Tag Archives: St Anselm Abbey

Benedictine Abbot speaks of the monastic vocation

Abbot James receiving vows of Br BernardOne of the missions if you will, of the Communio blog, is to share the Good News, to share the ways in which the Lord is incarnated today. One of the areas I show concern for is the monastic vocation, particularly the beauty of the life given to us through the Rule of Benedict and lived in Benedictine monasteries. Recently, the abbot of St Anselm’s Abbey (Washington, DC) gave a radio interview attending to the Benedictine vocation in which he opens up a few facets of the life. Abbot James’ interview can be listened to here.

St Anselm’s Abbey is a Benedictine monastery located in NE Washington on 30 acres monks first started in 1924 locally before moving to its present place on South Dakota Avenue. The Abbey is part of the international English Benedictine Congregation; two other US monasteries belong to the EBC (St Louis Abbey and Portsmouth Abbey).

The monks St Anslem’s come from all over the USA; you might say that the Holy Spirit has called many to a life that has a certain richness providing the common life with a variety of ages, experience, and intellectual interests and the like. Over the years the Abbey has been a family with abundant gifts in the men who professed vows there. Abbot James mentions that recently three monks made first vows, and some others are coming to discern a monastic vocation in February.

Benedictines pray and work. In fact, it is said that the first work of a monk is pray but recalling the Rule of Benedict a monk also has to contribute to the sustenance of the common life. There is a regular, daily, round of prayer –the Divine Office–, the Sacrifice of the Mass, personal prayer which informs and forms the work is the education at CUA, Trinity College, and since 1942 a middle and high school for boys, a guesthouse where guests are received as Christ Himself. Hospitality is never lacking in a Benedictine monastery.

Abbot James speaks of the booklet From 5-9 in the interview which described the monastic life and inspired him to take the step to follow Christ as a monk at St Anslem’s Abbey. The process of discernment allows for gentle movements of the Holy Spirit to work on the soul.

Also in the interview Abbot James appeals to an insight which sums up the Benedictine gift offered by the famed Dom David Knowles who said:

the monk who in ordinary circumstances takes to any work with a zeal which burns out his fire of strength and health is departing from what is for him the way of salvation. It is not a virtue for the monk, as it might be for the missionary, to lack time in which to attend the common recitation of the Divine Office, read a certain amount, and mix with his community. And hence there should be in the Benedictine monk a certain restfulness, a contentment, not in doing nothing but in doing the familiar, even the monotonous and the ritual; an ability to remain physically unmoved and unexcited, to produce, in fact, that stability which his Founder [St. Benedict] made a distinguishing and on occasion a unique religious vow, the vow of stability, the family vow” (The Benedictines: A Digest for Moderns (St. Leo, FL: The Abbey Press, 1962), 36).

The Benedictine vocation first articulated through Saint Benedict and developed since the 6th century is one of prudence, discretion, balance, moderation; the seeking of the face of God and the pursuit of Truth. The way of salvation —the pursuit of heaven, is the essential part for all who call themselves Christian, but it is even more heightened by those who live the consecrated life according to the holy Rule of Benedict.

Saint Benedict and Saint Anslem, pray for us.

Benedictine monk says prayer and teaching manifest God’s presence

One of my friends, Brother Ignacio Gonzalez, was recently recognized with 200 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington with the Manifesting the Kingdom Award given for outstanding service to the local Church.

Brother Ignacio is a Benedictine monk of St Anselm’s Abbey. In addition to the monastic way of life, the monks of his community conduct St Anselm Abbey School. he teaches religion in the school. Brother Ignacio, a native of Texas, is a former US Marine.

Read the story, pray for vocations to Benedictine life.

Newman: God has created me to do Him some definite service

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890)

I am visiting the Benedictine Abbey of St Anselm (Washington, DC) to get away from “stuff” where I normally live. Life there is particularly tense these days. A topic for another time. Time in quiet, time in prayer, time to think, to ponder bigger questions, time to read and to enjoy life in a different key for a short time. Life is fine. It won’t last long, don’t worry. I have friends here. Yesterday I was trying to understand happiness. Newman gave perspective. Today, I am trying to understand my place is a world of utter chaos, not exclusively my own chaos but more importantly the world’s.

