Tag Archives: Cistercian

Blessed Joseph-Marie Cassant

Bl Joseph-Marie CassantA rather unknown Cistercian monk and Blessed of the Church is Joseph-Marie Cassant (March 6, 1878 – June 17, 1903). He eventually found his vocation with the Cistercian monks of St. Mary of the Desert (France) on December 5, 1894. Solemn vows were professed on May 24, 1900, the feast of the Ascension. Brother Joseph-Marie’s personal charism, developed with the help of his novice master, seems to be based on the contemplation of Jesus in His passion and in the cross which leads to his teaching the love of Christ: this is the way of Jesus’ heart.

In preparing for the priesthood, Brother Joseph-Marie  understood his ministry as totally eucharistic. The young brother was ordained priest on October 12, 1902. Almost immediately he was diagnosed with TB of which his sufferings were kept silent. His abbot, feeling the gravity of the situation, sent Joseph-Marie to be with his family for seven weeks despite his growing weakness. The monastery’s infirmarian was incompetent and likely advanced the effects of TB.

Saint John Paul beatified Father Joseph-Marie on October 3, 2004.

Why is Blessed Joseph-Marie important for us today? I think the summary statements found in a biography give us a deeper move into the heart of the Blessed:

The sheer ordinariness of his life has been noted by some: 16 quiet years at Casseneuil and 9 years of monastic enclosure spent in doing the simplest of things: prayer, studies, work. They are indeed simple things, but lived in an extraordinary way. They were the slightest of deeds, but performed with limitless generosity. Christ imbued his mind, clear as the water that leaps from a spring, with the conviction that God alone is our true and highest happiness and that his kingdom is like a hidden treasure or a pearl of great price.

The message of Fr. Joseph-Marie has great meaning for us today. In a world filled with distrust and often with despair but thirsting for love and kindness, his life can provide an answer, and in a special way to today’s young who seek meaning in their lives. Joseph-Marie was a youth without any standing or worth in the eyes of men. He owed the success of his life to a meeting with Jesus that redefined his very existence. He showed himself a follower of the Lord in the midst of a community of brothers, with the guidance of a spiritual father, who was to him a witness of Christ as well as one who knew to receive and to understand him.

Martyrs of Viaceli

Father PioAngelo Cardinal Amato, SDB, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints presented to Pope Francis a degree regarding the martyrdom of the Servants of God Pio Heredia and 17 Companions, monks and nuns of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance (Trappists) and of the Congregation of San Bernard. The designation of martyr means that a determination was made that they were killed in hatred of the faith during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

The beatification is Saturday, October 3, 2015 in the cathedral of Santander, Cantabria, Spain.

The Cistercians consider the martyrdom of their brothers as a testimony to the Sermon on the Mount where our Lord, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Their death is a great witness “To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” And, they did so in silence.

The beatification cause of the Cistercian Mother María Micaela Baldoví Trull, 67 and Mother María Natividad Medes Ferris, 56, Monastery of Fons Salutis, in Algemesí

Father Pio and the monks were professed at the Monasterio de Santa María de Viaceli. Here is the list of the monks:

Father Pío Heredia Zubía, 61 years
Father Amadeo García Rodríguez, 31 years
Father  Valeriano Rodríguez García, 30 years
Father Juan Bautista Ferris Llopis, 31 years
Father Eugenio García Pampliega, 33 years
Father Vicente Pastor Garrido, 31 years
Brother Álvaro González López, 21 years
Brother Marcelino Martín Rubio, 23 years
Brother Antonio Delgado González, 21 years
Brother Eustaquio García Chicote, 45 years
Brother Ángel de la Vega González, 68 years
Brother Ezequiel Álvaro de la Fuente, 19 years
Brother Eulogio Álvarez López, 20 years
Brother Bienvenido Mata Ubierna, 28 years
Brother Leandro Gómez Gil, 21 years.

Sainted Cistercian founders: Robert Molesme, Stephen Harding and Alberic

Holy Fathers of Citteaux

From e hymn for evening Vespers for the holy founders of Citeaux:

“Bold leader of this vast array, Saint Robert, intercede today. God grant us hearts to dream anew, and strength his kingdom to pursue.

Fond lover of that hallowed place, where brothers lived as one by grace, Saint Alberic, pray we may be one heart, one mind, in unity.

Impassioned master in Christ’s school, Saint Stephen, zealot for our rule, bid God we never build on sand, but firm in faith, on rock we stand.”

You may be aware that these saints are not honored on the Roman liturgical calendar, but revered by the monks and nuns of the Cistercian and Benedictine monasteries, are the three holy founders of Citeaux (near Dijon, France): Saints Robert Molesme (centered in the image), Stephen Harding and Alberic. They began their reform of Benedictine life in 1098. The Cistercian movement is now venerable but when it was started it was very contentious as you might expect –anytime you ask people to change you run against the tide. Think of the Prophets, or in particular, the Prophet Jonah of yesterday’s reading at Mass. Let us pray for our own conversion, and that of the Church. But also for God’s abundant grace to fall on those who have made profession to the charism of Citeaux –monks, nuns, and the laity.

