- Tuesday, 20 January 2015 18:03
Today is the Feast Day of Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi. In the USA we don’t liturgically have Blessed Cyprian on the calendar, but we ought to know about him and follow his example. First a secular priest and then a Trappist monk Tansi has a unique vocation of looking at both the interior life and the apostolate with new eyes. He is Nigeria’s patron saint.
Born to non-Christian parents in September 1903, Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi was born in Aguleri, Anambra State, Nigeria. In 1909, he was sent to live with his uncle who was a Christian gave him an education. He was baptised 3 years later by Irish missionaries. Tansi was a diligent student with a precocious personality and deep piety. He worked as a teacher for 3 years and later served as a headmaster of St. Joseph’s school for one year in Aguleri.
In 1925 against the wishes of his family, he entered St. Paul’s Seminary in Igbariam and was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Onitsha on 19 December 1937.
For a time Tansi worked tirelessly in the parishes of Nnewi, Dunukofia, Akpu/Ajali before discerning vocation to be a Cistercian monk at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, Leicester, England. He lived this vocation at the abbey for 14 years. He was in the process of discerning becoming the novice master in a new Cistercian foundation in Cameroon, a few months after the founders left for Africa.
Father Tansi used to say, “if you are going to be a Christian at all, you might as well live entirely for God”.
He died on 20 January 1964 and was beatified on 22 March 1998 by Saint John Paul in Nigeria. The Pope said of Father Cyprian:
He was first of all a man of God: his long hours before the Blessed Sacrament filled his heart with generous and courageous love. Those who knew him testify to his great love of God. Everyone who met him was touched by his personal goodness. He was then a man of the people: he always put others before himself, and was especially attentive to the pastoral needs of families. He took great care to prepare couples well for Holy Matrimony and preached the importance of chastity. He tried in every way to promote the dignity of women. In a special way, the education of young people was precious to him.
A prayer to the Blessed:
Blessed Cyprian, during your life on earth you showed your great faith and love in giving yourself to your people and by the hidden life of prayer and contemplation. Look upon us now in our needs, and intercede for us with the Lord. May he grant us the favour we ask through our prayers. Amen.
A few resources to consult on Blessed Cyrpian:
Fr. Gregory Wareing, A New Life of Father Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi (Coalville, Leicester LE6 3UL: Mt. St. Bernard Abbey. 1994). Father Gregory was Blessed Cyprian’s Novice Master.
Veronica Onyedika Chidi Umegakwe, Footprints of Father Tansi: The Tomb is not his Goal (Awhum, Nigeria: Our Lady of Calvary Monastery, 1993). The life of Blessed Cyprian is here presented in a five act play by the chief coordinator of the Father Tansi Lay Contemplative Prayer Movement.
Elisabeth Isichei, Entirely for God. The life of Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Studies Series 43, 1980 and 2000).
Dom John Moakler, “Some Thoughts about Blessed Cyprian Tansi” in Hallel 25 (2000), pp.79-93.
- Saturday, 03 January 2015 16:51
Saint Odilo of Cluny (962-1049) is remembered for his intense Benedictine life at Cluny and as the 5th abbot of Cluny he oversaw the expansion of the Cluniac reform but he’s best remembered for his concern for he poor souls in purgatory. There is some debate if he was the 5th or the 3rd abbot of Cluny. However, Odilo’s importance lies in the fact that he instituted the commemoration of All Souls (c. 1030) as a yearly liturgical remembrance. The Church from the earliest days prayed for the dead with some regularity. Theologically he had a significant interest in the Incarnation.
Hence two things of Christian life had Saint Odilo’s attention: the care of the poor and the souls of the dead. Of the latter concern also impacted the prior –he decreed that Mass be offered and a monetary offering be made for the poor. He made almsgiving connect with fasting and prayer for the dead: it is not only a lenten piece of Christian spirituality but something that gives a renewed flavor to living the gospel. Odilo instructed that the offering of food given to twelve poor people (as much food as the monks would eat at the main meal).
Regarding the monastic life, Abbot Odilo showed great solicitude for the observance of the monastic life by visiting the monasteries under his guidance on a regular basis. The monasteries following the Rule of Cluny really formed these Benedictines into an “order” because of a centralized authority system and the appointment of superiors in the priories (versus the typical election of a superior found in Benedictinism). Thus, he ensured that decadence that has a habit of creeping into a monk’s life was averted.
