Tag Archives: Benedictine saints and blesseds

St Hildegard of Bingen

st-hildegard

Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) is a most attractive person with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a keen intellect and good zeal of a Benedictine nun. Knowing her history you would say she is a polymath. She said once, “There is the Music of Heaven in all things, and we have forgotten how to hear it until we sing.”

For many years it was hoped that Hildegard would be officially raised to the altar and be declared a Doctor of the Church. In deed, it was Pope Benedict who gave the Church this supreme gift of this saintly woman a witness to the new evangelization. Benedict stated:

In Saint Hildegard of Bingen there is a wonderful harmony between teaching and daily life. In her, the search for God’s will in the imitation of Christ was expressed in the constant practice of virtue, which she exercised with supreme generosity and which she nourished from biblical, liturgical and patristic roots in the light of the Rule of Saint Benedict. Her persevering practice of obedience, simplicity, charity and hospitality was especially visible. In her desire to belong completely to the Lord, this Benedictine Abbess was able to bring together rare human gifts, keen intelligence and an ability to penetrate heavenly realities.

Hildegard’s eminent doctrine echoes the teaching of the Apostles, the Fathers and writings of her own day, while it finds a constant point of reference in the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monastic liturgy and the interiorization of sacred Scripture are central to her thought which, focusing on the mystery of the Incarnation, is expressed in a profound unity of style and inner content that runs through all her writings.

The teaching of the holy Benedictine nun stands as a beacon for homo viator. Her message appears extraordinarily timely in today’s world, which is especially sensitive to the values that she proposed and lived. For example, we think of Hildegard’s charismatic and speculative capacity, which offers a lively incentive to theological research; her reflection on the mystery of Christ, considered in its beauty; the dialogue of the Church and theology with culture, science and contemporary art; the ideal of the consecrated life as a possibility for human fulfilment; her appreciation of the liturgy as a celebration of life; her understanding of the reform of the Church, not as an empty change of structure but as conversion of heart; her sensitivity to nature, whose laws are to be safeguarded and not violated.

For these reasons the attribution of the title of Doctor of the Universal Church to Hildegard of Bingen has great significance for today’s world and an extraordinary importance for women. In Hildegard are expressed the most noble values of womanhood: hence the presence of women in the Church and in society is also illumined by her presence, both from the perspective of scientific research and that of pastoral activity. Her ability to speak to those who were far from the faith and from the Church make Hildegard a credible witness of the new evangelization.

(Pope Benedict XVI, 7 October 2012)

Blessed Ildefonso Schuster –man of God, man of holiness

Schuster osbWe commemorate the 62nd anniversary of the death of the Blessed Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, Archbishop of Milan.

Cardinal Schuster was born in Rome in 1880 to German parents, entered the Benedictine Abbey of St Paul’s Outside-the-Walls. After ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, he served his community as master of novices and prior before being elected abbot and appointed procurator general of the Cassinese Congregation of Benedictines (now the Subiaco-Cassinese Congregation. He is also served as president of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. In 1929, Pius XI named him to See of Milan, the same episcopal See as Saint Ambrose and St Charles Borromeo. Schuster had a rapid rise in the Church structure by being created a Cardinal less than a month after his appointment to Milan; he was consecrated bishop by the Pope in the Sistine Chapel.

Schuster had several difficult years as the Shepherd of Milan with rise of Fascism and then advent of WWII. What is keenly recalled of Schuster as bishop is his solicitude of the people having visited every parish of the diocese five times, holding several diocesan synods, writing several pastoral letters and founding a seminary in Venegono. Monk or not, he was a true apostle for the good of the Church’s holiness and engagement in the world.

The funeral Mass was offered by the Cardinal Roncalli, now St. John XXIII. In 1985, the cardinal’s his tomb was opened and his mortal remains were found to be intact; the monk-bishop-cardinal-man of God was beatified by Saint John Paul II on May 12, 1996. The relics were given for the veneration of the faithful in one of the side-altars of the Duomo.

