Tag Archives: Benedictines

Farming, faith and eating well: initiatives

Brooklyn Grange Roof

Interest in growing fresh vegetables and farming is real life these days in many urban settings.There is significant concern for wellness issues like where is our food coming from and how is it raised. The impact of bad practices and careless behavior is taking a toll on people in a multiplicity of ways: poverty, hunger, cancer, mental illness, human sustainability, and the like.

City farming is the subject of this video report by Monocle. It provides some very interesting things to think about like, space, soil, nutrients, people, being co-creators, etc. The three reports given in the Monocle video look at innovative work in Japan, NYC and Norway. Watch the report. In the New Haven area there are some community gardens sprouting up, for example, Yale University has a community garden the Yale Farm (Edwards Street) and then there are lots of modest initiatives. Plus, the growing of farmers’ markets.

I have a modest garden with edibles and decoratives. But I can’t sustain a family on what I grow. I have learned to make pickles from homegrown cucumbers, and I will can tomatoes, but if I had other favorable factors I could do more. My grandparents would be proud since that’s how they managed to live. ¬†What I have concluded is that life is much better with homegrown produce than what is purchased in big stores like Walmart and Big Y. Well, that’s for the spring and summer. Come the autumn and winter we have to go back to the store.

But this matter is a part of a larger question of faith and ecology. The biblical and sacramental life of the Church have something to say to us today. In my mind, Christians have to reclaim what it means to live well with with what God has given through a sacramental lens. For this reason, I am thinking more and more about the role the Benedictines can play in the development of a faith and ecology project. The Benedictine charism is one in which simplicity, faith, work, study, mutual obedience, concern for the other and co-creation with God are high values. Plus, the monastic life with its emphasis on moderation lived in communion with others is key. I would also include the ecclesial movements of Communion & Liberation and Focolare as key infrastructures of grace and holiness. With a few spare moments here-and-there I am trying to think about a Christian’s response to the matter of food, wellness, farming, and the like. People like Ken Myers (Mars Hill Audio Journal), Norman Wirzba (Duke Divinity School), Fred Bahnson (Wake Forest Divinity School) and Wendell Berry (public intellectual) along with Pope Benedict XVI are setting the stage for new things.

Pacis Nuntius: St Benedict as “exemplar and type of absolute beauty”

Why is Saint Benedict so important for us today? Why spend so much energy trying to promote his cause and to recall his influence upon civilization? One answer is: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” You may want to read “Translating St Benedict” by Dom Hugh of Douai Abbey (UK) who does a fine job at locating a piece of our interest.

I also think it’s a good day to remember that Europe –and the USA– needs its heavenly patron to get it out of the moral, political and human confusion that is wreaking havoc today. I wonder what life in the USA would be like if we had a “new” Benedict? The Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote Pacis Nuntius (1964), an Apostolic Letter by which he names Saint Benedict as the principle patron of all of Europe. In this document we read in an abbreviated form why Abbot and Saint Benedict was important not only to the Pope, but to a continent.

In everlasting memory

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Messenger of peace, molder of union, magister of civilization, and above all herald of the religion of Christ and founder of monastic life in the West: these are the proper titles of exaltation given to St. Benedict, Abbot. At the fall of the crumbling Roman Empire, while some regions of Europe seemed to have fallen into darkness and others remained as yet devoid of civilization and spiritual values, he it was who, by constant and assiduous effort, brought to birth the dawn of a new era. It was principally he and his sons, who with the cross, the book and the plow, carried Christian progress to scattered peoples from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, from Ireland to the plains of Poland (Cf. AAS 39 (1947), p. 453). With the cross; that is, with the law of Christ, he lent consistency and growth to the ordering of public and private life. To this end, it should be remembered that he taught humanity the primacy of divine worship through the “opus Dei”, i.e. through liturgical and ritual prayer. Thus it was that he cemented that spiritual unity in Europe, whereby peoples divided on the level of language, ethnicity and culture felt they constituted the one people of God; a unity that, thanks to the constant efforts of those monks who followed so illustrious a teacher, became the distinctive hallmark of the Middle Ages.

