Tag Archives: Cistercian

Saint Stephen Harding

St Stephen Harding.jpg

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.


Is there a desire for God still present today?

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,

Christian de Chergé.jpg

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 

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Of Gods and Men

OF Gods and Men.jpg

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…

Charity is the only good reason to do anything

The Cistercian
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
    with sin.
Thanks to my friend Friar Charles for providing grist for the mill.

Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori –new Abbot General of the Cistercian Order

Generalabt Maurus Lepori von Hauterive .jpgThe General Chapter of the Order of Cistercians elected Dom Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, 52, as their new Abbot General, succeeding Abbot Mauro Estevez. It is reported that Lepori received 109 of 134 votes. His work as abbot general will last for the next 10 years with about 1700 monks and nuns of the Order of Cistercians throughout the world.

Abbot Mauro-Giuseppi, until now has been a monk and the abbot of the Abbey of Hauterive. He entered the abbey in 1984 and was elected abbot on May 16, 1994 when he was 35 years old. The Cistercian of Hauterive is outside of Fribourg, Switzerland. Abbot Mauro earned a licentiate in philosophy and theology from the Catholic University of Fribourg. The new abbot general is a Swiss-Italian born (from Lugano) monk who, before his entrance into the cloister was an active follower of the ecclesial movement of Communion and Liberation (but entrance into the monastery only meant that he didn’t attend all the meetings of CL but he kept up with work of the Movement!).

Simon called peter.jpg

Abbot Mauro-Giuseppi is the author of Simon, Called Peter: In the Company of a Man in Search of God. The Forward to the book was written by Angelo Cardinal Scola, Patriarch of Venice, a close friend of the late Monsignor Luigi Giussani and who continues to be active in following Communion and Liberation.

A 2003 interview with Abbot Mauro at the CL Rimini Meeting can be read here and a brief article in Traces by the abbot can be read here.

Saints Robert, Alberic, & Stephen, pray for us.

Saint Bernard, pray for us.
Saint Aelred, pray for us.
Saint Alice, pray for us.
Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac, pray for us.
The English Cistercian Martyrs, pray for us.

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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