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The Order of Saint Benedict

What Was New

January, February, and March 2014

Rev. 1 April 2014


March 2014

First Benedictine Monastery Opens in Thailand

Claudio Corti writes for about the first Benedictines at Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. Five monks, including retired Abbot Stéphane Huynh OSB, came from the overcrowded monastery in Thien An (Hue), Vietnam. Most Rev. Francis Xavier Vira Arpondratana, bishop of Chiang Mai, presided at the inauguration, 18 January 2014. Most Rev. Antonio Mattiazzo, Archbishop of Padua, has generously supported the project.

Teaching the New Evangelization

Buckfast Abbey, Devon, England, is hosting newly opened The School of the Annunciation, founded to form disciples for the new evangelization. The school's consecration took place  25 March 2014, The Annunciation of the Lord. Course work towards a two-year, distance-learning Diploma in New Evangelization begins 12-15 September, and 29 September – 23 October 2014. The course work features part-time residential formation as well as online support so that students can participate from anywhere (Catholic News Agency).

Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Michigan, offers a new Online Licentiate in Sacred Theology in the New Evangelization. The program involves a limited on-campus requirement and, at this time, is open only to Catholic priests. The Pontifical University of St. Thomas (the Angelicum) in Rome confers the degree through Sacred Heart's faculty. Classes begin summer 2014, and the registration deadline is 15 April 2014.

Cadentine Rites

During Holy Week 2013 at Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester, Sr. Laurentia Johns OSB wrote a sequence of eight meditations on the Paschal Mystery: Cadentine Rites. The meditations are now available as a limited edition pamphlet, hand-set in Lutetia on Magnani paper and printed by the Evergreen Press using some of the equipment formerly used by Stanbrook Abbey Press.

Cadentine Rites gives glimpses of the transforming power of Christ's passion death and resurrection which can be read throughout the year. All proceeds go towards the completion of the new Stanbrook Abbey buildings, including the church. Each pamphlet, numbered and signed by the author, costs £20 plus shipping. Gift copies may be forwarded to an indicated address. Available via Stanbrook Abbey Bookshop; Email: <>

MS illum.The Passing of Saint Benedict

Benedictines commemorate the passing of Saint Benedict on Friday, 21 March. Like the great Saint Joseph, devotion to whom was fostered at Monte Cassino, Saint Benedict is a fitting patron at the time of death. On the margin of the medal of St. Benedict, encircling the figure of Benedict, are the Latin words: Eius in obitu nostro præsentia muniamur (May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death). An additional prayer to Saint Benedict for a happy death is available online.

Pope St. Gregory's account below of St. Benedict's serene death ca. 543 A.D, is enhanced by testimony of Benedict's ability to forecast the day of it and his ability to communicate the news of it remotely by signs.

Six days before he died, he gave orders for his tomb to be opened. Almost immediately he was seized with a violent fever that rapidly wasted his remaining energy. Each day his condition grew worse until finally, on the sixth day, he had his disciples carry him into the chapel where he received the Body and Blood of our Lord to gain strength for his approaching end. Then, supporting his weakened body on the arms of his brethren, he stood with his hands raised to heaven and, as he prayed, breathed his last. --Gregory the Great, Dialogues, Book 2, c. 37.

Abbot Richard

New Abbot for Saint Mary's

Saturday, 8 March 2014, the monks of Saint Mary's Abbey, Morristown, New Jersey, elected Father Richard Cronin OSB as their 11th abbot. Abbot Richard succeeds Rt. Rev. Giles Hayes OSB. Abbot Giles retired after eight years of faithful service. Abbot Hugh Anderson OSB, President of the American-Cassinese Congregation, oversaw the election, the oath of fidelity, and the profession of faith made by Abbot Richard. Ad multos annos!

OSB Women's Catalogus

Sister Judith Ann Heble OSB, Moderator of CIB, announces that Mother Mariangela Yator of Assisi OSB is preparing the next edition of the women’s Catalogus. Information and updates can be sent to Mother Mariangela at the following email address: <>.

