Tag Archives: Benedictine

St Bernard of Clairvaux

St BernardI always look forward, for some reason, to the feast day of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Not sure why, but it may have something to do with marking the progress of the summer (just like the Transfiguration and the Assumption does) but also because his youthful calling to serve God in a profound way is a true inspiration.

Of the saint it is said:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

The historians tell us that Bernard, at 22, together with his four  brothers, and 25 friends, joined the relatively new abbey of Citeaux; we also know that his father and another brother joined him.

Early in his monastic life he was called upon to be an abbot founding the Abbey of Clairvaux. In time, his abbey had over 700 monks with 160 daughter houses. Bernard was the one to give the Cistercian reform of Benedictine monasticism its vitality.

His doctrine was clear and straight-forward. His sermons were of the highest quality. His pastoral work included fighting the Albigensian heresy, helping the Second Crusade, ending the schism of anti-Pope Anacletus II, and teaching monks among whom was the future Blessed Pope Eugene III. Bernard was an ardent lover of the Blessed Virgin Mary and called himself “Beatae Mariae cappellane” – the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Chaplain.

Pope Pius VIII called Bernard the “Mellifluous Doctor” for his eloquence and named him a Doctor of the Church

Here is a sermon:

I love because I love, I love that I may love

Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.

The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?

Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.

What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love?

Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus

Johannes Vermeer Christ_in_the_House of Martha and MaryToday, on the Novus Ordo liturgical calendar the Church recalls St Martha. For Benedictines, today we seek the help of Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Hosts of the Lord. All three are not only disciples of the Lord but are true friends. In the Benedictine tradition Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus are venerated as living Saint Benedict’s mandate of hospitality: “Let all guests be received as Christ, for He will one day say, I came as a guest and you welcomed me.” (RSB 53:1). For this reason, one Benedictine Lectionary proposes the story of Abraham and Sarah extending hospitality.

In a time when hospitality is not a value, the Benedictine tradition gives us this feast of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus to keep our hearts focussed on the practice hospitality. “Behold,” says the Lord, “I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).

What we see in these saints we see first in the Eucharistic hospitality of God at the altar. Just as Martha, Mary and Lazarus opened the door to Jesus and made room for him, there is room for all of us at the temple of God where we are invited in to hear the Word and receive his gifts of Life.

May we learn what it means to be hospitable. Can we sit at the foot of the Master like Mary at the Eucharistic banquet and receive his mystical body and blood, or be a penitent like Lazarus or to set aside the anxieties of this world? Can we leave the anxieties of life to bring our entire humanity to the Lord through the transparency of prayer?

Prosper Guerganger’s beatification prayer

Prosper Gueranger

The re-founder of Benedictine life in France in the 19th century, Dom Prosper Guéranger (1805-1875) has a cause introduced (2005) for study for possible sainthood. While no one is perfect in this world, there is reason to believe that God has made a saint of his monastic servant. The ideas and works point in a certain direction of the quality of the person being proposed for study but these things do not completely identify the person.

I chose this date to introduce the invitation to pray for the beatification of Guéranger because it is the date on which the newly formed Benedictines professed their solemn vows at Abbey of Saint Paul outside the Walls in Rome in 1837.

Prayer for the Beatification of Dom Prosper Guéranger:

God our Father, your servant Dom Prosper Guéranger, Abbot of Solesmes, guided by the Holy Spirit, helped a multitude of your faithful people rediscover the meaning of the liturgy as the source of true Christian life. May his devotion to your Holy Church and his filial love for the Immaculate Virgin, inspired by the mystery of the Incarnate Word, be a light for Christians of our own day. Deign, O Lord, to grant the favour we ask you by his intercession, so that his sanctity may be recognized by all and that the Church may soon allow us to invoke him as the one of your blessed and one of your saints. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Organic Vinegar –monastic style

brother-victorOutside Poughkeepsie, NY there is a Benedictine Hermit, Brother Victor-Antione d’Avila Latourrette who lives his vocation with intensity. His residence is called Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery.
You may know Brother Victor from his various books, including “Twelve Months of Monastery Soups”, “From a Monastery Kitchen: The Classic Natural Foods Cookbook” and “Sacred Feasts: From a Monastery Kitchen” among others.
He is quite the monk and son of St Benedict.
Here is a nice write-up in yesterday’s Poughkeepsie Journal:

Dorothy Day and the Benedictines

I found the following file on my computer this morning by accident –I wasn’t looking for it, but I was happy to find it. I’ve been harping on the Benedictine influence upon Dorothy Day and the importance the Rule of Benedict and the influence various monks had Day. For example, we have a good example of Dom Virgil Michel working with Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker. Another is Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila Latourrette. Day’s sainthood cause is being studied at the moment and these things matter, in my opinion.

Virgil Michel, O.S.B., and the Benedictine Influence on the CW Movement:

Virgil Michel, Fellow Worker in Christ
by Dorothy Day

To us at the Catholic Worker, Father Virgil was a dear friend and adviser, bringing to us his tremendous strength and knowledge. He first came to visit us at our beginnings on East Fifteenth Street. He was like Peter Maurin in the friendly simple way he would come in and sit down, starting right in on the thought that was uppermost in his mind, telling us of the work he was engaged in at that particular moment and what he was planning for the future. He was at home with everyone, anywhere. He could sit down at a table in a tenement house kitchen, or under an apple tree at the farm, and talk of St. Thomas and today with whoever was at hand. He had such faith in people, faith in their intelligence and spiritual capacities, that he always gave the very best he had generously and openheartedly.

He was interested in everything we were trying to do, and made us feel, at all the Catholic Worker groups, that we were working with him. When he came in it was as though we had seen him just a few weeks before. He was at home at once, he remembered everybody, he listened to everybody.

Orate Frates, January, 1939

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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