The early Cistercians, impelled by a burning thirst for authenticity, wished to interpret the Rule (of St. Benedict) in the light of its monastic background and to recover its original simplicity. Their life was marked by a real detachment from the world, a love of solitude and silence, poverty and simplicity, austerity and manual labor, prayer and holy reading, all within a cenobitic framework which laid great stress upon the value of fraternal charity in the common life.

There is an attractive genuinity about this reform, which was not merely an archeologizing return to the past, but a recapturing of the primitive monastic ideal and an attempt, largely successful, to express it in structures suitable to the times.

The school of spirituality which the white monks produced, dominated by St. Bernard, is no less notable for its charming huamanity than for its authentically contemplative orientation.

Monastic Spirituality
Claude Peifer, O.S.B.

Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi

Cyprian Michael Iwene TansiToday is the Feast Day of Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi. In the USA we don’t liturgically have Blessed Cyprian on the calendar, but we ought to know about him and follow his example. First a secular priest and then a Trappist monk Tansi has a unique vocation of looking at both the interior life and the apostolate with new eyes. He is Nigeria’s patron saint.

Born to non-Christian parents in September 1903, Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi was born in Aguleri, Anambra State, Nigeria. In 1909, he was sent to live with his uncle who was a Christian gave him an education. He was baptised 3 years later by Irish missionaries. Tansi was a diligent student with a precocious personality and deep piety. He worked as a teacher for 3 years and later served as a headmaster of St. Joseph’s school for one year in Aguleri.

In 1925 against the wishes of his family, he entered St. Paul’s Seminary in Igbariam and was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Onitsha on 19 December 1937.

For a time Tansi worked tirelessly in the parishes of Nnewi, Dunukofia, Akpu/Ajali before discerning vocation to be a Cistercian monk at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, Leicester, England. He lived this vocation at the abbey for 14 years. He was in the process of discerning becoming the novice master in a new Cistercian foundation in Cameroon, a few months after the founders left for Africa.

Father Tansi used to say, “if you are going to be a Christian at all, you might as well live entirely for God”.

He died on 20 January 1964 and was beatified on 22 March 1998 by Saint John Paul in Nigeria. The Pope said of Father Cyprian:

He was first of all a man of God: his long hours before the Blessed Sacrament filled his heart with generous and courageous love. Those who knew him testify to his great love of God. Everyone who met him was touched by his personal goodness. He was then a man of the people: he always put others before himself, and was especially attentive to the pastoral needs of families. He took great care to prepare couples well for Holy Matrimony and preached the importance of chastity. He tried in every way to promote the dignity of women. In a special way, the education of young people was precious to him.

A prayer to the Blessed:

Blessed Cyprian, during your life on earth you showed your great faith and love  in giving yourself to your people and by the hidden life of prayer and contemplation. Look upon us now in our needs, and intercede for us with the Lord. May he grant us the favour we ask through our prayers. Amen.

A few resources to consult on Blessed Cyrpian:

Fr. Gregory Wareing, A New Life of Father Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi (Coalville, Leicester LE6 3UL: Mt. St. Bernard Abbey. 1994). Father Gregory was Blessed Cyprian’s Novice Master.

Veronica Onyedika Chidi Umegakwe, Footprints of Father Tansi: The Tomb is not his Goal (Awhum, Nigeria: Our Lady of Calvary Monastery, 1993). The life of Blessed Cyprian is here presented in a five act play by the chief coordinator of the Father Tansi Lay Contemplative Prayer Movement.

Elisabeth Isichei, Entirely for God. The life of Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Studies Series 43, 1980 and 2000).

Dom John Moakler, “Some Thoughts about Blessed Cyprian Tansi” in Hallel 25 (2000), pp.79-93.

Baldwin of Ford

In 1190 the Cistercian monk and Archbishop of Canterbury Baldwin of Ford died in Tyre, Lebanon.

Baldwin was born around the year 1120 in Devonshire, England. After completing his studies, perhaps at Exeter, he began a successful career in the service of Pope Eugenius III, who had begun his spiritual life as a Cistercian monk.
Upon returning to England, in 1169 Baldwin left all else behind and became a monk at the Cistercian abbey of Ford. He was soon made abbot, and although he did not spend many years in the monastery, he understood that monastic life is essentially a search for communion. In his beautiful treatises on community life, Baldwin was the first to assert that every human form of communion, especially in a monastic community, descends from the shared life of the three Persons of the Trinity.

Baldwin was elected bishop of Worcester in 1181, and several years later he became Archbishop of Canterbury. As leader of the Church of England, he was forced against his will to enter the turmoil of politics. During the reign of Henry II, who was responsible for the death of Thomas Becket, Baldwin defended the memory of his predecessor at Canterbury in his preaching and writing. He met his death participating in the third crusade at the orders of the new king, Richard the Lionheart.

From the Martyrology of the Monastery of Bose, Italy

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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