MONASTIC CHARISM - Heirs and Players
Fr Martin Neyt OSB, President of AIM
‘Only through time, crises and difficulties can a monk in community come into being. The testing in a monastery lasts a lifetime. It is a task of a magician’, so wrote P. Jean-Pierre Longeat, OSB, commenting on the monastic charism in the life of monks. This Bulletin, devoted to new foundations, to the life of communities, to the jubilees which punctuate their history, takes its place in the dynamic of monastic life and highlights its charms, its relationships, its struggles.
We will never get to the end of discovering the hidden life of those who mysteriously bear in their prayer and their work the presence of Him who renews all things by his love and the hope which his message brings to us. After so many centuries of waiting we here present Blessed Bernard Tolomei OSB (1272-1348), the founder of the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation. Mother Françoise, Abbess of Notre-Dame Saint-Eustase contributes her personal witness. The worldwide Friends of the Monasteries (AMTM) have just celebrated in France in the presence of 200 people at the Collège des Bernardins 40 years of devoted service to the AIM. This provides an occasion to give thanks to God and to thank the members of AMTM and their president Mr Bernard de Mas Latrie for their boundless devotion and their concern to join the AIM in furthering the development of monastic communities. Two papers were presented on that memorable afternoon, as well as the witness of the students of Paris (three nuns from Brazil and Africa and a Vietnamese monk). The monastic charism was seen there in word and deed through these witnesses from communities geographically distant but at the same time very close to us.
The life which Br Thomas of Pluscarden experienced in the monastery of Thiên Phuóc is full of down-to-earth flavour, and develops a new dimension of belonging and of communion.
Still on the subject of monastic identity, an ecumenical dialogue at Bose in Italy was devoted to the spiritual combat. Enzo Bianchi, Prior of the community, in his opening address described the interior time and place which characterise the spiritual combat, emanating from their central organ, the heart. For her part, Sister Laurentia OSB of the abbey of Stanbrook returned to the origins and retraced the journey of St Benedict who lived the celibate life ‘for God alone’.
At the beginning of the year we should mention new communities. The last two years have seen the foundation of seven new communities, in Brazil, the Congo, Cuba, Norway, Kenya, New Zealand and Syria. The opening of northern lands to monasticism continues. Cuba has accepted the presence of this international community composed of several African monks from Togo. The foundation at Aleppo in Syria responds to the Cistercian desire to set up a presence in the midst of Islam. These new experiences witness to the amazing vitality of the monastic charism and the discovery of new territories.
As always at the beginning of a new year, the Bulletin gives news of monasteries around the world. These are often derived from reports which we receive, and several monasteries have told us how valuable our reports are as sources of information, of improved knowledge and of fraternal communion. On the occasion of the more recent meeting of the Council of the AIM, which took place at the Benedictine monastery of Erie in the USA, a paper laid out the origin of seven American communities of nuns and eight communities of monks. The latter originated in Europe.
Heirs and players of the monastic charism, Benedictine monks and nuns have several jubilees to celebrate, signs of a charism which has survived the test of time. I would like to mention four important occasions:
• Abbot Philippe Dupont OSB solemnly opened a jubilee year on the occasion of the dedication of the abbey church of Solesmes. The monastery is celebrating one thousand years of prayer rising from the walls of the church founded by Geoffroy de Sable. The date of 2010 coincides with the eleventh centenary of Cluny, founded in 909 or 910, of which Solesmes is the heir by liturgical prayer and works of mercy.
• Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki OSB and the monks of the Abbey of St Vincent in USA celebrated with the Abbot Primate and many guests the jubilee of the second centenary of the birth of their founder Boniface Wimmer OSB (1809-1887). It is the oldest Benedictine monastery in the USA, having been founded in Pennsylvania in 1846. Besides its presence in the College, the Major Seminary and several parishes in the USA, its influence stretches to two foundations, one in Brazil, the other in Taiwan.
• Mother Angela Ströbel, Prioress General, and the sisters of the Tutzing Congregation had an unusual celebration of the 125 years of their foundation. From humble beginnings their missionary congregation now numbers 1,400 sisters in 20 different countries.
• In their turn the missionary Benedictines of the Congregation of Saint-Ottilien celebrated one hundred years of presence in Korea and north-east China at the Abbey of Waegwan near Seoul. Their monastery had been completely destroyed by a fire on Good Friday 2007, and their new church had only just been opened. On 25th September 2009 Cardinal Nicolas Cheong Jin Suk presided at a pontifical Mass, surrounded by the whole Episcopal Conference of Korea, the Abbot Primate, the Synod of Abbots President, as well as representatives of all the monasteries of the Congregation of Saint-Ottilien.
AIM is glad to join in prayer these festive celebrations which crown many years of spiritual combat in achieving their aims, a long adventure of individuals, communities and cultures. The monastery of Morne Saint Benoit witnessed the terrible earthquake which destroyed a great part of Haiti. Faced with this drama so close to their monastery, the monks arranged to welcome displaced children and adults. AIM also played its modest part in response to this immense human catastrophe.
We have been sad to hear of the death of Sr Teresa Rodrigues OSB of the Abbey of Stanbrook, who consecrated several years of her life to the service of monasteries and of AIM. May the Lord Jesus receive into his light and peace this faithful nun, wholly consecrated to God and to the service of the communities.