Tag Archives: Benedictine

Benedictine sisters meet to discuss the virtue of hope

This week in
Rome the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum (CIB) for a congress, their
6th, on “Hope in Benedictine Spirituality.”

Abbot Notker.jpg

Benedictine nuns and sisters
from Europe, Africa and America are attending the meeting. The CIB is meeting
on the Aventine Hill at the Primatial Abbey of Saint Anselm (known in Italian
as Sant’Anselmo), home to the Abbot Primate , Notker Wolf (pictured left) who heads the confederation of
Benedictine monks and nuns
, the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, the Mabillion
Institute and the college for theological studies for those preparing for
ordination, earning degrees in theology and monastic studies (the general link for all these institutes for higher learning is here).

Zenit ran an
interview today with Sister Maricarmen Bracamontes de Torreon, a Benedictine
sister from Mexico who talked to aspects of hope and how understanding this
virtue is key in Benedictine spirituality, and thus for all Christians. Sacred
Scripture instructs us to look at how God works with us, that is, He gazes on
us with faithfulness, compassion and mercifully. Looking to the holy Rule,
Saint Benedict tells us “not to despair of God’s mercy” (4.74).
Sister Maricarmen said the participants are keenly aware that there is “only
one Benedictine heart beats at the bottom of our universal diversity, and on
the other, there is no doubt that we are going through a historical moment of
darkness and we need a light, precisely like St. Benedict, which shines on high
and gives us clarity in the midst of darkness.” 

Two questions of the interview
are worth thinking about here on the Communio blog:

Benedictine nuns.jpg

ZENIT: Can we then speak of
a reflection from a holistic-rational perspective?

Sister Bracamontes: The
Benedictine way leads to a process of integration that embraces the different
dimensions of the human conscience: cognitive (the mind), affective (the
heart), ethics and morals (the will and all its capacities), religious (the
soul).

This integration enables us to love in a unified way and it is the
condition to advance on the path of conversion. “However, the workshop
where we must practice all these things diligently is the enclosure of the
monastery and stability in the community” (Rule of Benedict, 4.78). The
monastic dynamic animates the processes of integration in those who live in the
“monastery,” which is the place where we ask God with the most
insistent prayers to bring to completion the divine work of our lives: that
they all may be one.

If we persevere, trying to live in the
“conversatio,” the experience of God’s unconditional love gradually
integrates all the dimensions of our being, and thus we become unified in
ourselves and in the diversity and plurality that characterizes us. The result
of all this is that we live with transparency and consistency, that we do not
separate our judgments from our feelings, or our conduct from our belief. In
this way, our integrity and social and personal responsibility will not allow
us “to say one thing and do another,” or to establish ourselves in a
life of contradictions and inconsistencies.

ZENIT: At present the Church is
facing difficult moments. Does it call for hope?

Sister Bracamontes: Obviously.
I think that some sectors of the Church have slipped up in the dialogue with
the signs of the times that was so encouraged by the Second Vatican Council.

Those
signs have revealed that for centuries, both in the society as well as the
Church, efforts were dedicated to contain diversity and plurality, so
characteristic of humanity. There are many human groups, with different views
of reality; they are arriving on the first plane and ask that they be
recognized, respected and integrated. The new methods of understanding and of
discovery of humanity leave antiquated the old systems of relationship based on
dominion, submission and marginalization. These systems of the past considered
some human beings superior to others, based on race, gender, social class,
ideology, religion, etc.

In face of a clearer awareness of the common dignity
of all human beings, the absence of dialogue between those who are open to the
signs of the times and those who continue to adhere to visions of the past and
close their mind and heart to the historic change that we are experiencing,
calls for hope.

From a perspective of faith, we are conscious and are convinced
that the whole of humanity, with its differences, has been created with equal
dignity in the divine image and likeness. We are children of God and sisters
and brothers among ourselves in Christ, who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), and
in him all discrimination and marginalization is overcome (Galatians 3:26-28).
From this awareness we hear the call and we open ourselves with wisdom and
maturity to our world with its urgent need to recognize diversity, to promote
integration and to encourage dialogue and participation. Hence, many challenges
arise.

Photographer Monk: Abbot Barnabas engages in contemplation through photography

I love photography. There is something attractive in looking at old and new, color and black-and-white photographs. And every photograph tells a story because each picture is the result of a friendship with reality. In photography I see a quality of the beautiful that is drawn out the subject: there is an innate sense of the sensual that leads me to an act of contemplation; it also leads me to a deeper sense of my own humanity and to God; the same can be said of music and taking in an art show of the renaissance period (as I did last week at the Yale Art Gallery). I think back to my friend Kevin Locke who had a wonderful eye for the beautiful as well as my friend Brother Mark Kammerer, a Benedictine monk of St Louis Abbey in St Louis, MO, who himself is an excellent photographer who discerns the beautiful in images. Kevin and Brother Mark see life with a keen eye for grace’s activity.

