Sister Nathanaelle Lefoulon, OSB
Monastery of Martigné-Briand (France)

France – Ecological monasteries

In February 2017 an unusual and unexpected invitation was issued by the Abbey of Maylis to a dozen monasteries. To be more precise, the invitation was issued to one monastery, which invited another, which invited another, and so on. Olivetans, Benedictines, Cistercians, Orthodox nuns and all – we found ourselves in the permaculture farm of Bec-Hellouin for a three-day session on integral ecology. Several laypeople joined us, eager to help the monasteries in the movement.

It was a time of rich and valuable encounter around Elena Lasida, professor of economics, Brother Dominique Lang (Assumptionist), Hervé Covez (Franciscan and agronomist) and of course Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer, the owners of the farm. The subject of our discussions was how to live and deploy ecological questions in our lives, our communities, our activities, profiting from the example of Charles and Perrine and the encyclical Laudato Si’.

We started, starry-eyed and full of enthusiasm, with a question: how could our communities be in their own way ‘Laboratories of integral ecology’? Could not our monasteries, where life was so well-integrated and unified, become ‘archetypes of shared houses’ showing the world how this could be lived on a bigger scale’? The difficulty was to know how to follow up this fine enthusiasm and this fine intuition.

At this point Simon, a student of Elena Lasida in solid and social economy, and planning to write her thesis on how monasteries were receiving the encyclical of Pope Francis and live this dimension of integrated ecology, suggested visiting sixteen monasteries or new communities of all confessions. Thus it was that between April and July 2018 Simon, always accompanied by a brother or sister of the community being visited, went off with this brother or sister to the community being studied. In the course of these ‘visitations’ creativity and enthusiasm, gratitude and communion and government – these great themes of Laudato Si’ – were studied in the four relationships of the human person as defined by the encyclical: relationship to oneself, to others, to nature and to God.

All this work gave opportunity for a very beautiful meeting centred on Simon and Elena Lasida at the Carmel of Peace at Mazille on the 21st to 25th January, 2019. The brother or sister who had accompanied Simon and the superior of each community visited were also present.

In the course of these study-days three balances were put alongside the monastic vows:

• Singular/collective: the vow of obedience

• Free /useful: the vow of conversion

• Interior / exterior: the vow of stability.

EglisevertelogoFrom this starting-point the group at Mazille took the name ‘the Laudato Si’ community’, and the idea of an ecodiagnostic dedicated to the monasteries was born. Thanks to Elena Lasida, two sisters and a brother of the Laudato Si’ Communities (the Abbey of Landevennec, the community of the Chemin Neuf and the monastery of Martigné-Briand) met up with two Dominican sisters of Chalais and Estavayer. who had already embarked on a similar project. The adventure of the ‘green Church’ was on its way!

Almost two years of work have been necessary to achieve this diagnostic, and from 31st May to 31st July the ‘Communion Laudato Si’ ’ and the new communities accepted to try it out before definitively putting the ‘green Church’ community into practice on the ground. Up to the present the working-party, which has co-opted a deaconess of Reuilly, meets regularly by Zoom to correct, modify, and integrate the comments which have been gathered in from the testing period. We are hoping for a definitive foundation of the ‘green Church’ on the ground around April of next year.