Tag Archives: Benedictine

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.

Pope visits where Connecticut nun and mystic lived

Sr Nazarena of JesusWhen Pope Francis went to the Sant’Antonio Abate Monastery for Vespers today, he made an unusual visit to the monastic cell of an American Mystic and anchoress. Sister Nazarena. The Camaldolese Benedictine nun is not well known; Sister Nazarena of Jesus, was known in history as Julia Crotta (October 15, 1907 – February 7, 1990). She made the honest claim that her vocation was the direct result of a vision she had of the Lord. She reports that the Lord called her name, “Julia, come to me in the desert, I will never leave you.” She would come to devote her life in love through music, according to the grace God gave her. A Jesuit sent her to Rome to find her vocation.

Monastery is located at the foot of the Aventine Hill, not far from Byzantine Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (one of my favorite churches in Rome) and not far from the Church of Santa Sabina and Sant’Anselmo –the Benedictine house of studies.

Crotta was from Glastonbury, Connecticut, a daughter of Italian immigrants, a gifted and trained musician who began her studies at Hartford Consevatory, then at the Yale School of Music in violin and composition, but left Yale to finish at Albertus Magnus College up the street run by the Dominican Sisters of St Mary’s of the Springs (now Dominican Sisters of Peace). She finished with a degree in French. She taught music in Manhattan before trying her vocation with the Carmelites in two different monasteries.

After meeting with Pope Pius XII, Julia Crotta became a Camaldolese Benedictine nun and later an anchoress, that is, living a hidden life for 45 years.  Her name in religion was Sister Nazarena of Jesus. The Camaldolese’s founder was an anchorite, Saint Romuald (who live around the AD 1000), and they honored the recluse vocation. Hers was a rare vocation yet a shining star in the Church. Pope Paul VI visited Sister Nazarena in 1966.

Benedictine Father Thomas Matus, an American monk and author of Nazarena: An American anchoress (Paulist Press 1998) spoke with Laura Ieraci of Vatican Radio about Sister Nazarena’s vocation, spiritual writings and the witness she offers today

The quick link to the interview is here with Vatican Radio.

Father Thomas is a monk of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California and an adjunct professor of Theology at Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara.

Here is an example of holiness springing up from Connecticut!!!

Pope Francis visits Camaldolese monastery

As one of the final events for the Year of Faith Pope Francis will have a “Pro Orantibus Day,” honoring the liturgical feast of of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since 1953, today has been a day of prayer for those belonging to contemplative religious orders.  Pope Pius XII established this day to remind all the faithful of the indispensability of contemplative vocation for the health of the Church. It is also a day many of the Benedictine Oblates renew their oblation to their monastery.

Pope Francis called today “a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work.”

The Pope urged the faithful to give their spiritual and material support to these brothers and sisters “so that they can carry out their important mission.”

At Vespers, the Pope Francis will visit a Camaldolese monastery of cloistered nuns, Sant’Antonio abate, on the Aventine hill. Previous Roman Pontiffs have prayed at this monastery.

Here’s a VERY fascinating interview with Veronica Scarisbrick of Vatican Radio with one of the nuns (the radio link) at Sant’Antonio.

Listen to the interview, please. AND there’s another report here from Vatican Radio.

Rome Reports has a report here.

Pope Francis meets Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion

The meeting of Pope Francis with Metropolitan Hilarion –the not first– ran concurrent today with Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan meeting in Moscow with Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. Francis like Benedict, and with Hilarion and Kirill  there is a substantial commitment to good fraternal relations with various members of the Orthodox Church which is really fantastic.

Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchen spoke with one of the editors of the journal, Irenikon, Benedictine Father Thaddeus Barnas of Chevetogne Abbey, whose founding by the famed Dom Lambert Beauduin following the 1924 encourage of Pope Pius XI which focussed on the Orthodox spirituality and promoting reconciliation between Catholics and Orthodox. The Benedictines monks seek the face of God, and they work for ecumenical connections from the standpoint of prayer, study and fraternal relations. Listen to the interview with Father Thaddeus.

Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home and Living Faith

Judith Valente’s Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home and Living Faith (Ave Maria Press, 2013) is a spiritual memoir noting her pilgrimage points to Mount St. Scholastica monastery in Atchison, Kansas. As many of us Ms Valente is in search of God, meaning, encouragement in the faith, and spiritual healing in a world where these things are hit-and-miss. We desire at the deepest level freedom and a stability of heart. Atchison Blue is about our eternal destiny (Cf. the Rule of Benedict); the book’s value is to help us recognize where we have met Christ, where we meet Christ, through the lens of the ancient and ever new Benedictine charism as it is rooted Rule of St Benedict. The Rule orients the process of becoming more human and a faithful disciple of the Lord.

If you have ever been to a monastery to pray the Divine Office or to spend time as guest you will likely be struck by several things you find absent in the world: order, holiness, courage, zeal, patience, silence, the desire for an honest search, the willingness to cultivate a life of virtue, facing reality as it is (and not as we want it to be) and conversion of mind and heart. We know these in contrast to the substance of the way we live: freneticism, addiction, noise, curt speech, bits of anger, pride, and a divided tongue and heart.

Atchison Blue is about the spiritual and human process with ears of the heart open. That is, when we speak of the process of searching for God means that we engage in an evaluation of life, a judgment of what we experience, an examination of how sin and grace lead us: we are not exempt from the hard work of conversion if we belong to Jesus Christ. Valente goes to the heart of the Church by going to a group of women, Benedictines who take their spiritual life seriously and desire to be people fully alive. Being fully alive is the way we know grace is at work in our life. We are attracted by a presence and the sisters make this presence recognizable. The title ‘Atchison blue’ is a reference to the color blue in the windows of the chapel of Mount Saint Scholastica Monastery in Atchison where the author spent time in contemplation.

Judith Valente is a Benedictine Oblate, poet, reporter; she and her husband live in the Chicago area. Valente’s professional work is reporting on religion for Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly and other PBS works. She’s a former staff writer of The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal and a 1992 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Benedictine wisdom is attractive for Valente and she is attempting to make this wisdom accessible for the laity. She is neither romantic nor critical. Atchison Blue is based on relationships and not abstractions. If you want to understand the contours of your own spiritual life then read in a sensitive way Judith Valente’s Atchison Blue.

Vist Ms Valent’s website.

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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