Tag Archives: Benedictine

Benedictine Abbot speaks of the monastic vocation

Abbot James receiving vows of Br BernardOne of the missions if you will, of the Communio blog, is to share the Good News, to share the ways in which the Lord is incarnated today. One of the areas I show concern for is the monastic vocation, particularly the beauty of the life given to us through the Rule of Benedict and lived in Benedictine monasteries. Recently, the abbot of St Anselm’s Abbey (Washington, DC) gave a radio interview attending to the Benedictine vocation in which he opens up a few facets of the life. Abbot James’ interview can be listened to here.

St Anselm’s Abbey is a Benedictine monastery located in NE Washington on 30 acres monks first started in 1924 locally before moving to its present place on South Dakota Avenue. The Abbey is part of the international English Benedictine Congregation; two other US monasteries belong to the EBC (St Louis Abbey and Portsmouth Abbey).

The monks St Anslem’s come from all over the USA; you might say that the Holy Spirit has called many to a life that has a certain richness providing the common life with a variety of ages, experience, and intellectual interests and the like. Over the years the Abbey has been a family with abundant gifts in the men who professed vows there. Abbot James mentions that recently three monks made first vows, and some others are coming to discern a monastic vocation in February.

Benedictines pray and work. In fact, it is said that the first work of a monk is pray but recalling the Rule of Benedict a monk also has to contribute to the sustenance of the common life. There is a regular, daily, round of prayer –the Divine Office–, the Sacrifice of the Mass, personal prayer which informs and forms the work is the education at CUA, Trinity College, and since 1942 a middle and high school for boys, a guesthouse where guests are received as Christ Himself. Hospitality is never lacking in a Benedictine monastery.

Abbot James speaks of the booklet From 5-9 in the interview which described the monastic life and inspired him to take the step to follow Christ as a monk at St Anslem’s Abbey. The process of discernment allows for gentle movements of the Holy Spirit to work on the soul.

Also in the interview Abbot James appeals to an insight which sums up the Benedictine gift offered by the famed Dom David Knowles who said:

the monk who in ordinary circumstances takes to any work with a zeal which burns out his fire of strength and health is departing from what is for him the way of salvation. It is not a virtue for the monk, as it might be for the missionary, to lack time in which to attend the common recitation of the Divine Office, read a certain amount, and mix with his community. And hence there should be in the Benedictine monk a certain restfulness, a contentment, not in doing nothing but in doing the familiar, even the monotonous and the ritual; an ability to remain physically unmoved and unexcited, to produce, in fact, that stability which his Founder [St. Benedict] made a distinguishing and on occasion a unique religious vow, the vow of stability, the family vow” (The Benedictines: A Digest for Moderns (St. Leo, FL: The Abbey Press, 1962), 36).

The Benedictine vocation first articulated through Saint Benedict and developed since the 6th century is one of prudence, discretion, balance, moderation; the seeking of the face of God and the pursuit of Truth. The way of salvation —the pursuit of heaven, is the essential part for all who call themselves Christian, but it is even more heightened by those who live the consecrated life according to the holy Rule of Benedict.

Saint Benedict and Saint Anslem, pray for us.

Benedictine monk says prayer and teaching manifest God’s presence

One of my friends, Brother Ignacio Gonzalez, was recently recognized with 200 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington with the Manifesting the Kingdom Award given for outstanding service to the local Church.

Brother Ignacio is a Benedictine monk of St Anselm’s Abbey. In addition to the monastic way of life, the monks of his community conduct St Anselm Abbey School. he teaches religion in the school. Brother Ignacio, a native of Texas, is a former US Marine.

Read the story, pray for vocations to Benedictine life.

An Ordered Existence of a Benedictine

Conor Pope offers “An Ordered Existence,” his entertaining and thought-provoking summary for The Irish Times of two days spent with the Benedictine monks of Glenstal Abbey, Co. Limerick.  The article is supplemented by “The Sound of Silence: Conor Pope at Glenstal Abbey,” a five-minute video.

HT to Brother Richard Oliver, OSB

International Commission on Benedictine Education (ICBE) gets new president

Benet 2013The International Commission on Benedictine Education (ICBE), a group of educators from Benedictine and Cistercians schools, met at the end of October (2013) in Manila. More than 150 educators assembled at the global conference (BeNET=Benedictine Educators Network).

One of the tasks of the Abbot Primate at the Manila meeting, Notker Wolf, OSB, was to appoint a new ICBE president to replace Father Christopher Jamieson, OSB, the founding president. Jamison served the ICBE for the last 10 years and he is a monk and former abbot of Worth Abbey, England. Abbot Notker elected Father Elias Lorenzo, OSB, a monk of Saint Mary’s Abbey (Morristown, NJ) and current prior at Sant’Anselmo (Rome); Father Elias is a co-founder of the ICBE, and experienced educator, administrator and insightful preacher.