Saint Odilo has several possible dates for his liturgical memorial: January 1, 2, or 3; 19 at Cluny; April 29 as part of the feast of the Seven Abbots of Cluny and February 6 in Switzerland. Take your pick. But I think, generally, Odilo’s liturgical memorial is bridged with under the title of “Abbots of Cluny” on April 29.
The antiphon “Odilo showed wondrously what was the charity of his heart, who, while pitying sufferings of the faithful departed, yearly decreased them by a sweet refreshment, alleluia.”
- Friday, 03 October 2014 10:18
If you ask monks and priests of an older generation about today’s Blessed, you will likely hear that he was a spiritual master and a man faithful to his vocation and the venerable theological teaching of the Church. You will hear people say that “Marmion is still alive and well and doing great things for people.” And in a certain real sense he is very alive with a new mission given to him by the Trinity. I “met” Dom Columba through friendship with a monk and also at the Illinois monastery named to honor him.
Dom Columba was abbot of Maredsous Abbey in Belgium. Ordained as a diocesan priest of Dublin, he entered the monastic life when he was 30, and by 28 September 1909 his brother monks elected him their abbot–a monastery of more than a 100 monks at the time; he served in that capacity until his death on January 30, 1923.
Marmion authored three books based upon his extensive retreats. These works give a deep insight into his spirituality: Christ, the Life of the Soul (1917), Christ in His Mysteries (1919), and Christ the Ideal of the Monk (1922). His is a spirituality centered on Christ and our divine adoption as children of God. Translations of these works exist in many languages, and many consider them to be spiritual classics.
Saint John Paul II beatified Abbot Columba as a Blessed of the Church on September 3, 2000, and considered him pivotal in his formation. In fact, among the few personal books in his papal library one found the works of Marmion. It was the Holy Father who told one of his aides: “I owe more to Columba Marmion for initiating me into things spiritual than to any other spiritual writer.”
Franciscan Father Groeschel notes that “Abbot Marmion in some ways was the beginning of a movement that became known, under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as the ‘New Evangelization.'”
I would like to remember in prayer my monk-friends at Marmion Abbey, Aurora, Illinois.
- Wednesday, 03 September 2014 06:57
Saint Gregory the Great (540-604) is a Church father, founder of monasteries, and pastor of souls. The Church benefitted by Gregory’s vision of taking the Gospel to the margins. Gregory’s personal witness to the evangelical vows was demonstrated by his living as a simple monk who showed concern for those on the margins; he had a purity of heart in the midst of his new ministry’s numerous responsibilities as the Roman Pontiff. Pope Gregory set as his first priority the service of those who were considered the last in the diocese. Besides his significant contribution to the organization of sacred music Gregory is remembered for his writings, his commitment to the praying with Scripture in lectio divina and his love of Benedictine monasticism. What we know about Saint Benedict, for instance, comes from Saint Gregory.
Benedetto Calati has this reflection on Gregory who is great:
The community of faith is a hermeneutic criterion of the Word of God. “Often, many things in holy Scripture that I was not able to understand on my own,” Gregory said courageously to his brothers, “I understood when I found myself among my brothers. After I realized this, I also tried to understand by whose merit such knowledge had been given to me.” What is even more surprising is that, for Gregory, every member of God’s people who obeys the Word is “an organ of truth” for his or her brothers and sisters in the faith. “When we who are filled with faith try to make God resound for others, we are organs of truth, and truth has the power to reveal itself to other people through me, or to reach me through other people.” Gregory’s humble discretion with regard to the action of the Spirit, and the Word whom he obeys, generates a model of Church leadership that is expressed in the formula, “Gregory, servant of the servants of God.”
- Wednesday, 20 August 2014 17:13
The great Saint Bernard of Clairvaux has his feast day today. The Cistercian abbot and priest, preacher and counselor has left a permanent mark on the Church. His teachings reveal the depth of his love for God, particularly the second person of the Trinity. Moreover, he spoke often of God’s gaze upon us, His mercy for creation. We know from experience that God alone can satisfy our human desire; nothing can replace our desire for God and if we try to replace God with something, it will always eave us frustrated and empty.
From the writings of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux we read: “I am myself a Cistercian; do I therefore condemn the Cluniacs? God forbid! On the contrary, I love them, praise them, extol them. . . .If you ask why . . . I did not choose Cluny from the first, I reply that, as the apostle says…: ‘All things are lawful for me, but all things are not profitable for me.’ It is not that Cluny is not holy and just. It is rather that I am an unspiritual man, sold as a slave to sin. I knew that my soul was so weak that a stronger remedy was necessary. Different diseases call for different remedies; the more serious the illness, the more drastic the remedy.”