One of the things I treasure of Blessed Schuster is his scholarship in the Liber Sacramentorum, known in its English translation as The Sacramentary. It was written while he was Benedictine monk with the supreme reverence for tradition, adoration and intellect. With some things the volumes are dated yet the work remains an invaluble reference point for liturgical scholarship today.

To the seminarians of Milan he taught in a characteristically Benedictine manner of the futility of ministry without personal holiness:

I have no memento to give you apart from an invitation to holiness. It would seem that people are no longer convinced by our preaching; but faced with holiness, they still believe, they still fall to their knees and pray. People seem to live ignorant of supernatural realities, indifferent to the problems of salvation. But when an authentic saint, living or dead passes by, all run to be there. Do not forget that the devil is not afraid of our [parish] sports fields and of our movie halls: he is afraid, on the other hand, of our holiness.

With the Church we pray,

Almighty God, through your grace, Blessed Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, by his exemplary virtue, built up the flock entrusted to him. Grant that we, under the guidance of the Gospel, may follow his teaching and walk in sureness of life, until we come to see you face to face in your eternal kingdom. 

Blessed Ildefonso Schuster, pray for us!

St Benedict –our Father

Sts Benedict, Placid and MaurusAt the Introit, we sing today on the feast of Saint Benedict:

Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating the feast in honor of Benedict, in whose happy solemnity. The angels rejoice and praise the Son of God.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised In the city of our God, on his holy mountain. (Ps. 47:2)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI wrote this about this man of blessings:

The obedience of the disciple must correspond with the wisdom of the Abbot who, in the monastery, “is believed to hold the place of Christ” (2, 2; 63, 13). The figure of the Abbot, which is described above all in Chapter II of the Rule with a profile of spiritual beauty and demanding commitment, can be considered a self-portrait of Benedict, since, as St Gregory the Great wrote, “the holy man could not teach otherwise than as he himself lived” (cf. Dialogues II, 36). The Abbot must be at the same time a tender father and a strict teacher (cf. 2, 24), a true educator. Inflexible against vices, he is nevertheless called above all to imitate the tenderness of the Good Shepherd (27, 8), to “serve rather than to rule” (64, 8) in order “to show them all what is good and holy by his deeds more than by his words” and “illustrate the divine precepts by his example” (2, 12). To be able to decide responsibly, the Abbot must also be a person who listens to “the brethren’s views” (3, 2), because “the Lord often reveals to the youngest what is best” (3, 3). This provision makes a Rule written almost 15 centuries ago surprisingly modern! A man with public responsibility even in small circles must always be a man who can listen and learn from what he hears.

Benedict describes the Rule he wrote as “minimal, just an initial outline” (cf. 73, 8); in fact, however, he offers useful guidelines not only for monks but for all who seek guidance on their journey toward God. For its moderation, humanity and sober discernment between the essential and the secondary in spiritual life, his Rule has retained its illuminating power even to today. By proclaiming St Benedict Patron of Europe on 24 October 1964, Paul VI intended to recognize the marvellous work the Saint achieved with his Rule for the formation of the civilization and culture of Europe. Having recently emerged from a century that was deeply wounded by two World Wars and the collapse of the great ideologies, now revealed as tragic utopias, Europe today is in search of its own identity. Of course, in order to create new and lasting unity, political, economic and juridical instruments are important, but it is also necessary to awaken an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws on the Christian roots of the Continent, otherwise a new Europe cannot be built. Without this vital sap, man is exposed to the danger of succumbing to the ancient temptation of seeking to redeem himself by himself – a utopia which in different ways, in 20th-century Europe, as Pope John Paul II pointed out, has caused “a regression without precedent in the tormented history of humanity” (Address to the Pontifical Council for Culture, 12 January 1990). Today, in seeking true progress, let us also listen to the Rule of St Benedict as a guiding light on our journey. The great monk is still a true master at whose school we can learn to become proficient in true humanism.

