Tag Archives: Cistercian

New roots in ancient soil, the Cistercians revive monastic life in Norway

hotellerie croix.gifThe Cistercians of the Strict Observance –the Trappists– are busy reviving monastic life in Norway after an absence since a fire destroyed the ancient monastery. Monks and nuns are taking up with great seriousness the invitation of the Pope Benedict XVI to share the spiritual, intellectual and cultural traditions of the monastic Rule in places where the need is great even new: to bring a light to darkness. Cistercian monks and nuns, hence, are founding separate monasteries bringing with them observances of the traditional vows of stability, conversion of manners, and obedience to a part of the world that’s been basically secularized for a long time even though the Norwegian Lutheran Church is the “state church.” In 2009, monks of Munkeby Priory are the first foundation of the great Cistercian house of Cîteaux since the 15th century, and in 2000 the American nuns arrived. Cistercians first came to Norway in the 12th century.

This 15 minute video gives a good introduction into the Monkeby and Tautra Cistercians.
The Cistercians join the Dominicans and Poor Clares in establishing new contemplative houses in Norway, the North country. The Benedictines have returned to Denmark and Sweden and the Brigittines and Carmelites in Iceland.

Thomas Merton, a light still shining

Fr Louis Thomas MertonHear with favor our prayers, which we humbly offer, O Lord, for the salvation of the soul of Father Louis (Thomas Merton), your servant and Priest, that he, who devoted a faithful ministry to your name, may rejoice in the perpetual company of your Saints.

The famous Trappist monk, Thomas Merton (b. 1915) died on this date in 1968.

In very many ways Merton was a consummate human being: loved pleasure and engaged his freedom only to transform pleasure and his version of freedom with his embrace a life of prayer and silence as a  Strict Observance Cistercian (a Trappist monk) in a Kentucky abbey.  In the monastery Thomas Merton was known as Father M. Louis, a name I still prefer to use because of his commitment to the monastic life. At the command of his abbot, Merton wrote of his conversion in his 1949 best seller, The Seven Storey Mountain, introducing millions of people to the monastic life. No other book since this one has had such a critical impact on Catholics. His conversion story was only one of many books and essays published by Merton and even in death Merton continues to publish due to the finding of new materials or the repackaging of thought into new books. The irony of Merton’s life as a monk is that he died in Asia conferencing with an international and interfaith group of monks and nuns. His body was brought home in a steel casket on a military transport.

In his lifetime Merton was a voice of reason, a voice of sanity, a voice speaking the Word of God. As typical of public thinkers he became a voice and an influence for a variety of types of people, from artists, intellectuals, religious types, peace and nonviolence promoters and the like.

Key for me and dare I say for Benedictines of all stripes, Merton argued for a contemplative life which engages the reality of the world so that the monk, nun, oblate could intercede on behalf of the world for others (read The Sign of Jonas).  Father Louis helps me to understand the Benedictine charism better when he says,

The Benedictine life is simply living the Gospel without fanfare…. The mainspring of everything in Saint Benedict is the love of Christ in Himself, in the poor, in the monastic community, in the individual brethren…. This is the key to the monastic life and spirit.

A life totally cut of is good for a few, like the Carthusians, but for Benedictines and the Cistercians (a reformed group of Benedictines) who form a school of prayer and love in Christ, nothing is out-of-bounds. Merton, indeed, opened the doors to a new manner of living the vitally important monastic life today.

He sought to be a saint, that is, be yourself, is the vocation that all of us ought to consider doing with seriousness. The Pope echoes this notion, so does Communion and Liberation. Great minds think alike.

Watch Father Jim Martin’s video presentation on Thomas Merton.

Thomas Merton’s work continues with the initiative of The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living.

Saint Bernard, 900 years since entering Cîteaux

Nearly 900 years ago Bernard of Fontaine-lès-Dijon led
a group of young Burgundian noblemen, to the Abbey of Cîteaux in 1112 or 1113. The fledgling
new monastery got a burst of new life and from there set the world ablaze with
what became the Cistercian charism. 

Let us pray for the Cistercians in the
North America, paying particular attention to the intention of young men and women entering the
monastic life under the gaze of Saint Bernard. Beginning today until a year from now, the Cistercians are observing a Year of Saint Bernard. Let’s join them in knowing more about this pivotal saint and monk.

Vision of St Bernard Fra Bartolomeo detail.jpg

Most loving Father, in establishing
the New Monastery at Cîteaux our fathers followed the poor Christ into the
desert. Thus they lived the Gospel, by rediscovering the Rule of Saint Benedict
in its purity.

You gave Bernard of Fontaine the ability to make this new life
attractive and appealing to others, in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Grant that
we today, after their example, may live our charism deeply in a spirit of
peace, unity, humility, and above all, in the charity which surpasses all other

May men and women of our time be called to follow the Gospel in monastic
life, in the service of the Church’s mission, in a world often forgetful of

May the monks and nuns of our Order  continue to live in the
enthusiastic and generative spirit of the founders. And in all of our needs may
we always turn to Our Lady whom Bernard called the Star of the Sea.

Father, from whom we have already received so much, grant us again your
blessing that our communities may grow in numbers, but above all in grace and
in wisdom, to your glory, who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer adapted from the original by Dom Olivier, abbot of Citeaux.

7 years since Basil Pennington

M. Basil Pennington.jpegToday marks the 7th anniversary of death of M. Basil Pennington, OCSO, monk, priest, abbot, writer. In 2005 he died on the feast of the Sacred Heart.

Abbot Basil died as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident at the age of 73.
He was described aptly as a “great, loving bear of a man” with a terrific sense of humor and laugh. He was energetic and an impressive leader with a very large capacity for friendship. His openness and keen intellect allowed him to publish 57 books and more than a 1000 articles.
Father Charles Cummings’ obit of Dom Basil can be read here. If you’ve not known about Basil, then I would make the humble suggestion to read this piece and find the book, As We Knew Him, to introduce yourself.
Rest in peace, Dom Basil.

Be living sacraments of Christ’s presence in the world leading all to eternal life

I am slowly reading a book written by Dom Michael Casey, a Cistercian monk from the Abbey of Tarrawara (Australia), The Road to Eternal Life, a series of reflections on the Prologue of the Rue of St Benedict. With all the talk of being a good witness and yesterday’s emphasis on our destiny in Christ, I thought Dom Michael’s reflection on boasting in the Lord makes some sense for us today. I recommend the book.

“And again he says, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’.” (2 Cor 10:17 quoted in the Rule of St Benedict, Prologue v. 32)

The one in the New Testament who speaks most about boastfulness is Saint Paul. He sees boasting as an expression of an autonomy that weakens a person’s total reliance on God-that is, it weakens faith. Those who think that religion is simply a matter of conforming to the precepts of the law, or perhaps so twisting the precepts of the law so that they are comfortable, have not yet learned the art of putting their trust in God, relying on God’s mercy. They are locked into the schemes of self-perfection that they themselves have crafted. The end of such self-assurance can be only disaster. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote to Polycarp, “The one who boasts has already come to nothing”.

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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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