You’ll get a better sense of what I am talking about if you watch the Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly article called the “Photographer Monk,” which highlights the good work of Abbot Barnabas Senecal. For him, the photographer engages in a practice of monastic mindfulness that finds him being aware of God’s presence today, with me and with the world as Saint Benedict tells us to do. He’s spiritually, fraternally and intellectually nourished by taking and gazing upon pictures because they are tools to communicate, but gifts for seeing the daily activity of God and man and woman. For him, and certainly for me, photography helps us to see something God wants us to see anew. What does Christ want me to see in thus-and-such image?

abbot barnabas.jpg

There’s also an extended interview with Father Abbot Barnabas here.
The great thing about this story is that it reminds us of the need for beauty in our lives. Something Father Michael Morris at Dunwoodie Seminary always reminded me of. Plus, Abbot Barnabas keeps a live the tradition of monks doing art and advancing cultural sensibility. Where would we be without our monastic artists?
This story about the abbot made me think of the last talk the Pope gave to artists in 2009. At that time Benedict reminded us that an artist has a vocation (ministry?) to know and to engage infinity: the true, the beautiful, and the good; the artist’s vocation is about an engagement with reality that scientists don’t have because art shows us humanity’s desire for its ultimate destiny. The artist, unlike any other vocation save for the priesthood, shows the life of the soul and its that reaches out, grasps and desires to understand. My experience and perhaps yours too, is that an artist lives in friendship with his or her artwork. It is not mere blood-sweat-and-toil but a genuine flourishing of communion. Likewise, the artist is contemplative in his or her search for God and happiness and shows us the horizons –if there are any limits of the search–  in their medium. For the Pope, and I hope for us, there is a belief that an artist lives a vocation given by God. Hence, the making of art is not a career opportunity for money, power and fame, it is not about a person’s escape into an irrational, deceitful, superficial realm but art “fills us with new hope, gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life.”
Abbot Barnabas’ brief interview doesn’t talk about transcendent power of beauty in art, but I think he would agree that nothing replaces beauty’s search for the infinite in our lives and the transformative power it has for heart and mind, faith and reason of humanity. My intuition is that the abbot’s sensibility tends toward the harmony between being truly human and the reality of the beautiful is made concrete in snapping a photo for the sake of whole person and not just for the sake of being creative.
Let me draw this reflection to a close by appealing to the Pope’s closing closing remarks to the artists when he said something important that I think bears repeating about art because the abbot also intimated it, and it is useful for our lectio:
… it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality. This close proximity, this harmony between the journey of faith and the artist’s path is attested by countless artworks that are based upon the personalities, the stories, the symbols of that immense deposit of “figures” –in the broad sense– namely the Bible, the Sacred Scriptures. The great biblical narratives, themes, images and parables have inspired innumerable masterpieces in every sector of the arts, just as they have spoken to the hearts of believers in every generation through the works of craftsmanship and folk art, that are no less eloquent and evocative.
The Abbey of Saint Benedict (Atchison,KS) founded in 1857 is home to 50+ Benedictine monks who, among many things, run the well-regarded Benedictine College.
The College is getting the more and more recognized as a place to live the Rule of Saint Benedict in the formation of the whole person. Recently, Benedictine College dedicated its new nursing center in honor of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and they’ve broken ground for a new academic building. May Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica intercede for the monks and laity at BC!

Some pictures today

I went to Mass this morning at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT and then spent the morning meeting with Mother Lucia. We had a wonderful conversation about life, God, Church, monastic life. My father brought home the finished replica of the 1910 Flying Merkel. Some pictures follow…

altar-2.JPG
sanctuary.JPG
no incense.JPG
Dad & Mom with Merkel Sept 2 2010.JPG
more Merkel-f.JPG

Abbot Thomas Confroy, RIP

Abbot Thomas Confroy.jpgA week ago today the monastic community of St Mary’s Abbey (Morristown, NJ), indeed the Church, lost a faithful monk, priest, abbot and friend. Abbot Thomas Confroy made his final passover to the Lord, his Destiny at the abbey on August 23. News of Abbot Thomas’ death can be read here.

When I lived with Abbot Thomas I knew him to be dedicated in praying the holy Rosary and his various oblations on behalf of others. But I didn’t make all the extent of his prayer life and how much it was spent interceding for others, especially his prayer for me, for those who struggle, for those who just needed prayer. How blessed we were that he lived his sacred priesthood! Striking to me was the cursus he followed:
  • Sundays: St Mary’s Abbey, especially those in most need of strength;
  • Mondays: those in religious life;
  • Tuesdays: the faithful departed and the poor souls in purgatory;
  • Wednesdays: his natural family and special requests made to him;
  • Thursdays: the pope, cardinals, bishops, suffering priests, deacons, pastoral ministers, seminarians and vocations to the priesthood;
  • Fridays: for missionaries
  • Saturdays: for himself, for forgiveness if any of his actions harmed others spiritually or emotionally.
Plus, his quite example of suffering patiently and quietly from depression since his retirement and relying upon the Way of the Cross written by Saint Alphonse Liguori.
What can we learn from Abbot Thomas? I believe his witness to Christ as a merciful good shepherd who cares intensely for the sheep, near and far, whole and broken, happy and miserable. Perhaps we ought to take his daily intentions?!?!
Benedictine Oblate and friend Lynn Gordon Latchford wrote a fine panegyric to Abbot Thomas, “God Family Country: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Monk, that can be read here: Abbot Thomas Confroy 2010.pdf.
May Abbot Thomas rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, pray for us.
Saint Benedict of Nursia, pray for us.
Saint Thomas the Apostle, pray for us.

Nuns land record deal

Benedictine in France.jpgThe Benedictine nuns of the French abbey of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Le Barroux (near the famed Avignon) landed a music contract with Universal Music. This is the same label as Lady Gaga and Elton John.

I doubt Lady Abbess will be consulting with Lady Gaga on the record details. BUT do you think they might take a clue from the Erie Benedictines performing “kum bay ya” on the Ed Sullivan Show?
Congrats to the nuns!!!

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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