mary of Font of Peace have as their key work to pray for peace and to work on their conversion.

The monastery is located in Syria, on the boarder with Lebanon in a village of Maronite Catholic. Historians will note that the intuition of the Cistercian nuns coheres well with the context in which they find themselves: at the crossroads with East and West, where Christianity began, and where culture flourished.  From where the nuns are located, you can see the Good News sent abroad to Asia Minor, Greece, France, Rome, Armenia, India, China. The nuns, too, rely on the intercession of saints like Afraate, Ephraim, Cyrus, Simeon the Protostilite, Maron, John Maron, Isaac of Niniveh, John Chrysostom, John of Damascus, Rafka, and countless others who followed Jesus Christ.

Our Lady of Peace, and all Syrian and Cistercian saints, pray for us.

The NEW Blackfriars Films … Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life

Blackfriars filmsThe New York Province of Dominicans have brought together several media initiatives and created for themselves a new media division under the sponsorship of the Province of Saint Joseph with the debut of Blackfriar Films. They are off and running…

Here we have a treat with Father Austin Dominic Litke, OP, Father Robert Koopman, OSB and Leah Sedlacek performing a new arrangement of the beautiful 17th century hymn, “Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life.” The beautiful scenery of New York City is the God-given canvas for preaching Gospel and sharing the Christian faith with the world.

Father Austin is a campus minister at NYC and Father Robert is a monk of Saint John’s Abbey (MN) where he’s a music educator and artist.

In case you want to meditate on the beautiful words Father Austin is singing, here they are:

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a way as gives us breath,
such a truth as ends all strife,
such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast,
such a feast as mends in length,
such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move,
such a love as none can part,
such a heart as joys in love.

@ started with the Benedictine monks

@The theory of how the image ‘@’ came into being is passing through cyberspace, again, these days. We all know that monks of all types, Benedictines, Cistercians, Augustinians, etc., had much to do with culture. This is particularly true, I believe with the Benedictine and Cistercian monks who worked out tools for writing but also useful things for art, cooking, gardening and beer making to name just a few ideas. What was helpful and labor-saving in the monastery had applications for the rest of the world.

Here is a 2009 story on @ found at Wired.

Just the other day the Huffington Post published this note about the ubiquitous @.

The point is not raise your awareness about the history of the @. It is to help you recall that things don’t fall out of the sky on to your plate, or your computer screen. A real person has had to dream and work out the tool used.

Our intellectual and religious history needs to be recalled and honored. Much of the world that uses email has to use ‘@’ to send a message. Next time you do, pray for the Benedictines.

Benedictine monasticism according to the observance of Le Barroux

I just watched a very fascinating video on the life of the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Saint Mary Magdalene of Barroux, in short they are referred to as the monks of Le Barroux. It is a young community in history and in membership. An exemplary life according to an older and venerable way of being a Benedictine.

The documentary, “Watchmen of the Night” (2008), covers all the aspects and then some of Benedictine life, or may merely say, a life of truly living the New Testament. A viewer is intensely engaged in an hour long video that’ss in French with English subtitles.

Their work is “to pray in silence, and to pray to God in heaven.” With a clear ultimacy, monks serve no purpose; monks serve a someone. This is a difficult concept to accept for many people in this era: 5-6 hours of prayer, study, and work all for God. It’s a life totally and unconditionally oriented to the Eschaton.

The monastic life is one of many facets in Christian discipleship; it’s a vocation not given to all; and yet it’s an essential vocation in the life of the Church because of a definitive focus on the contemplative life. While all Christians are called to a life of contemplation, not all are called to a seriously focused life as a monk or a nun; all are called to be in relationship with the Lord though liturgical prayer, study, sacraments, mental prayer, and work, but not all are called to live this way in a community.

As the founder of Le Barroux, Dom Gerard (1927-2008) once said, “The monks unintentionally built Europe. It is an adventure that is primarily if not exclusively interior. They are moved by a thirst for the absolute, a thirst for another world. These monasteries, pointing to heaven, an obstinate reminder that there is another world of which this world is but an image, the herald, and the prefiguration.” So we follow the path given to us Christ.

The monks of Le Barroux are unique in some ways, others not so. In the American context Benedictines generally don’t (can’t, won’t?) do what these monks do, which is OK.  I have to say, though, Le Barroux’s observances are beautiful. We don’t have to be clones but we have to have a freedom for excellence, which is not what we get in many American Benedictine monasteries. Too many are lackluster and ideological and unwilling to change. I happen to think we would do well to honestly look at Le Barroux to understand their way of proceeding, thus making an examination of conscience, not for the purpose of being “Barroux in the USA”, but to see how we all can walk more closely to what is proposed for salvation in the New Testament, the tradition of Holy Mother the Church and what the Benedictine sensibility-through-the-ages (the Holy Rule and the historical Benedictine charism) have to say today. In my limited knowledge Le Barroux gives a hermeneutic of continuity. The point, then, is to understand the contours of Grace and not to be too zealous by going beyond the grace God has given. Immature zeal will always frustrate the good in front of us.

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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