What Was New!
Second Quarter 2002
In the eleventh century Benedictine monks built a Romanesque church on the summit of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. The promontory had been a place of prayer and pilgrimage in honor of St. Michael the Archangel since 709 A.D. In 1490 the Romanesque choir was replaced by one flamboyantly Gothic. In 1791 revolutionaries expelled the monks and turned the shrine into a prison. So it remained until an imperial edict in 1864 recognized its importance for religion and culture. In 1966, at the millenial commemoration of the arrival of the first monks, a provisional Benedictine community was established for a few months. In 1969 a group of men and women created a diocesan Benedictine community.
Since 24 June 2002, at the invitation of the local bishop, the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem, have restored daily prayer and monastic hospitality to Mont-Saint-Michel. In celebration of their first year, the monks and nuns have launched a website at <www.abbaye-montsaintmichel.com/>.
S. Joan Chittister OSB (Erie Benedictines) writes in the July/August issue of Sojourners about the crisis in the Church. She bases her conviction that "The Faith Will Survive" on her experience in Ireland during a priest-pedophile crisis there in 1996. She identifies three remnants of medieval ecclesiasticism that poison contemporary clerical culture: silence, exclusion and domination.
On Sunday, 9 June, in Clyde, MO, the General Chapter of the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, elected Sister Ramona Varela OSB to become Prioress General. Prioress Ramona first professed monastic vows on 12 September 1963. One of her first official acts was to welcome Abbot Gregory Polan OSB and the Benedictne men of Conception Abbey to pray and dine with the Sisters after the tragic events at the monks' nearby monastery.
Starting Afresh from Christ
On Friday, 14 June 2002, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life published an Instruction based on a Plenary Session of the Congregation held 29 September 2001 at the Vatican. The Congregation is composed of 25 cardinals, 7 bishops and 4 superiors general. Five experts were invited to offer contributions: Sr. Rita Burley, Superior General of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and President of the International Union of Superiors General; Sr. Lorraine Marie Delaney, Superior General of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambéry; Sr. Adele Brambilla, Superior General of the Cambonians; Señora Dora Castenetto, President of the World Conference of Secular Institutes; and Bro. Álvaro Rodriguez Echeverría, Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian School and President of the Union of Superiors General. "Starting Afresh From Christ: A renewed commitment of the consecrated life in the third millennium" accents the importance of a spiritual life that sustains living the evangelical counsels based on a Trinitarian model.
In conjunction with an exhibition featuring early designs made by Marcel Breuer (1902-81) for his acclaimed Saint John's Abbey Church, the Breuer Architectural Symposium, 20-23 June 2002, is the capstone event of a year-long celebration of the Hungarian architect in Collegeville, Minnesota. Reservations for all or part of the three-day event are still being accepted. For more information, see the News Release or send an e-mail to <MBreuer@csbsju.edu> or phone Stacy at (320) 363-2247 or -2562.
The June 2002 issue of the American Monastic Newsletter has been mailed to members of the American Benedictine Academy and is also available online. The issue includes the revised schedule for the ABA Convention 2002 in Bismarck, ND, 8-11 August 2002. The theme of the convention is "Monastics and Mentoring: refounding the tradition."
Murder-Suicide at Conception Abbey
The St. Joseph News-Press reports the mid-morning shootings at Conception Abbey located in rural Missouri on Monday, 10 June. Three persons, including two monks, were killed by gunfire. Both monks had been at the Abbey for over 30 years. Abbot Gregory Polan OSB heard six shots from near the business office and phoned emergency services. The person who shot the monks, Lloyd Robert Jeffress, 71, lived in a seniors' housing complex in Kearney, MO, and was unknown to the Abbot and the monks. He was found dead in the Basilica with two weapons, "a replica AK-47 assault rifle and a Ruger .22-caliber rifle," according to Ben Espey, the county sheriff. The assailant died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Two other monks were also injured and rushed to local hospitals.
The victims were identified as Fr. Philip Schuster OSB, 84, and Bro. Damian Larsen OSB, 62. Schuster was the porter at the monastery's front door; Larsen worked as a groundskeeper. Prior Kenneth Reichert OSB, 68, was shot in the stomach, but he refused surgery on doctors' advice. Fr. Norbert Schappler OSB, 76, was listed in stable condition; it wasn't immediately clear how he was wounded. Schappler oversees the dining room and works as art director at the printing house.
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was rededicated at 7:00 A.M. on Wednesday, 12 June 2002. The family and friends of the deceased gathered with the monks on Thursday evening, 13 June, at 7:00 P.M. for the service of Vespers. They celebrated the Liturgy of Christian Burial on Friday, 14 June, at 11:00 A.M. Fr. Albert Bruecken OSB, Director of Vocations, wrote an inspiring eulogy for the two deceased monks.
