Category Archives: Benedictines

Saints Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany

Raising Lazarus Martha and Mary Hunterian PsalterOn the Universal liturgical calendar of the Church today’s feast is for Saint Martha of Bethany. Yet, on the Benedictine liturgical calendar the Church honors the three of Bethany: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus  described in the Gospels as saints. Revealed in sacred Scripture, these people are acclaimed as the much-loved friends of Jesus (according to Luke and John). In the Gospel of Luke ewe read the well-known story of hospitality noting Martha as a symbol of the active life and Mary of the contemplative. The Lord holds both women in tension of what the disciple is to be: a contemplative in action.

The Lord’s raising of Lazarus from the dead is an anticipation of resurrection and a sign of eternal life for the rest of us who are baptized into the Mystical Body of Christ. Resurrection from the dead becomes, with this pericopy a powerful “game-changer” in the life of every human being. The death and subsequent raising of Lazarus evokes in each of us the acknowledge that we do not make ourselves, that God is the only Creator of who we are and what we are about as persons (not as individuals). This gesture of the Lord’s invites each of us to a deeper faith in the Messiah.

So, why is honoring all three characters crucial in our Christian life? Each person: Mary, Martha and Lazarus are convicted in the friendship with Jesus. If friendship, then fidelity, and perseverance, gratitude and hospitality.

Why is this a true feast for Benedictine monks, nuns, sisters and Oblates (laity)?

Saint Benedict sees all persons as a gift of God. The greatest gift was the person of Jesus who received as the giftedness of each person when he said: “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” Our Holy Father Saint Benedict is quite direct in how we treat the stranger, how welcome the person who presents himself at the door, we definitive statements. In Chapter 53 of Rule of Saint Benedict we read:

All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims. Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love. First of all, they are to pray together and thus be united in peace, but prayer must always precede the kiss of peace because of the delusions of the devil. All humility should be shown in addressing a guest on arrival or departure. By a bow of the head or by a complete prostration of the body, Christ is to be adored because he is indeed welcomed in them. After the guests have been received, they should be invited to pray; then the superior or an appointed brother will sit with them. The divine law is read to the guest for his instruction, and after that every kindness is shown to him. The superior may break his fast for the sake of a guest, unless it is a day of special fast which cannot be broken. The brothers, however, observe the usual fast. The abbot shall pour water on the hands of the guests, and the abbot with the entire community shall wash their feet. After the washing they will recite this verse: God, we have received your mercy in the midst of your temple (Ps 47 [48]:10). Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received; our very awe of the rich guarantees them special respect.

The hospitality shown by the the Holy Three is what we come to know as their personal mission given by God, their personal “I Am” and not mere kindness to the other. In the person of Jesus we meet his enjoyment of their company because it show us how the beauty of human friendship and love is at the core of our DNA. The Church’s honoring Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus is a sign of hope and promise for all who are in Christ Jesus.

Can we live as the Saints of Bethany? Can we live as Saint Benedict shows us?

Documenting a new monastic presence in Eastern Europe

001In this octave of the Ascension, and just before the great solemn feast of Pentecost, I thought I might share with you a 2005 video of the building of the Monastery of Novy Dvur (Czech Republic). To me, this community of Trappist monks is another great example of faith in action, of seeing the human person in action so that God may be glorified.

“Space of Silence” is a stunning story of faith, vulnerability and humanity; it is so because you can see a concrete expression of grace at work in this local Church.

The documentary shows the slow rebirth of a monastic presence in lands dominated by the Communist ideology; this is the first monastery built in the Eastern lands where the atheistic ideology ruled.

The Novy Dvur is a growing, international Strict Cistercian observance monastery founded with the assistance of the French abbey of Sept Fons. Since 2012, the Trappist community was given the title of “abbey” thus their official name is the Abbey of Our Lady of Nový Dvůr.

More on the Trappists at Novy Dvur Monastery (this website gives a lot more info to consider).

Thailand’s first Benedictine monastery

Thailand BenedictinesBenedictine monasticism as it is lived by men has now expanded to Thailand. The Monastery of Saint Benedict is a work that has been in process for a few years, at least since 2010.

Asianews.it ran a story the other day about the new foundation made by Benedictine monks from Vietnam where there is already a sufficient monastic presence (for now) and gladly supported a move to their neighbors in Thailand. Five monks populate the Monastery of Saint Benedict with ten cells, eight guest rooms and a chapel located outside the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The monastery is located in the diocese by the same name. According to 2006 statistics, Catholics make up .8% of the population with more than 46,000 faithful.