Holy Lent

Saint Benedict offers his thinking about the observance of Lent in chapter 49 of his Rule. Besides abstinence from vice, food, and drink, Benedict recommends reading, especially Sacred Scripture. The right kind of Lectio Divina can lead to that "compunction of heart" that is the mark of authentic monastic prayer.

Father Don Talafous OSB offers a "Daily Reflection" that might also be a helpful aid and incentive for private prayer.

Ash Wednesday

The Holy Father celebrates the liturgical initiation of Lent with statio and a penitential procession from the Basilica of Sant' Anselmo on the Aventine Hill to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for Mass and the imposition of ashes.

February 2014

Meeting of Abbots and Priors

From 21 to 25 February 2014 Saint Bernard Abbey, Cullman, Alabama, hosted the annual meeting of abbots and priors. Bad weather in North America made travel difficult for many participants. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, and Father Jeremy Driscoll OSB, Mount Angel Abbey, addressed the gathering. One participant summarized the wealth of material presented in these words:

The archbishop emphasized the need for deeper Christian identity and internalization of the Gospel. It is not a matter of adding more programs. Father Jeremy addressed the relationship of the new evangelization to the basic thrust of monastic life, especially through a deeper appreciation and awareness of the Pascal Mystery as it is present in our lives each day. He played off the account in Gregory's Dialogues of Benedict’s vision of the whole world in a single ray of light, as well as Archbishop Rowan William’s address to the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

Abbots Brian Wangler OSB, Assumption Abbey, and John Klassen OSB, Saint John's Abbey, are part of a planning team for a joint conference with Benedictine prioresses in 2015. The meeting will again be at Cullman, sharing spaces with Sacred Heart Monastery.

World Day for Consecrated Life

In 1997 Pope John Paul II instituted 2 February as a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. The celebration this year coincides with the Presentation of the Lord, 40 days after the Nativity. (Report in Spanish.) Those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples. The website of the US Catholic Bishops Conference offers resources for commemorating the World Day for Consecrated Life. Watch the Mass for Consecrated Life from Rome via Vatican Radio or read the homily.

On 31 January, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, gave details about the Year of Consecrated Life, 2015. (Report in Spanish.)

Saint Scholastica

Monday, 10 February, Benedictines celebrate the admirable life of Saint Scholastica of Nursia. Her twin brother, Saint Benedict, is the Patriarch of Western Monasticism.

"Whether or not the great Patriarch established a nunnery, it is certain that in a short time he was looked upon as a guide and father to the many convents already existing. His rule was almost universally adopted by them, and with it the title Abbess came into general use to designate the superior of a convent of nuns" (Cath. Encyclopedia).

frescoPope Saint Gregory, in Chapter 33 of Book II of his Dialogues, tells the story of the last meeting between the two siblings. He uses it to teach a lesson in the efficacy of prayer and the primacy of love. The visit Benedict made to his sister suggests that their monasteries were not far distant. Such has remained the pattern, and many Brother/Sister monasteries are geographically close. Through collaboration in the apostolate and in prayer, men and women Benedictines support each other in fidelity to the Holy Rule.

In the next chapter of the Dialogues, Gregory recounts how three days later Benedict, "lifting up his eyes to heaven, beheld the soul of his sister that had departed her body ascend into heaven in the likeness of a dove." He gave orders that they both should be buried at Monte Cassino. Saint Benedict was soon thereafter laid to rest beside her in the crypt of Monte Cassino Abbey. "As their souls had always been one in God while they lived, so their bodies continued together after their deaths."

January 2014

Abbot of Montserrat

In the course of a series of symposia, Zero Moment, organized by Punt-Avul newspaper, Abbot Josep Maria Soler OSB voiced his support for the democratic process (English). He called on Christians to participate in the social debate on various issues by contributing dialogue and reflection with a view to better decision-making. "In a pluralistic society, Christians cannot claim that Christian morality becomes state law.... Laws in a democracy sometimes can only establish the lesser evil." The Abbot of Montserrat also supported recognition of "the national reality of Catalonia" which the Spanish Episcopal Conference "has never understood."