"Queen of the Catacombs"
The Benedictines of Priscilla announce the development of a multi-lingual website <www.catacombedipriscilla.com> with information about their monastery that houses a modern entrance to the Catacomb of Priscilla, burial place for 7 early Popes and many martyrs. The well-preserved early Christian art of the catacomb inspires many of the designs for the liturgical vestments that the sisters create. "The Sisters make Christ the center of their life with a daily schedule organized around the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina and personal prayer."
Schwester Aquinata Böckmann OSB ended the academic year at Sant'Anselmo by expanding and updating her "Bibliography for Students of the Rule of Saint Benedict." A search engine retrieves data from the text of the Rule and the Bibliography. The citations for individual chapters of the Rule have been slightly reorganized, the number of terms has been increased and new themes have been added. Sr. Aquinata spoke during the 50th anniversary Monastic Symposium about the growth of Oblates and their families incorporating Benedictine practices and principles into their lives as lay persons.
Merton's Poetic Pal
Robert Lax was Thomas Merton OCSO's closest friend. Until his death in 2000 at 84, he lived for 35 years as a hermit on the Greek islands of Kalymnos and Patmos. Steve T. Georgiou visited him and recorded a series of conversations with the American poet and mystic. The Way of the Dreamcatcher - Soul Lessons with Robert Lax: Poet, Peacemaker, Sage (ISBN: 2-89507-244-2) will be published by Novalis, Canada. Novalis is the official publisher for the 17th World Youth Day, 22-29 July 2002 in Toronto.
The Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Norfolk, Nebraska, announce a website for Immaculata Monastery: <www.norfolkosb.org/>. The easily accessible Norfolk Priory website provides information about Home Missions, Oblates, Overseas Missionaries, Daily Life and Vocations among other topics.
On Friday, 24 May, the Vatican announced that the Pope had responded to a request from Archbishop Rembert Weakland OSB by accepting the resignation he had submitted on 2 April. The Archbishop of Milwaukee, former Abbot Primate (1967-77), is the focus of media attention concerning an allegation of sexual misconduct with a 33-year-old man in 1979 and the payment of $450,000 to his accuser in 1998. Dom Rembert spoke a televised public apology on Friday evening, 31 May.
From 28 May until 1 June, the Monastic Institute of the Pontifical Athanæum of Saint Anselm, Rome, will host a symposium devoted to "Classic Texts and Themes of the Christian Monastic Tradition." The international gathering celebrates the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Monastic Institute by Dom Bernard Kaelin OSB, Abbot Primate III, 1947-62. Participants of the symposium were heartened by the message sent by the Holy Father.
New Benedictine Saint
On Pentecost Sunday at the Vatican the Holy Father will canonize five new saints. One of the two women is Benedetta Cambiagio Frassinello (1791-1858). She founded the Benedictine Sisters of Providence. Born in Italy, after two years of married life, she, together with her husband, took a vow of chastity before the bishop. The Congregation Bl. Benedetta founded was devoted to the education of young women.
Dom Bernard Lorent OSB, 41, elected 18th abbot by the monks of Maredsous on 16 April, will receive the abbatial blessing on 17 May.
+ Ade Bethune, Artist
On May 1, 2002, Marie Adélaïde de Bethune died in Newport, Rhode Island. Ade, as she way known by all, was born in Belgium in 1914 and emigrated to the United States at the age of fourteen. An early collaborator of Dorothy Day, Ade studied liturgy under Gerald Ellard, S.J. and her unique blend of liturgy and social justice became an influential force in the development of the art and architecture in the U.S. liturgical movement.
An active participant in every Liturgical Week since 1940, Ade shepherded the construction or renovation of scores of churches, founded the quarterly review Sacred Signs (1959-82), directed the Terra Sancta Guild, and contributed to innumerable books and periodicals. Ade designed commemorative medals for the 1500th celebration of the birth of St. Benedict in 1980.
In 1998 she received the FDLC's Monsignor Frederick R. McManus Award for her outstanding contributions to pastoral liturgy. Her collected works are housed in the Ade Bethune Collection of Saint Catherine College Library in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Dorothy Day once wrote of Ade: "Whenever I visited her I came away with a renewed zest for life. She has such a sense of the sacramentality of life, the goodness of things, a sense that is translated in all her works whether it was illustrating a missal, making stained-glass windows or sewing, cooking or gardening" (Dorothy Day. The Long Loneliness, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952. p.190-1) [BCL Newsletter, August 2002].
On 4 April 2002, the Congregation for Divine Worship granted permission to make 3 October an optional memorial of Blessed Columba Marmion OSB, Abbot, in the calendars of the Benedictine Confederation.
Abbot Primate Notker Wolf OSB spoke about "Monasticism and Peace" on 3 May 2002 to the convention of monastic interreligious dialogue pondering the value and import of the "Assisi Prayer for Peace, 2002."
"Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem!" (Ps. 22:6)
The President of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, Dom Amédée Grab OSB (ex Einsiedeln), spoke at a Symposium in Rome a Benedictine's message of peace for the Mid-East. The Bishop of Chur extended European compassion to Catholics in Russia.
