- Monday, 28 March 2011 17:18
Permanent commitment is an awesome gesture. It is, however, becoming a thing of the past these days. I remember a few years ago
when my parents were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and one of my
mother’s clients said to her: “I can’t believe you’ve been married to the same
man for this long.” I was taken aback by the statement. In my mind what else would you do but be faithful to your vows. Of course this woman is on her second marriage and from all
reports pretty self-absorbed. There was a time when you entered into a “life
commitment” by vows and you did what they indicated: live them forever, unto death is there parting. Times have changed: prenuptials are “in” and convenience has replaced permanency. Have we become too fickle? Just
recently an event in Rome gave me hope: Father Angelo’s 80 years as a Trappist
monk of the Abbey of Tre Fontane. Imagine 80 years do anything! Imagine living your monastic profession in the place where Saint Paul was martyred! Saint Paul’s head bounced three times. Hence three fountains of water sprung up.
Father Angelo (Archangelo Buccitti in
history), just celebrated his 94th birthday on March 3. Bishop Paolo
Schiavon, a long-time friend of the community offered Mass for Father Angelo’s
Father Angelo’s monastic journey included entry at Frattochie abbey at 14 years of age, his journey to solemn profession, ordination to the
priesthood, time as chaplain for the Trappistine nuns at Vitorchiano, his election
as abbot of Tre Fontane and his ten years in that capacity. All of Father
Angelo’s life can be seen as a homage, a testament to grace and grace’s living through his deep humanity known through fraternal
charity, humility and faithfulness to God’s call.
Father Angelo said: “The
Lord does not count the number of one’s years, but weighs their quality” and “A
man is never taller than when he is on his knees before his Lord.”
- Monday, 28 March 2011 10:40
Today the Church –though localized to the Cistercian Order– celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saint Stephen Harding, one of the 3 founders of the Cistercian reform of Benedictine monastic life. Most of the faithful would not know of Saint Stephen unless they had contact with the Cistercians or remember their church history class.
Several things distinguish Saint Stephen Harding: he was English, he was the third abbot of Cîteaux, he was a man of great pragmatism, he was the author of the Charter of Charity (the foundational document of the Cistercian life), and was responsible for the liturgical formulations for this way of life, cleaning up the corruptions inserted into the Divine Office over the years.
On Saint Stephen’s deathbed he said, I assure you that I go to God in fear and trembling. If my baseness should be found to have ever done any good, even in this I fear, lest I should not have preserved that grace with the humility and care I ought.
For more on Saint Stephen Harding read this entry and this one.
- Friday, 11 March 2011 10:48
A few days ago I recommended seeing “Of Gods and Men.” Last week I saw the film and I have still been thinking of the movie, the monks, the hard work of inter-religious dialog. The testament of Dom Christian de Cherge can be read here. I highly recommend reading what Prior Christian said and what others think. A group of friends took time to see the movie together. Two friends brought a perspective of the film to my attention recently. The following is an an answer to those who ask whether a desire for God is still present in our times. Angelo Scola writes:
I believe that the worldwide success of the film on the Tibhirine
monks [U.S. Title: “Of Gods and Men”] reflects a burning desire in the men and
women of any latitude to meet the face of God; it therefore reflects the real
need we all feel for authentic witnesses who may help us keep our gazes focused
Authentic witness is, in fact, not limited to “giving a good example”.
It shines in all its wholeness as a method for practically knowing reality and
communicating truth. It is a primary value, standing above any other form of
knowledge and communication – scientific, philosophical, theological, artistic,
A luminous example of this method is offered by the very words which Fr
Christian de Chergé, prior of the Trappist monastery of Notre-Dame de l’Atlas
in Tibhirine, Algeria, wrote in his spiritual will [noted above], a good three years before
he was massacred with his monks:
“When the time comes, I would like to be able
to have an instant of lucidity that would allow me to ask for the pardon of God
and that of men, my brothers, while forgiving with all my heart those who may
have hit me… I cannot see how I could, in fact, rejoice in that this people I
love could be accused of my assassination. It
Read more ...
- Friday, 04 March 2011 07:36
Xavier Beauvois’ new film “Of Gods and Men” (Des Hommes et des Dieux) is an intense and moving film of 7 Trappist monks in Algeria who had a coexistence with Muslim neighbors until extremists threatened and killed the monks. The Atlas Martyrs gave their lives in the night of 27-28 March 1996.
John Kiser wrote of the monks in his 2002 The Monks of Tibhirine which I recommend to give you a sense of what’s going on here.
“Of Gods and Men” is being shown on the East coast, now in NYC and next week in New Haven. Here’s the trailor.
Know the monks: Atlas Martyrs Biographies.pdf
Love is eternal hope…
- Saturday, 12 February 2011 16:47
monk, philosopher and theologian Isaac of Stella (1100-1169) was featured in
the Office of Readings today: Charity is the reason why anything should be done
or left undone.
Charity is the only good reason to do anything, but it also
sometimes demands that we not do something we might think we want to do. There
are a lot of fine distinctions one has to make in this area to live spiritually
in common life and ministry. For example:
- We are called to support one another,
but not to enable maladaptive behaviors, debilitating addictions, and sins. We
must bear with the burdens of others, and be willing to wash feet, but we
should not take responsibility for the feelings of others.
- We must seek ways to
invite both individuals and institutions to benefit from our strengths, and
invite them into the success that derives from them, but–again–we should be
careful not to take interior or exterior responsibility for situations that the
Holy Spirit has not, or not yet, seen fit to put in our care.
- Sometimes the
greatest charity–and often the most painful–is not giving someone what he
thinks he wants.
- We must be good to ourselves, practicing good self-care, but
that doesn’t mean taking it easy and just ‘being nice’ to ourselves. On the one
hand, we must not be so hard on ourselves that our whole spiritual life becomes
a rehearsal of faults and sins, for this is one of the devil’s tricks in making
us fail to notice God, and on the other we must also be careful not be overly
forgiving of ourselves so as to effectively give up struggling with certain
selfishnesses and sins.
- We must practice the sort of self-charity that
nourishes our gifts and virtues, and is ruthless in the unwillingness to put up
Thanks to my friend Friar Charles for providing grist for the mill.