At breakfast another guest at the abbey said he thought the US was heading to another civil war. I received an email and later texts that the two year old son of a friend is in the hospital with a serious ear infection, an acute illness that has made itself a longtime, and unwelcomed guest in this person’s life; there is also the fact that we are working toward the conclave but problems that need discussion, and the list goes on. This afternoon I sat for an hour with my friend Aidan, the abbot-emeritus of this abbey, who is just a delight to speak converse with, and who is living with the grace of Parkinson’s. (Blessed John Paul II, pray for Aidan!) Aidan can track a conversation for the most part; he loses words and can be side-tracked; but he’s capacity for friendship is great.

BUT what am I supposed to do? How do I approach the reality of life? Where is God leading me, why, and for what reason? Do I have a part to play in life? Newman has a helpful answer…

1. God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory–we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.

2. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission–I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his–if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

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Matthew Leavy, abbot of Saint Anselm’s Abbey to retire after 26 years

Abbot Matthew.jpgThis is old news by now, and yet it bears keeping in mind that one of the world’s longest serving abbot, Benedictine Father Abbot Matthew Leavy, OSB, PhD, will retire as the 4th abbot of Saint Anselm’s Abbey in Manchester New Hampshire after 26 years of service to his monastic community, Saint Anselm’s College, and the Church in the Diocese of Manchester.

The announcement was made on January 31.
Abbot Matthew will serve until June 4 when the community will gather to pray to the Holy Spirit and to cast a vote for a new Father Abbot will be elected by the capitulars of the monastic community. The Abbot President Father Hugh Anderson will supervise and confirm the election.
The Abbey’s Prior, Brother Isaac, hosts a blog which he periodically speaks of life in the abbey and he’s now guiding his readers in the uniqueness of electing a new religious superior. Read Brother Isaac here.
The monks of Saint Anslem’s Abbey have a reputation of faithfulness to the Holy Rule and service of the Church. The Lord prosper the work of their hands.
Saints Benedict, Scholastica and Anselm, pray for the monks of Saint Anselm’s Abbey, and for us.
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James Wiseman elected abbot of Saint Anselm Abbey, Washington, DC

James Wiseman.jpgFather James Wiseman, 66, was elected the new and fifth abbot of Saint Anselm’s Abbey, Washington, DC Thursday. Dom James will serve for an eight year term as abbot. He replaces the Prior Administrator Simon McGurk, a monk of Belmont Abbey in the UK.

The new abbot’s been called to serve his community in a variety of ways since his profession in 1966: priesthood (1970),  abbot (1975-1983), novice master (1983-1994) and prior (1990-2006). In fact, Dom James has been elected as abbot for the second time; the first time around he was the second abbot.
Abbot James teaches theology at Catholic University of America, and has done so since 1985, and at the abbey’s school since 1969. Since 2007, he’s held the rank of ordinary professor at Catholic University.
He has served twice as chair of CUA’s theology department, and for a period of time as an associate dean. James Wiseman has written or edited six books and more than 30 published articles. He’s also chaired the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, a collection of monks and nuns interested in questions of interfaith relations. For 12 years Dom James edited the Bulletin of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue.
Saint Anselm Abbey is one of three Benedictine abbeys in the USA of the English Benedictine Congregation, there are a total of 13 EBC houses of monks. The others being Saint Gregory the Great (Portsmouth, RI) and Saint Louis (St Louis, MO). The Benedictine monastic community was founded in 1923 Father Thomas Verner Moore and some companions. In 1961, Blessed Pope John XXIII gave the Benedictine community the rank of an abbey. Today, there are 15 monks at Saint Anselm’s.
Through the intercession of Saints Benedict, Scholastica and Anselm, and Father Luigi Giussani, may the Blessed Trinity give Abbot James the wisdom and love to serve well and prudence. Especially offer your prayers for the monastic community as it continues the work of deepening their faith and giving clear witness to monastic witness of the Gospel. There’s is an unique vocation in the Nation’s heart.

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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