Dom Rembert's Retirement
On 21 April, Good Shepherd and Vocation Sunday, Dom Rembert Weakland OSB, Archbishop of Milwaukee, 75, celebrated his retirement with a large flock. He spoke a farewell concluding the Mass in the renovated cathedral. A slide show highlights the retirement service.
St. Gertrude's Convent <www.ridgelybenedictines.org/> on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is home to 35 Benedictine women of the Federation of Saint Scholastica. Founded in 1887 from Newark, NJ, the community's first work at Ridgely was the education of young women. The Academy, however, was closed in 1959 in favor of an apostolate of care for the mentally challenged. In 1983 the sisters established St. Martin's Ministies as a way to help hungry and homeless victims of a distressed local economy.
The Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Bulletin, Nr. 68, is available online. The Board announces publication of Benedict's Dharma: Buddhists Reflect on the Rule of Saint Benedict (Riverhead, 2001). Coincident to the publication was the conference on the same topic at Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, Indiana, 21-23 September 2001. Among other features and book reviews is an article by Sr. Margaret Mary Funk OSB, "Islam in America." The printed version includes as a supplement the 24-page English version of the International Edition, DIM E.12.
Abbot John Klassen OSB responded to the current scandal of sexual abuse by clergy and religious by releasing a "Letter to Friends and Constituents" that acknowledges for the first time instances of abuse within Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minn. Citing the culture and practice of secrecy that have increased the pain and torment of victims, the Abbot expressed his commitment to respond promptly and compassionately to any allegation of abuse lodged by anyone against a member of the monastic community.
The Independent Catholic News reports from London about the decision made by the nuns of Stanbrook to leave the monastery in Worcester for an, as yet, undisclosed location. Abbess Joanna Jamieson OSB cites the community's need to make the best use of its resources, human and financial. Founded 1683 in Flanders under the auspices of the English Benedictine Congregation, the cloistered nuns have been at Callow End since 1838.
"We thank God for all we have received in this place, and trust that, faithful to the past, we may be responsive to the graces of the future. A new phase in our history is opening. Confident in the role of our monastic life in the Church of today, we face the future in hope."
BBC News profiled the Stanbrook community in "Sisters Face Uncertain Future" (10 August 2000). Ruth Gledhill in a highly inaccurate article for The Times Online (16 April 2002) attributes falling recruitment as the reason for the sale of the Abbey. Today the community consists of 10 people aged 30-49, 12 people aged 50-69, and only 8 people aged 70 or over.
The Canterbury Way
On the Feast of St. Scholastica, 11 February 2002, The Canterbury Way at Grace Cathedral (Episcopal), San Francisco, marked its 200th meeting. The Rev. Mark E. Stanger, Canon Precentor and Associate Pastor of Grace Cathedral, explains that "The Canterbury Way, an Anglican lay movement embracing Benedictine-inspired prayer and community experience, was begun in the 1970's by Esther de Waal, wife of the former Dean of Canterbury Cathedral." In 1996 Esther de Waal was elected a Companion of the Order of the Holy Cross, an Anglican Benedictine monastic community. The Grace Cathedral group meets three times monthly and has served as an ecumenical and interfaith door to urban seekers after the riches of Benedictine spirituality.
The article mentioned in the next item records that the Trappist monks of Conyers are reading in their refectory John Kiser's engrossing book, The Monks of Tibhirine. Abbot Basil Pennington OCSO reviewed the book for America magazine 186:12 (8 April 2002). The title is also featured in The Reading Room of the Friends of St. Benedict. Bro. Patrick Hart OCSO, Thomas Merton's biographer, reviews it for Cistercian Studies Quarterly 37:1 (2002), and Andrew J. Bacevich discusses it in Richard J. Neuhaus's First Things 122 (April 2002).
A Day in the Life...
A special section of the Georgia Bulletin (28 March 2002) follows the daily schedule of the monks at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Abbey in Conyers. Abbot M. Basil Pennington OCSO invited Deacon Michael Balfour of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and photographer Michael Alexander to accompany the monks throughout the cycle of prayer, work and reading that defines the monastic day. They arrange their article, "A Life Lived Apart...," according to the liturgical hours from Vigils at 4:00 AM to Compline and Benediction at 8:00 PM.
Writing from Sacred Heart Monastery, Richardton, ND, Sr. Jill Maria Murdy OSB announces that the latest issue of the Benedictine Witness Newsletter (April 2002) is now avalable online.
Italian Abbots Convene
Abbot Primate Notker Wolf OSB addressed the Benedictine abbots of Italy who met after Easter at the Sylvesterine Monastery of Saint Vincent in Bassano Romano, north of Rome. The monks of San Vincenzo are among the most active using the Internet to broadcast radio programs, provide information about the weekly liturgy and offer homilies and sermons. The monks designed an experimental website with offerings for reception by cellular phones or other handheld devices.
The websites for the Camaldolese Benedictines in Italy have moved to a new location. The current address is <www.camaldoli.it/>. Versions of the website in languages other than Italian are being prepared and some of the sections in Italian are still being renovated.
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