The new monastery was instigated by the Archbishop Antonio Mattiazzo of Padua. Gratitude to Archbishop Mattiazzo is well deserved for his desire to be generative.

Claudio Corti’s article is here.

Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, pray for this endeavor of the new evangelization.

70th Anniversary of the Destruction and Reconstruction of Abbey of Montecassino

MontecassinoToday, the Holy Father was represented by Ennio Cardinal Antonelli, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Family to be his Special Envoy at remembrance celebrations at the Abbey of Montecassino on March 21. As papal envoy, the Cardinal will attend the 70th Anniversary of the Destruction and Reconstruction of Abbey of Montecassino. The date is the anniversary of the death of Saint Benedict of Norcia.

Montecassino as a community of Benedictine monks founded in 529 by the saint, suffered several destructions and reconstructions of the centuries, the last one being 15 February 1944 bombing by the Allied troops in the Second World War. In four months, the Battle of Montecassino there was about 200,000 causalities (on both sides).

The monks oversaw an immediate and exact reconstruction at the war’s end between 1948 to 1956. Joseph Breccia Fratadocchi led the reconstruction.

The Benedictines still live at Montecassino.

Benedictine Abbot speaks of the monastic vocation

Abbot James receiving vows of Br BernardOne of the missions if you will, of the Communio blog, is to share the Good News, to share the ways in which the Lord is incarnated today. One of the areas I show concern for is the monastic vocation, particularly the beauty of the life given to us through the Rule of Benedict and lived in Benedictine monasteries. Recently, the abbot of St Anselm’s Abbey (Washington, DC) gave a radio interview attending to the Benedictine vocation in which he opens up a few facets of the life. Abbot James’ interview can be listened to here.

St Anselm’s Abbey is a Benedictine monastery located in NE Washington on 30 acres monks first started in 1924 locally before moving to its present place on South Dakota Avenue. The Abbey is part of the international English Benedictine Congregation; two other US monasteries belong to the EBC (St Louis Abbey and Portsmouth Abbey).

The monks St Anslem’s come from all over the USA; you might say that the Holy Spirit has called many to a life that has a certain richness providing the common life with a variety of ages, experience, and intellectual interests and the like. Over the years the Abbey has been a family with abundant gifts in the men who professed vows there. Abbot James mentions that recently three monks made first vows, and some others are coming to discern a monastic vocation in February.

Benedictines pray and work. In fact, it is said that the first work of a monk is pray but recalling the Rule of Benedict a monk also has to contribute to the sustenance of the common life. There is a regular, daily, round of prayer –the Divine Office–, the Sacrifice of the Mass, personal prayer which informs and forms the work is the education at CUA, Trinity College, and since 1942 a middle and high school for boys, a guesthouse where guests are received as Christ Himself. Hospitality is never lacking in a Benedictine monastery.

Abbot James speaks of the booklet From 5-9 in the interview which described the monastic life and inspired him to take the step to follow Christ as a monk at St Anslem’s Abbey. The process of discernment allows for gentle movements of the Holy Spirit to work on the soul.

Also in the interview Abbot James appeals to an insight which sums up the Benedictine gift offered by the famed Dom David Knowles who said:

the monk who in ordinary circumstances takes to any work with a zeal which burns out his fire of strength and health is departing from what is for him the way of salvation. It is not a virtue for the monk, as it might be for the missionary, to lack time in which to attend the common recitation of the Divine Office, read a certain amount, and mix with his community. And hence there should be in the Benedictine monk a certain restfulness, a contentment, not in doing nothing but in doing the familiar, even the monotonous and the ritual; an ability to remain physically unmoved and unexcited, to produce, in fact, that stability which his Founder [St. Benedict] made a distinguishing and on occasion a unique religious vow, the vow of stability, the family vow” (The Benedictines: A Digest for Moderns (St. Leo, FL: The Abbey Press, 1962), 36).

The Benedictine vocation first articulated through Saint Benedict and developed since the 6th century is one of prudence, discretion, balance, moderation; the seeking of the face of God and the pursuit of Truth. The way of salvation —the pursuit of heaven, is the essential part for all who call themselves Christian, but it is even more heightened by those who live the consecrated life according to the holy Rule of Benedict.

Saint Benedict and Saint Anslem, pray for 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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