Week of Prayer for Church Unity

Saturday, 18 January, began the International Week of Prayer for Church Unity, first observed in January, 1908. The Octave ends on 25 January, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The devotion of prayer for unity, inaugurated by the Society of the Atonement, was approved as a Catholic devotion by Pope Benedict XV in 1916. This year, the theme is "Has Christ Divided Us?" Resources for the week are available for download as a PDF document from the USCCB and from the World Council of Churches.

"The focal point of 2014 is the commemoration of the historic meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras, and the Bishop of Rome, Pope Paul VI, in Jerusalem 50 years ago -- on 5 and 6 January 1964. At that time, their mutual intention to re-establish charity between the two Churches was announced and was sealed by the brotherly kiss of the two Church leaders in the name of the brothers Andrew and Peter; this will remain for us the enduring icon of ecumenical openness to reconciliation" (Kurt Cardinal Koch).

St. Antony of the Desert, 17 January

St. Athanasius, the great bishop and defender of orthodox teaching, wrote the Life of Antony that caused Anthony to become recognized as the Founder of Christian Monasticism. Although he was probably not the first hermit monk, his fame spread throughout the Christian world and the desert became a city of monastic men and women.

Cassian summarizes a long sermon by Antony, born mid-third century, on the monastic virtue of discretion in his Second Conference for he believed that "of all virtues discretion was the most essential for attaining perfection."

NGA. Maur rescues Placid.

Saints Maur and Placid, 15 January

In chapter seven of the second book of his Dialogues, Pope St. Gregory the Great tells the story of Benedict's young disciples, Maur and Placid. Responding in perfect obedience, Maur was able to rescue little Placid from drowning. A charming watercolor by Jeanne Kerremans from L'Admirable Légende de Saint Benoît (1948) illustrates the story.

Saint Maur was chosen as the patron of the celebrated Maurist Congregation (1618-1818) of monastic ascetics and scholars. The Congregation of Solesmes is the direct descendant of the congregation that was centered at St-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, where the Benedictine historian and inventor of palæography, Dom Jean Mabillon OSB (1632-1707) is buried.

Oldest Women's Monastery to Close

The 17 remaining Benedictine Sisters of Elk County agreed Monday, 13 January 2014, to close St. Joseph Monastery. Located about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in St. Mary's, PA, the convent was founded in 1852. The Sisters celebrated its 170th anniversary in 2012. “Each of the sisters was involved in the discussions and we came out with the best possible outcome for everyone involved,” said Administrator Sister Rita Brink OSB. The monastery property is owned by the monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey near Latrobe, which is home to St. Vincent College.

Pope Names Cistercian Cardinal

On Sunday, 12 January 2014, Pope France included one monastic in the list of 19 prelates he will create as cardinals, 22 February. Most Rev. Orani João Tempesta OCist, 63, metropolitan archbishop of Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) since 2009, is one of five from Central and Latin America. The previous OCist cardinal, Gioacchino Cardinal Besozzi OCist, died in 1755.

Papal Pronouncements

Pope Francis chose "Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace" as the title and theme for his address on World Peace Day, 1 January 2014. "Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon, and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!" he wrote. 

The Holy Father's Christmas message and Urbi et Orbi blessing are available on YouTube. The complete text of the message and related resources are available at the Vatican's news website.

On 3 January, La Civilta Cattolica I:3-17 (2014) released Fr. Antonio Spadaro's SJ "Wake up the World," his record of the Pope's remarks to the Union of Superiors General, 29 November 2013. Spadaro "outlines in depth Francis' words on a number of issues, including how he believes formation for religious life should be conducted, how religious institutes should interact with bishops around the world, and how they should handle an influx of members from Africa and Asia" (National Catholic Reporter, 3 Jan. 2014).


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