American-Cassinese Congregation

Renew and Create

Part 1 - Introduction

Part 2 - Problems

Part 3 - Life
Part 4 - Conclusion

Some Problems Shared with Others

(1) The Difficulty of Relating to Contemporary Thought. Many aspects of contemporary thought not only differ from the thought patterns and value systems inculcated in very many of our monks by a classical and Neo-Scholastic education and by a religious formation of largely Counter Reformation style; they often appear to be a rejection of traditional ways of thinking and acting. Hence the new currents appear as a threat to the security which many have found in the familiar and stable patterns of the past. In some cases, a lack of interest in the world outside one's own immediate field of work, a lack of time for reading and discussion of contemporary thought, or the absence of community programs of continuing education further complicate the problem.

On the other hand, some monks embrace what is contemporary in an uncritical and unsophisticated fashion, failing to bring various aspects of modern culture under the judgment of the Gospel and of accumulated human experience. And those who have come to the monastery in recent years have brought with them a mentality quite different from that of their older brothers in religion. Even granted the best of will, communication between men speaking with deep personal conviction from different worlds of formation and experience is difficult, and a community of meaning upon which community of purpose is built becomes problematical.

(2) Problems of Faith and Theology. The problems are manifold. Genuine crises of faith which may well signal a critical moment of growth in commitment to Christ have become more frequent in our communities. Often what is questioned is not so much the individual truths to be believed as the faith by which one believes, the sense of commitment to a God who seems to have become remote or even absent from the religious routine of daily life. Others feel faith threatened because many theological opinions expressed in the manuals of theology were accepted as though they were practically defined doctrines of faith; or else they find that the theological forms in which the faith has traditionally been expressed are now often attacked or discarded. A further sense of confusion is engendered by the fact that contemporary theology, in a conscious and deliberate attempt to be more culture-oriented than in the past, is itself of unequal value and in great flux. One theology follows another in quick succession. Thus the possibility of theological faddism is greatly increased, while a critical assessment of the values of these theologies for the Church and for various forms of religious life becomes more difficult.

(3) Problems of Vocation to the Priesthood and Vocation to the Religious Life. The theological reassessment of the priestly life and office offered by Vatican II and the rapidly changing sociological conditions in which priests exercise their ministry have raised serious questions in the minds of many monks concerning the value and role of the priesthood itself in the modern world. Some raise similar questions concerning the value and role not merely of particular forms of religious life but of religious life in general They find it difficult to present to themselves and to others a convincing rationale for celibacy and religious obedience in a secularized world and to discover meaningful forms of religious poverty. Not infrequently these questions are related to personal problems of vocation. As some particularly in the 30- and 40-year age group feel that their life is slipping away without notable achievement, marriage, the professions, and a variety of Christian apostolates appear to them as more productive of personal fulfillment, and the urge to leave the religious life becomes strong, especially now that the stigma of departure has been greatly reduced.

(4) The Crisis of School and Parish Apostolate in the Contemporary American Church. Benedictines share with other religious and clergy the problems facing the parish apostolate and Catholic education in America today. A great variety of official and unofficial agencies in the United States are presently studying the validity of the parish concept, the staffing and structure of the parish, new forms of parish apostolate, and so on. These developments pose new problems of serious study, formation, and experimentation for those Benedictines engaged or destined to be engaged in parochial work. Serious questions also face our communities in their educational apostolate: the general question of the role of Church-sponsored education in the total picture of the American educational system; the role of the priest and religious as teacher of secular disciplines, and so on. In a word, our monasteries are faced with the need for a serious reassessment of major apostolates in which they are engaged.

It will be noted that the above-mentioned problems, abstracting for the moment from the personal factors which may be involved in them, are related in one way or another to the cultural changes to which the Church and religious life have become more open. It may be suggested that solutions to these problems are to be sought through that sound adaptation to contemporary physical and psychological conditions, and to the requirements of our culture and of the social and economic conditions in which Benedictines live and work, as urged by Vatican II. But if a right direction is to be taken towards the resolution of these problems, they must be related to some specifically Benedictine problems, which remain to be considered.

Some Specifically Benedictine Problems - Next >

Renew and Create
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Congregations of North America
The Confederation of Monastic Congregations


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