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Glastonbury Abbey monks elect new abbot, Fr Thomas O’Connor

abbot thomas of Glastonbury.jpgToday, the monastic chapter (the solemnly professed monks) of Glastonbury Abbey (Hingham, MA) met to elect the third abbot of the abbey. 

The election of an abbot brings greater normalcy, according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and tradition, to the monastic life after several years of having a prior administrator. Having an administrator was requested by the monks of the Abbey for a transition period. 
The 10 monks gathered under the presidency of Abbot Vincent de Paul Bataille, Abbot President of the Swiss American Congregation. Abbot Vincent confirmed the election. The monks of the Congregation number about 511 in 18 monasteries and priories in the USA, Central America and Canada.
Benedictine Father Thomas O’Connor, 62, was elected the Third Abbot of the community.
Abbot Thomas’ abbatial blessing will be bestowed by Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap on 11 August.

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Glastonbury Abbey was founded in 1954 from Saint Benedict’s Abbey, Benet Lake, WI. It is situated in the Archdiocese of Boston and is located in the historic south shore of Boston.
Father Edward Campbell was elected the first abbot (1973-1986) and Father Nicholas Morcone served as the second abbot (1986-2008).
May God grant Abbot Thomas many years of faithful and fruitful service.
Our Lady of Glastonbury, pray for us.
Saints Benedict and Scholastica, pray for us.
Saint Hildegard, pray for us.

Being a missionary as a Benedictine Sister

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Most people conceive of living the Benedictine charism –the Benedictine way of life given to us first by Saint Benedict in his Rule, and many centuries of living that Rule– as only being suited for life in monasteries.  In history Benedictine monks and nuns have indeed been missionaries. Think of Augustine of Canterbury, Anselm, Boniface, Frowin, Conrad, Martin Marty and many more. Men and women following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the needs of the Church have been called from the monastery to make new foundations, often they have moved from one culture to another sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. You might say that they raised the bar in the way the Christian life is lived.

In the USA Benedictine life has great diversity: monks, nuns, sisters, and lay oblates; Benedictines with schools, retreat houses and farms; others with focussed contemplatives and others ready to do what is asked. We also have Cistercians of two observances, the Camaldolese and a growing population of laity who live the Rule in secularity. What is true, Benedictines evangelize culture and build society by their presence. Some monasteries having the members doing everything imaginable for one reason: that in all things God would be gloried. How else would you live your life if you truly believed in the Incarnation?

There is a group of Benedictine sisters whose vocation is to be missionary. Either they are sent as apostles to another place, or they are missionary in the place where they are. Since July 31, 1923, The Norfolk Priory of Missionary Benedictine Sisters have ministered here in the USA. The sisters bring the gift of St Benedict’s wisdom to the health care and education ministries, but there are engaged in Hispanic ministry, domestic service, ecumenism, environmental concerns, justice and peace issues, parish ministry, and religious education. Share the idea of following to women who want to serve the Lord in community, as a missionary, and in prayer and service of the neighbor.

Here is a video on the Norfolk Benedictine Sisters.

The Missionary Benedictine Sisters belong to  serving Christ and the Church in various parts of the world.

Monks meet in 51st Chapter

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On Sunday the American Cassinese Congregation Benedictines will meet for its 51st General Chapter at St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA. The capitulars, the sitting abbots and priors plus one delegate meets every three years to work on matters common to the monasteries of the Congregation. Abbot Hugh Anderson serves the body as it President.

The Congregation has 768 (2012 numbers) in 20 autonomous monasteries with 8 dependent priories in the USA, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, China, Columbia and Mexico. But with these monasteries there remains to be seen how many can survive as some are in a fragile situation given demographics and economics.

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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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