Tag Archives: monastic life

Ecumenism is really a thirst for God

The document Unitatis Redintegratio (21 Nov. 1964) of the Second Vatican Council stresses spiritual ecumenism. Sometimes we overlook this aspect. But we can’t but focus on what is the soul of the ecumenical movement; theologians and church leaders have a lot of work to do on this point; I recall that  the saints have kept their eyes on this method, and so we as members of the Body of Christ have to keep focused on daily conversion, a daily turn toward the Lord.

With two noteworthy ecumenical monastic communities this week, Taize and Bose, the Pope spoke of three conditions at the center for Christian unity:

1. there’s no unity without conversion of heart, which includes forgiving and asking for forgiveness.

2. there is no unity without prayer and therefore men and women religious who pray for unity are like ‘an invisible monastery’ bringing together Christians of different denominations from different countries around the world.

3.  there is no unity without holiness of daily life. so the more we put our search for unity into practise in our relations with others, the more we will be modelling our lives on the message of the Gospel.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which concludes today (the feast of the Conversion of St Paul) meditated on the theme, “Give me a drink,” from the narrative of the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus.

In his talk with the monastic communities whose primary work is Christian Unity, His Holiness spoke of the fact that we see in the Savior a “desire for unity” among the disciples, and that same thirst continues today especially with the divisions of the Christian community. The thirst of the Samaritan woman –and therefore each one of us– is a “thirst not only material for water, but above all our thirst for a full life, free from the slavery of evil and death.”

Francis calls us to pray about this fact: “Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises because it is he who gives to the Holy Spirit, the ‘living water’ that quenches our restless hearts, hungry for life, love, freedom, peace: thirsty for God.”

Profession of vows, celebration of 50 years of monastic vows

Trust in the Lord and do good, and you will dwell in the land and be secure.
Find your delight in the Lord, and he will grant your heart’s desire.
(Ps 37; Introit for Mass for Religious)

These days there are celebrations of profession of vows and recognition of 50 years of monastic profession. The vocation to the monastic life is the search for God (cf. Rule of St Benedict) by the serious living of the gospel and one’s baptism. It is a glorious vocation, one that entering the narrow gate is not easy but eloquent for its witness.

Three friends are living their vocation with fresh eyes. Each called by the Lord to follow and to be see-ers of the Kingdom (cf. Ratzinger) in this manner is sacrificial oriented to life eternal (cf. Spe Salvi, 12).

Br Pietro Berretta OSB.jpg

Benedictine Brother Pietro, a monk of the Monastery of Saint Peter and Paul (outside Milan, Italy) professed his first vows (temporary profession), Father Hilary of the Abbey of Saint Mary (Morristown, NJ) celebrated his 50th annviersary, and Benedictine Sister Marie Rita celebrated her 50th anniversary of profession of monastic vows. There are several others I could mention but let me satisfy this desire to recognize the sign of profession for service of the Kingdom and one’s salvation.

Brother Pietro studied medicine and follows the lay ecclesial movement of Communion and Liberation. His monastery is a  diocesan rite monastery following the Rule of SaInt Benedict and the teachings of the Servant of God Father Luigi Giussani. Pietro gave up a promising career in medicine to follow and seek the face of Christ more intimately in an Italian monastery. I can’t help but think of Pietro’s vocation as a witness poignant today in postmodern Italy where monasteries are virtually empty. His monastery receives postulants regularly and I am grateful for his YES.

Father Hilary is a monk and a priest of Morristown, NJ’s Abbey of Saint Mary where he teaches in the Delbarton School and he works in the community as novice and formation director. In the American Cassinese Congregation of monks the 50 year julibilarian receives from the abbot the baculus (a craved stick; this one is made in Ireland) with the liturgical phrase exhorting the monk, “Use the baculus not so much as a support for bodily strength, but rather to obtain spiritual fortitude from our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has called us all to himself in the gospel, saying, Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you, for my yoke is easy, my burden light.” Hilary’s quiet demeanor is a stable form of living the manner set out by the Lord and Benedict.

Sr Rita and Fr Peter JohnSister Rita is the Prioress of the Monastery of the Glorious Cross, Branford, CT. Her’s is a vocation to lead a group of women who daily surrender to the Lord their health and mobility uniting themselves more and more eucharistically.

At Sister’s Jubilee Mass more than 75 friends attended with spiritual assistance of Father Peter John Cameron, OP celebrating the Mass and preaching, with Abbot Caedmon Holmes, OSB (of Portsmouth Abbey), Father Prior Vincent DeLucia, OP (St Mary’s Priory, New Haven), Father Jacob Restrick, OP (Hawthorne, NY) Father David Borino (Archdiocese of Hartford), Father Robert Usenza (Diocese of Bridgeport and Father Paul Halovich and Deacon Fusco (also of Hartford).

Sister Rita’s sister Canossian Daughter of Charity Sister Margaret flew in from China where she is a missionary to be present. The Canossian sisters have the great Saint Josephine Bakhita as one of them.

As you may know, monks and nuns profess the monastic vows of conversion of manners, stability and obedience according to the Rule of Saint Benedict. Benedictines live a life with a quality being subtle.

With the Church we pray,

O God, who inspire and bring to fulfillment every good intention, direct your servants into the way of eternal salvation, and as they have left all things to devote themselves entirely to you, grant that, following Christ and renouncing the things of this world, they may faithfully serve you in their neighbor in a spirit of poverty and humility of heart.

I’ve blogged about Monastery of Saint Peter and Paul (Monastero Ss. Pietro e Paolo), Cascinazza (Milan), before here.

Saint Pachomius

St Pachomius.jpegThe Church gives us Saint Pachomius (+346), the Egyptian monk and abbot famous for being the “founder” of community-focussed monasticism (cenobitic) thus offering an new pattern of following Christ as a monk that up until Pachomius, one did alone. 200 years later Saint Benedict brought this version of monastic life in general acceptance in the west, drawing on what this sainted abbot first done. He’s known, too,  for his writings titled “Koinonia” (in Latin, Communio).  He wrote: 

“Brothers, as long as you have breath
in your bodies, strive for your salvation. Before the hour comes in which we
shall weep for ourselves, let us practice virtue eagerly.”

The Church prays…

O God, Who didst raise
the blessed abbot Pachomius to the heights of doctrine and of virtue, grant that
we, by following his example, may seek before all else the bread of Thy Word: light
for our minds, and stillness for our hearts.

Saint Anthony of the Desert

St Anthony of the Desert.jpg

The father of monasticism, Saint Anthony reminds us of two things: to deny the self is a freeing gesture in one’s relationship with God and with others. Remember: we have communion with God and communion with our friends.
The denial of self is not merely the denial of material things but our preconceived ideas and skepticism. The second prayer highlights for me the vigilance needed to be aware of evil. The powers of darkness are real and need to be confronted.

The Collect

O God, who brought the Abbot Saint Anthony to serve you by a wondrous way of life in the desert, grant, through his intercession, that, denying ourselves, we may always love you above all things.

Prayer After Communion
Nourished for our healing by your Sacraments, O Lord, may we escape every snare of the enemy unharmed, just as by your grace Saint Anthony won glorious victories over the powers of darkness.

The monastic life can give new life to ailing Church

The monastic life is capable to breathe new life into lungs of an ailing body, the Church. A recent interview with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, gives his observations and direction. While he speaks of The Order of Saint Bridget that was refounded by Blessed Mother Maria Hesslblad, his comments are worth paying attention to and applied to all orders. These nuns, by the way, have one US house in Darien, Connecticut. The interview is here.

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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