Blessed Pope Eugene III

episcopal ordination of Blessed EugeneBlessed Pope Eugene III was Pope from 15 February 1145 to his death in 1153. The image here is that of the episcopal consecration of Blessed Eugene.

Eugene was the first Cistercian to become Pope. After he became a Cistercian he took the name of “Bernard” in honor of his friend, Bernard of Clairvaux. Never a shy man and passionate teacher, Saint Bernard wrote De consideratione to instruct him Eugene in papal duties. Father Bernard was appointed abbot of Tre Fontaine in Rome. Following the death of Pope Lucius II (+1145) the cardinals elected Abbot Bernard to be pope, who was not present at the conclave due to not being a cardinal. It is reported that ALL were surprised. He remained a Cistercian monk at heart.

The Dominican St. Antoninus called Pope Eugene “a great pope with great sufferings.” And, St. Bernard of Clairvaux spoke of Pope Eugene in this way: “There is no arrogance or domineering way in him.” Eugene III held synods in northern Europe at Paris, Rheims, and Trier in 1147 and 1149 that were devoted to the reform of clerical life. He also considered and approved the works of Hildegard of Bingen

He was beatified on 28 December 1872 by Pope Pius IX.

Thomas Merton wrote an essay on Blessed Eugene, “Blessed Eugenius III, Abbot of Tre Fountain, Pope,”  Cistercian Studies Quarterly (2009) 44.2: 173-180.

With the Church we pray:

Almighty ever-living God, who chose blessed Eugene III to preside over your whole people and benefit them by word and example, keep safe, we pray, by his intercession, the shepherds of your Church along with the flocks entrusted to their care, and direct them in the way of eternal salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed Joseph-Marie Cassant

Bl Joseph-Marie CassantA rather unknown Cistercian monk and Blessed of the Church is Joseph-Marie Cassant (March 6, 1878 – June 17, 1903). He eventually found his vocation with the Cistercian monks of St. Mary of the Desert (France) on December 5, 1894. Solemn vows were professed on May 24, 1900, the feast of the Ascension. Brother Joseph-Marie’s personal charism, developed with the help of his novice master, seems to be based on the contemplation of Jesus in His passion and in the cross which leads to his teaching the love of Christ: this is the way of Jesus’ heart.

In preparing for the priesthood, Brother Joseph-Marie  understood his ministry as totally eucharistic. The young brother was ordained priest on October 12, 1902. Almost immediately he was diagnosed with TB of which his sufferings were kept silent. His abbot, feeling the gravity of the situation, sent Joseph-Marie to be with his family for seven weeks despite his growing weakness. The monastery’s infirmarian was incompetent and likely advanced the effects of TB.

Saint John Paul beatified Father Joseph-Marie on October 3, 2004.

Why is Blessed Joseph-Marie important for us today? I think the summary statements found in a biography give us a deeper move into the heart of the Blessed:

The sheer ordinariness of his life has been noted by some: 16 quiet years at Casseneuil and 9 years of monastic enclosure spent in doing the simplest of things: prayer, studies, work. They are indeed simple things, but lived in an extraordinary way. They were the slightest of deeds, but performed with limitless generosity. Christ imbued his mind, clear as the water that leaps from a spring, with the conviction that God alone is our true and highest happiness and that his kingdom is like a hidden treasure or a pearl of great price.

The message of Fr. Joseph-Marie has great meaning for us today. In a world filled with distrust and often with despair but thirsting for love and kindness, his life can provide an answer, and in a special way to today’s young who seek meaning in their lives. Joseph-Marie was a youth without any standing or worth in the eyes of men. He owed the success of his life to a meeting with Jesus that redefined his very existence. He showed himself a follower of the Lord in the midst of a community of brothers, with the guidance of a spiritual father, who was to him a witness of Christ as well as one who knew to receive and to understand him.

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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