Tag Archives: Benedictine

Past days in the monastery

Life in a monastery is never boring. Living our lives seriously hardly leaves room for idleness. The abbey welcomes Christ in the visitors, including vocation guests, we receive. The presence of guests reminds us that we Christ is among us. And I am of the opinion that a religious house should rarely be without guests. The round of prayer, work, reading, dining (feeding is crude, so we politely dine) and private time is a lot. At the moment, time for self is not as plentiful as I want or need especially since I have to prepare for teaching and I want to do some study.

 


mask wall.jpgOne of my least favorite domestic chores is painting. Actually, I hate painting (probably because my father never really liked it either) and I only initiate the task when it is needed, or asked. I’d rather pay professionals to do the job of preparing the walls, painting and cleaning up. Here at Mary, Help of Christians (Belmont) Abbey I’ve been asked along with two others to paint a few hallways and a room. The companions are fine to work with, though one drives the work, getting mucked up with paint isn’t my idea of fun. BUT the walls do look good and the abbot and other monks are pleased. Happy to oblige. I am just hoping that we don’t have to paint the very long outside porch. The passage from Saint Paul comes to mind: if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Hmmmm, I like to eat….

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Anointing Father John Oetgen

This afternoon the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey, with whom I am currently living, gathered in the room of Father John Oetgen to celebrate the Rite of Anointing of the Sick. Father John is one of the senior monks of this monastic community spending a lifetime serving the Lord as a monk, a priest and a professor literature. He’s in 80s and he’s been infirmed for the last 4 months. He’s received this sacrament before, but Father Abbot Placid thought it best to celebrate the sacrament now as Father John has grown weaker in body. What comfort there is when brothers “gather in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who is present among us” to pray and show affection for a brother.

If you have been present for the sacrament of the sick you know how moving it is. I was moved to tears several times during the rite probably for no other reason than what I was experiencing was a great theology at work: God’s praise and our conversion. While I don’t know Father John well, the humanity of act of gathering in prayer and companionship was beautiful.

The rite, recalling the words of sacred Scripture, remind us that the sick came to Jesus for healing; moreover, we recall that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is what sets us free from sin and death. This is the faith we have professed, this is the faith we gave witness to today with Father John, it is the faith that comforts and sustains Father John.

Addressing the faithful, the Saint James exhorts us to care for the ill in this manner: “Are there any who are sick among you? Let them send for the priests of the Church, and let the priests pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick persons, and the Lord will raise them up; and if they have committed any sins, their sins will be forgiven them.”  This we did and it was beautiful.

With the laying on of hands and prayer, we asked God to grant Father John comfort in his suffering, courage in the face of fear, patience if distressed and hope when sad and the support of the brothers (and all others) when feeling alone. So, I ask you to pray that God will do the loving thing for Father John and to assist the monks here in all ways that Providence sees fit.

Community of spirit in Saint Benedict, Don Luigi Giussani & Pope Benedict XVI


spirito 1.jpgOn this the feast of the great Saint Scholastica, the twin sister of Saint Benedict, I thought it would be appropriate to hear a few words about the significant connection between the Benedictines (Sts Benedict & Scholastica and Pope Benedict) and Father Luigi Giussani.

 

Signs of spiritual friendship

by Don Giacomo Tantardini (In 30 Days, May 2005)

 

…The hundredfold is not the outcome of a project, of a program. My real program of government is that of not doing my own will, of not following my own ideas, but of setting myself to listen, with the whole Church, to the word and will of the Lord and let myself be led by Him, so that it is He Himself who leads the Church in this hour of our history, Benedict XVI said again in the sermon of the mass opening his ministry. The hundredfold here below, like the eternal life, has a beginning, a “permanent” source (each word from the first appearance of Benedict XVI in St Peter’s Square, that was packed with Romans hurrying to see the new Pope, remains in the memory: Trusting in his permanent help). The permanent beginning is Jesus Christ, the Lord risen.

 

The Church is living because Christ is living, because he is truly risen (Easter Sunday 24 April). And on Sunday 1 May, when, addressing the Churches of the East which were celebrating Easter, he repeated with force Christós anesti! Yes, Christ is risen, is truly risen!, the immediate applause that rose from the square packed with faithful up to that window was very fine.

