Tag Archives: Belmont Abbey

Belmont Abbey hosts gathering of monks & sisters

Today 2 novices and a junior with the novice master from Mepkin Abbey (the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance), a novice from the South-Central Mother House of the Religious Sisters of Mercy and the 2 novices from Belmont Abbey came together for friendship and study. The symposia has been devoted to the study of the 1983 Code of Canon Law as it pertains to religious life. The course is taught by Religious Sister of Mercy Sister Jean Margaret. The retired bishop of Charlotte, Bishop William Curlin, 81, gave a talk on the inter-relation of Canon Law, religious and bishops. His Excellency was the bishop of this diocese from 1994-2002; previously he was an auxiliary bishop of Washington, DC. Experience tells us that it’s important that some study of the Church’s Law happens during formation (and perhaps even later in life) so that one knows the boundaries of what is and is not possible for people in religious life.

All were here this afternoon and evening for a visit to the campus, dinner and Vespers. This is the first time this type of gathering has happened and it’s due to the hard work of Sister Jean Margaret persuading the abbots of Belmont and Mepkin this was fitting for monks to do.

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Keeping Belmont Abbey green

The weather at Belmont Abbey was terrific today: it was a bright, sunny and a cool day perfect for relaxing work outside. I loved it because the weather here beats the weather my parents have in New England. I consider today to be a wonderful grace. But I digress. Four of us planted some fruit trees (3 pears and a cherry) and 3 blueberry bushes. Father John ordered these things and is now unable to work in the garden so we volunteered our time assist a senior confrere. Working in the garden is preferable to painting!

Gardening proves to be a relaxing things for me plus it demonstrates my attentiveness to the environment which I think is increasingly critical for humanity if humanity hopes to continue to thrive well into this and the next millennium. In recent years the Pope and other respected theologians have been considering an appropriate approach to the issue of climate change and related matters and how best to proceed in protecting the environment. One example of the Pope’s commitment to protecting the environment was his agreeing to install a brand system of solar energy on the Pope Paul VI Auditorium back in the autumn; it was a generous gift of a German solar energy company.

Salesian Father Manilo Sodi, theology professor of Pontifical Salesian University, has said that we “need to counter the position of those who consider nature to be above or at the same level as the human person.” Moreover, Sodi said that “man should not abuse nature,” and added that “the transcendental nature of the human person and his relationship with the Creator and with other creatures, favors an ecological use of nature that does not dehumanize the person nor degrade the environment.”

Planting 4 trees and 3 bushes wouldn’t t be considered a giant leap forward in keeping the earth green and protecting the environment from toxicities; but it is a small step in a right and good direction. Other Benedictine monasteries in the USA and abroad do considerable more than we do in “greening” the property, including the living space of the monks. And so the effort continues….

For now, I am satisfied with keeping the Abbey “green” by planting a few new trees and bushes, which was relaxing after the Holy Synaxis and brunch. This is the good example of Benedictine monks.

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Communion & Liberation at Belmont Abbey

Today about 25 friends who follow, that is, are a part of Communion & Liberation from around the Carolinas came to Belmont Abbey Basilica to celebrate the Sacrifce of the Mass on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani and the 27th year of the recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation. Redemptorist Father Joseph Dione, a local pastor, was the celebrant of the Mass.

After, John Neill, the CL Responsible for the Carolinas, led us on a walk around the grounds of Belmont Abbey College stopping at the Saint Joseph Adoration Chapel and at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the graces received today and in the past year. This was especially important to recognize since Our Lady of Lourdes is important to the life of CL  because it was something that Giussani taught us: go to the BVM. So we feel very connected with the history of our charism. The group then went to dinner at a local restuarant but I had to ring bells and pray Vespers. Our group joined about 30 other groups in the USA and countless others around the world who did the same thing for the same reason.

It was a beautiful day in which we gave came together as friends to give thanks to God. Our gathering keeps the companionship and the Benedictine roots of CL alive. Some photos follow.

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Life in the abbey today

In the monastic world one can sometimes be sheltered from some of the concerns of “outside world”: the “fast life” for example. But for many of us the true living of reality never goes away. How could it?  Like the rest of the world the monks have to be concerned about some external things like family, friends, keeping the apostolate alive if it is for God’s great glory, concern for one another, etc. The added feature to our life, as it is similar to all serious Christians is that we have see the about the seriousness of living the balance of prayer, study, work and holy leisure, the monastic way of life while keeping reality (God & humanity) in front of with the concern for the healthcare for the elderly, formation of the young, the maintenance of the buildings and grounds, diet and exercise, communication of the charism to our students, colleagues, benefactors and alumni, concern for the welfare of the poor and the ill, care for the environment and so on. As I progress in this life I am learning better the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, my own need for happiness, love, development of the intellect & affect, and other things that contribute to happy and truth-filled living.


Yesterday (Thursday) we met for our weekly meeting with the abbot to discuss Lectio Divina, a practice of reading/praying/contemplating the Scriptures from within the heart of the Church’s Liturgy. We are reading the book Praying the Bible: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by the late Archbishop Mariano Magrassi, OSB. It is a wonderful synthesis of all the elements that contribute to this experience of coming to know Christ through the ancient yet ever contemporary practice of holy reading of Scripture.  I am ever mindful of Saint Jerome’s didctum: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” More on this topic later but I have to say, read this book!


House work is never done, ask my mother, or ask anyone who owns a home. We spent the last week painting various parts of the abbey and today we spent the morning preparing the guest rooms.

Caution sign.jpgThis afternoon we went to the US Olympic training facility for white river rafting. It was a very pleasant afternoon away from the monastery with confreres enjoying time in the fresh air and sun with a brief walk in nature before having a beer and kettle chips.


Tonight, we are watching the 1964 classic “Becket” with Sir John Gielgud, Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole; this is one my favorite movies of all time.

These are the things which make life in the abbey.

Past days in the monastery

Life in a monastery is never boring. Living our lives seriously hardly leaves room for idleness. The abbey welcomes Christ in the visitors, including vocation guests, we receive. The presence of guests reminds us that we Christ is among us. And I am of the opinion that a religious house should rarely be without guests. The round of prayer, work, reading, dining (feeding is crude, so we politely dine) and private time is a lot. At the moment, time for self is not as plentiful as I want or need especially since I have to prepare for teaching and I want to do some study.


mask wall.jpgOne of my least favorite domestic chores is painting. Actually, I hate painting (probably because my father never really liked it either) and I only initiate the task when it is needed, or asked. I’d rather pay professionals to do the job of preparing the walls, painting and cleaning up. Here at Mary, Help of Christians (Belmont) Abbey I’ve been asked along with two others to paint a few hallways and a room. The companions are fine to work with, though one drives the work, getting mucked up with paint isn’t my idea of fun. BUT the walls do look good and the abbot and other monks are pleased. Happy to oblige. I am just hoping that we don’t have to paint the very long outside porch. The passage from Saint Paul comes to mind: if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Hmmmm, I like to eat….

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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]yahoo.com.
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