The ICBE is an organization which works to gather educators from monastery schools who follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. According to the tradition of the Church, monasteries are independent entities and often have no network of collaboration, unlike the Salesians and the Jesuits who have international associations. These other religious orders are governed by a central body with regional provinces. They naturally have a built-in network that Benedictines and Cistercians do not have available. Hence, there has been a perceived need to assist Benedictine and Cistercian faculties in matters pertaining to a formation in the cultures of the intellect, spiritual, human, communal and work. The controlling idea is that the education is effective and fully catholic (think of the 4 marks of the Church) when not only information is shared, but real, concrete experience is shared shared. The formative process is done in the community. The ICBE is interested in wisdom, not merely knowledge.

The ICBE and the BeNET have been instrumental in advancing the formation of the laity who teach in schools where the numbers of Benedictines and Cistercians are on the decrease. But even in monastery schools with a sufficient number of monks and nuns there is a need for appropriate formation as an educator in the key of Jesus Christ through the lens and culture of Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, and the patrimony.

The next international meeting of the ICBE will be in Rome in 2016.

(in the picture, l-r, Fathers Elias, Notker, Christopher)

Pope Francis to nuns: is this lamp still alight in convents?

As mentioned yesterday, Pope Francis went to the monastery of Saint Anthony the Abbot, the home of the Camaldolese Benedictine nuns on the Aventine (Rome). There he was welcomed by Sister Michela Porcellato, the religious superior of 21 nuns.

The occasion of his presence among these contemplative nuns was to honor the Day for Contemplative Life (instituted in 1953 by Pope Pius XII as the Pro Orantibus Day); it  also was one to the marks of the end of the Year of Faith.

Vespers was sung according to the Camaldolese tradition followed by a moment of Eucharistic Adoration. Francis gave the following meditation with some important points emphasized by me:

We contemplate Her who knew and loved Jesus as no other creature. The Gospel we heard shows the fundamental attitude with which Mary expressed her love for Jesus: to do the will of God. “Whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). With these words, Jesus leaves an important message: the will of God is the supreme law that establishes true belonging to Him. Therefore, Mary established a bond of kinship with Jesus even before giving him birth: she became a disciple and Mother of her Son the moment she received the words of the Angel and said: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). This “let it be” is not only acceptance, but also trustful openness to the future. This “let it be” is hope!

Mary is the Mother of hope, the most expressive icon of Christian hope. Her whole life is an ensemble of attitudes of hope, beginning with the “yes” at the moment of the Annunciation. Mary did not know how she could become a mother, but she entrusted herself totally to the mystery that was about to take place, and she became the woman of waiting and of hope. Then we see her at Bethlehem, where he who was announced as Savior of Israel and as Messiah is born in poverty. Then, while she is at Jerusalem to present him in the Temple, with the joy of the elderly Simeon and Anna, she hears the promise of a sword that will pierce her heart and the prophecy of a sign of contradiction. She realizes that the mission and the identity itself of that Son exceed her being Mother. We then arrive at the episode of Jesus who is lost in Jerusalem, and she asks: “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Luke 2:48), and Jesus’ answer, who moves away from the maternal concerns and turns to the things of the Heavenly Father.

Yet, in face of all these difficulties and surprises of God’s plan, the Virgin’s hope never hesitates! Woman of hope. This tells us that hope is nourished by listening, by contemplation, by patience, so that the times of the Lord will mature. Also at the Wedding of Cana, Mary is the Mother of hope, which makes her attentive and solicitous to human things. With the beginning of his public life, Jesus becomes the Teacher and the Messiah: Our Lady looks at her Son’s mission with exultation but also with apprehension, because Jesus becomes increasingly the sign of contradiction that the elderly Simeon had pre-announced to her. At the foot of the cross, she is the woman of sorrow and at the same time of vigilant waiting of a mystery, greater than the sorrow, which is about to take place. Everything seems truly finished; every hope it could be said was spent. At that moment, recalling the promises of the Annunciation, she also could have said: they have not come true, I was deceived. But she did not say it. Yet she, blessed because she believed, sees blossom from her faith the new future and waits with hope for God’s tomorrow. Sometimes I wonder: are we able to wait for God’s tomorrow? Or do we want it today? For her God’s tomorrow is the dawn of the Easter morning, of that first day of the week. It would do us good to contemplate the Son’s embrace with the Mother. The only lighted lamp at the entrance of Jesus’ sepulcher is his Mother’s hope, which at that moment is the hope of the whole of humanity. I ask myself and you: is this lamp still alight in convents? Is God’s tomorrow still awaited in convents?

We owe much to this Mother! In her, present in every moment of the history of salvation, we see a solid witness of hope. She, Mother of hope, supports us in moments of darkness, of difficulty, of distress, of apparent defeat or of real human defeats. May Mary, our hope, help us to make of our life a pleasing offering to the Heavenly Father, and a joyful gift for our brothers, an attitude that always looks to tomorrow.

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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