Tag Archives: Benedictine saints and blesseds

Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu: Apostle for Spiritual Ecumenism

Thumbnail image for Bl Maria Gabriella Sagheddu.jpgLord God, eternal Shepherd, You inspired the blessed virgin, Maria Gabriella, generously to offer up her life for the sake of Christian unity. At her intercession, hasten, we pray, the coming of the day when, gathered around the table of Your word and of Your Bread from heaven, all who believe in Christ may sing Your praises with a single heart, a single voice.

Blessed Maria Gabriella, Sardinian by birth in 1914, she died a Trappistine nun in 1939 at Grottaferrata, having entered the monastery four years earlier. Taking up the invitation to work for spiritual ecumenism among Christians from Father Paul Couturier who stressed that all Christians must learn to pray together for unity in union with Jesus’ own prayer for the same (Jn 17). Couturier advocated a spiritual unity founded on common prayer, charity, friendship, mutual forgiveness and humility which precedes doctrinal and hierarchical unity.

Father Couturier’s work found a natural habitat in the monastic life which then became fruitful among the wider church (he called the latter the invisible monastery). As a side note, Couturier was greatly influenced by the his work in Lyon, France and by Dom Lambert Beaudoin and the monks of the Belgian abbey of Amay-sur-Meuse (now at Chevetogne).

Blessed Maria Gabriella’s offering of self in 1938 for the spiritual ecumenism made known by Father Paul Couturier was a renewal of the same offering made on the day of her monastic profession of vows: not only to give her early life for Christian unity also to die for unity. This self-gift was closely connected to the notion that the profession of monastic vows is not isolated from the Church universal but deeply at the center of it because of the desire to totally give oneself to God. It is THE reversal of the sin of disunity that is based on ego and not on personal conversion.

Pope John Paul II beatified her on January 25, 1983. Blessed Maria Gabriella is buried at the Trappistine abbey of Our Lady of Saint Joseph at Vitorchiano (near to Viterbo) where her original community moved. She is known as the Apostle for Spiritual Ecumenism.

I recommend to you Sister Martha Driscoll, OCSO’s A Silent Herald of Unity: The Life of Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu (Cistercian Publications, 1990).

Saint Anselm: beauty as as order

St Anselm detail.jpgSaint Anselm is a towering figure in monastic, theological and philosophical circles whose works take diligence in getting your mind around. Even centuries later he speaks with precision. Saint Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033-1109) an Italian by birth, Anselm held various academic and ecclesial titles; he was the archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 until his death in 1109. The Church tells us he is the father of scholasticism and famous for the ontological argument for God’s existence. Though never formally canonized –the process was not developed then– Anselm was acknowledged a saint by Clement XI and named a Doctor of the Church (1 of 33). One point I noticed recently about Saint Anselm and the promotion of truth is this…

…when each single creature keeps, either by nature or by reason, its proper place [in the order of things] –it is said to obey God and to honor him. … When a rational nature wills what it ought to, it honors God –not because it confers anything on Him but because it willingly submits itself to His will and governance. And, as best it can, it stays in its proper place in the universe and preserves the beauty of the universe. 
Cur Deus Homo, 1:15
So what Saint Anselm is saying, the premise from which order and beauty is deduced is Saint Benedict’s intention that the monk [and today, all Christians] seek the glory of God in all things. For Anselm and therefore us, beauty in keeping the proper order of things is obediential in front of God; that is, it is about keeping a fitting sense of friendship with the Trinitarian God. On this feast of Saint Anselm, let us prefer nothing to Christ seeking God’s glory above all.
You may be interested in reading Pope Saint Pius X’s encyclical for the 800th anniversary of Saint Anselm’s birth, Communium rerum (1909).

Cistercian Martyrs of England

We beseech Thee, almighty God, grant that we who celebrate the heavenly birth of the blessed English Cistercian Martyrs, may be strengthened by their intercession in the love of Thy Name.

English Cistercians.jpgUnder King Henry VIIIs order, many Cistercian monks were cruelly
put to death for Catholic faith, the some may argue about pretexts. In the
months of March and May 1537, died for the Catholic faith

Dom John Harrison,
Abbot of Kirkstead, with Dom Richard Wade, Dom William Small and Dom Henry

Dom John Paslew, Abbot of Whalley, with Dom William Haydock and Dom
Richard Eastgate.

The Abbot of Fountains
and a monk of Louth Park.

In 1538, these Cistercians were martyred:

Dom Robert
Hobbes, Abbot of Woburn,
with Dom Rudolph Barnes and Dom Laurence Blunham.

The Church also acknowledges
as authentic confessors of the faith: Dom Thomas Mudd, monk of Jervaulx,
who died on September 7, 1583;

Dom John Almond, who died on April 18, 1585;

Gilbert Browne, the last Abbot of Sweetheart, who died on March 14, 1612.

Saint Aelred of Rievaulx

Aelred Cap.png2010 marks the ninth centenary of the birth of Saint
Aelred of Rievaulx
, an extraordinary English monk of the twelfth-century. At Ampleforth Abbey, a noted English Benedictine abbey, today marks the saint’s birthday; and since I like Aelred and have a friend at Ampleforth, I am mentioning the saint again this year to mark his anniversary. (As an aside, his year of birth is variously noted as 1109 or 1110.) In Saint Aelred’s time and location priestly was not universal, even if some scholars try to
posit such a thought. Aelred’s father and grandfather were both proprietary
priests of Hexham in Northumberland. Aelred joined the newly founded abbey of
Rievaulx, and because of his many gifts and influential friends (St Bernard of
Clairvaulx and King David of Scotland and England whose mother was St Margaret, starters), he became the
abbey’s third abbot in 1147 after serving as abbot of Revesby Abbey. He was abbot for twenty years. Rievaulx became the mother
house of other Cistercian monastic houses which fostered the Benedictine reform
in England and Scotland. As abbot, Aelred was responsible for vast holdings of
property and an abbey with 600 lay brothers and choir monks. In the Cistercian system
of governance, abbots are required to be the Father-Immediate (an official
visitor) to other communities in order to maintain the monastic way of life as established in the Charter of Charity (their constitution). The amazing
part of Aelred’s life became even more amazing when you consider that he was an
author many works, most notably Christian Friendship (also called On Spiritual Friendship, which some say is a Christianized version of Cicero’s De Amicita) and The Mirror of Charity
written at the command of St Bernard and in-print today. Father David Knowles, OSB, called Aelred the “St Bernard of the North.” Rievaulx Abbey no
longer exists except in magnificent ruins located not far from Ampleforth

Saint Aelred died on January 12, 1167. His feast day is January 12.

Saint Walburga

St Walburga3.jpg

Prayer to Saint Walburga
Saint Walburga, by your blessed life of love, God blessed you with the power to heal, to make whole the soul as well as the body. Beg for us what we cannot obtain for ourselves, and heal our world of sickness and sorrow. May God hear you, who lived so graciously for His glory, and send us the healing grace we need through your powerful intercession. Amen.
More on Saint Wlaburga, read this blog post.

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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