 

Here the communion of mind and heart among Saint Benedict, Benedict XVI, Don Giussani and the most ordinary believer is luminous and total.


Giussani detail.jpgDon Giussani always kept the gaze of his life and heart fixed on Christ (Cardinal Ratzinger, in Milan Cathedral, at Don Guissani’s funeral). We need men who keep their eyes looking at God, learning from there true humanity (in Subiaco). And, again in Subiaco, Cardinal Ratzinger concluded his lecture by quoting the more beautiful phrase that Saint Benedict repeats twice in the Rule: Put absolutely nothing before Christ who can lead us all to eternal life. Here, chapter 72: Christo omnino nihil praeponant. In chapter 4: Nihil amori Christi praeponere/ put nothing before the love of Christ.

Arrived at Belmont Abbey, Charlotte

Today, I began a phase of my journey in discernment: life for a few months at a Benedictine abbey. I arrived today from New Haven, Connecticut, leaving 50 degree weather and arriving in 70 degrees. What a nice change from the New England winter; no snow here in Charlotte.

Belmont Abbey Basilica.jpg

Belmont Abbey is a small group of Benedictine monks who follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. There 17 solemnly professed monks with 5 in some stage of formation. The age range is 24 to 88. The head of the monastery is Abbot Placid and the Prior is Father David.

The Abbey was founded in 1876 by Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, the founder of monasticism in the USA, who sent monks from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA, to Charlotte. While the abbey is typically called “Belmont” after the town in which it’s situated, the religious title of the abbey is “Mary, Help of Christians”, sometimes just called Maryhelp; the feast day we observe is May 24.

The monks run a small liberal arts college called Belmont Abbey College.

A quick note on schedule:

7:00  – Morning Prayer

7:30 – breakfast in silence

8:30 – 11:30 work, study, lectio, prayer (whatever you’re assigned)

11:45 – Midday Prayer

Noon – lunch followed by work

5:00 – The Sacrifice of the Mass

5:45 – Dinner in silence for most of the meal with readings from the holy Rule & a book

7:00 – Vespers

Compline is in private for most of the monks but some of the formation monks pray Compline together at 9:30.

The Abbey Basilica of Mary Help of Christians is central to the life of the monks, friends, visitors and the college community. The architecture is German Gothic-Revival. The church was the largest Catholic church in the state at the time of its construction. The monks of the abbey did much of the construction work themselves (with Brother Gilbert Koberzynski crafting the ceiling in the style of a sailing vessel).The interior of the church was renovated in 1964-1965.

The windows were designed and executed by the Royal Bavarian Establishment of Francis Mayer and Company (Munich). The windows were displayed at the Columbian Exhibition, the World’s Fair of 1892 winning four gold medals. The abbey church was the cathedral from 1910-1977 and it was elevated to the rank of a Minor Basilica on July 27, 1998. The Basilica has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973.

Let us pray for each other.

The changing face of the monastic life

OSB monk.jpgA Spiegel Online article of January 25, 2007 looks into the monastic life from the German perspective: fewer monks and nuns professing vows and more lay people for a way to make sesne of their lives. The experience of the monks and nuns in Europe, in this case Germany, is not unlike the experience one can have in monasteries in the USA when it comes to diminishing numbers, lack of vision and hope for the future, and with plentiful  examples of liturgical & theological dissent. One can’t forget that so many of the ’68ers are still in charge.

But not all is bunk as there are a number of indicators pointing out that people are considering the monastic life anew. In fact, there are bright, generous and fun men and women entering the monasteries: they are on fire with the reality of serving and loving the Lord and His Church; they are ready to spend themselves for the eternal good of others and they are willing to preach Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior for humanity. That doesn’t mean that thousands of men and women are running to cloister but those are very willing to take up the sacrifice of the cloister seriously. In accepting Christ one is never disappointed or easily thrown under the bus.

BUT there are equally bright, generous and loving people whose vocation is not to enter the monastery but it is to follow Christ  more deeply in following a rule of life –like the Rule of Saint Benedict– while living in the world. The oblate life (also referred to as a third order or even in a secular institute) is beautiful and flourishing today.

I’ve had this article in my file for a while but some interesting points are worth considering even now. Monastic life in the 3rd millennium.

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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