"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Thursday, 10 July 2014

JULY 11th FEAST OF ST BENEDICT OF (by the late Abbot Primate, Dom Jerome Theisen OSB)

On the occasion of the dedication of the rebuilt monastery of Monte Cassino in 1964, Pope Paul VI proclaimed St. Benedict the principal, heavenly patron of the whole of Europe. The title piously exaggerates the place of Benedict but in many respects it is true. St. Benedict did not establish the monastery of Monte Cassino in order to preserve the learning of the ages, but in fact the monasteries that later followed his Rule were places where learning and manuscripts were preserved. For some six centuries or more the Christian culture of medieval Europe was nearly identical with the monastic centers of piety and learning.

Saint Benedict was not the founder of Christian monasticism, since he lived two and a half to three centuries after its beginnings in Egypt, Palestine, and Asia Minor. He became a monk as a young man and thereafter learned the tradition by associating with monks and reading the monastic literature. He was caught up in the monastic movement but ended by channeling the stream into new and fruitful ways. This is evident in the Rule which he wrote for monasteries and which was and is still used in many monasteries and convents around the world.

 [Ms. St. Benedict from Cleves Book of Hours, ca. 1440] Tradition teaches that St. Benedict lived from 480 to 547, though we cannot be sure that these dates are historically accurate. His biographer, St. Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, does not record the dates of his birth and death, though he refers to a Rule written by Benedict. Scholars debate the dating of the Rule though they seem to agree that it was written in the second third of the sixth century.

Saint Gregory wrote about St. Benedict in his Second Book of Dialogues, but his account of the life and miracles of Benedict cannot be regarded as a biography in the modern sense of the term. Gregory's purpose in writing Benedict's life was to edify and to inspire, not to seek out the particulars of his daily life. Gregory sought to show that saints of God, particularly St. Benedict, were still operative in the Christian Church in spite of all the political and religious chaos present in the realm. At the same time it would be inaccurate to claim that Gregory presented no facts about Benedict's life and works.

According to Gregory's Dialogues Benedict was born in Nursia, a village high in the mountains northeast of Rome. His parents sent him to Rome for classical studies but he found the life of the eternal city too degenerate for his tastes. Consequently he fled to a place southeast of Rome called Subiaco where he lived as a hermit for three years tended by the monk Romanus.

[St. Benedict at Vicovaro, Ms Grammont, ca. 1450]The hermit, Benedict, was then discovered by a group of monks who prevailed upon him to become their spiritual leader. His regime soon became too much for the lukewarm monks so they plotted to poison him. Gregory recounts the tale of Benedict's rescue; when he blessed the pitcher of poisoned wine, it broke into many pieces. Thereafter he left the undisciplined monks.

Benedict left the wayward monks and established twelve monasteries with twelve monks each in the area south of Rome. Later, perhaps in 529, he moved to Monte Cassino, about eighty miles southeast of Rome; there he destroyed the pagan temple dedicated to Apollo and built his premier monastery. It was there too that he wrote the Rule for the monastery of Monte Cassino though he envisioned that it could be used elsewhere.

The thirty-eight short chapters of the Second Book of Dialogues contain accounts of Benedict's life and miracles. Some chapters recount his ability to read other persons' minds; other chapters tell of his miraculous works, e.g., making water flow from rocks, sending a disciple to walk on the water, making oil continue to flow from a flask. The miracle stories echo the events of certain prophets of Israel as well as happenings in the life of Jesus. The message is clear: Benedict's holiness mirrors the saints and prophets of old and God has not abandoned his people; he continues to bless them with holy persons.

Benedict is viewed as a monastic leader, not a scholar. Still he probably read Latin rather well, an ability that gave him access to the works of Cassian and other monastic writings, both rules and sayings. The Rule is the sole known example of Benedict's writing, but it manifests his genius to crystallize the best of the monastic tradition and to pass it on to the European West.

Gregory presents Benedict as the model of a saint who flees temptation to pursue a life of attention to God. Through a balanced pattern of living and praying Benedict reached the point where he glimpsed the glory of God. Gregory recounts a vision that Benedict received toward the end of his life: In the dead of night he suddenly beheld a flood of light shining down from above more brilliant than the sun, and with it every trace of darkness cleared away. According to his own description, the whole world was gathered up before his eyes "in what appeared to be a single ray of light" (ch. 34). St. Benedict, the monk par excellence, led a monastic life that reached the vision of God.

Laeta Quies

Laeta quies [*dies] magni ducis,
Dona ferens novae lucis,
Hodie recolitur.

Caris datur piae menti,
Corde sonet in ardenti,
Quidquid foris promitur.

Hunc per callem orientis 
Admiremur ascendentis
Patriarchae speciem.

Amplum semen magnae prolis
Illum fecit instar solis
Abrahae persimilem.

Corvum cernis ministrantem,
Hinc Eliam latitantem
Specu nosce parvulo.

Elisaeus dignoscatur,
Cum securis revocatur
De torrentis alveo.

Illum Joseph candor morum, 
Illum Jacob futurorum
Mens effecit conscia.

Ipse memor suae gentis,
Nos perducat in manentis.
Semper Christi gaudia.

Amen. (T.P. Alleluia.)

Joyful rest [or *day] of our leader, that brings the gift of a new light, we commemorate you today.

Grace is given the loving soul, may our ardent heart be united to the songs of our lips.

By the radiant way going up to the east, let us admire our Father rising to heaven, equal to the patriarchs.

His innumerable posterity, figure of the sun, made him like to Abraham.

See the crow serving him and recognize hence Elias hiding in a little cave.

Recognize Eliseus, when he bids return the axe from beneath the current.

It is Joseph through his life without stain; 
it is Jacob bringing future things to mind.

May he be mindful of his people, and may he lead us till we behold with him the eternal joys of Christ.

-- "Supplement for the Order of Saint Benedict" (Saint Andrew Daily Missal, Brugge: Desclee de Brouwer & Co., 1957, p. 21-22).

*Laeta dies, if the feast is transferred to another date and on 11 July.

This site will grow as the day progresses.
Happy Feastday to all disciples of St Benedict

icon by a monk of Pachacamac

About Us

Western Monasticism by Jordan Aumann O.P.

 BENEDICTINE SPIRITUALITY by Abbot Jacques Winandy of Clervaux







The photos are of First Vespers and Conventual Mass on St Benedict's Day in Pachacamac monastery, the latter being celebrated by Mgr Carlos Garcia, the local bishop.

 Here is a letter from our abbot at Belmont Abbey in England together with a conference he have to Br Jose Luis, a novice of our monastery here in Pachacamac, as well, of course, to the rest of the Belmont community.

With every prayer and blessing
for the Feast of St Benedict
from all the brethren at Belmont

Second Perseverance of Br. José Luis Sánchez Espinoza, July 11th 2014
            Dear Br. José Luis, these words are directed to you as you make your Second Perseverance this evening. What a good day to do this, as we rely on the intercession of St Benedict to guide and support us in our monastic life. We know that you are a devoted student of Benedictine history and an avid reader of any book to do with any aspect of the monastic life. You probably know a great deal more than I do. For all of us, however, the great challenge, as you have come to realize, is how to translate what we read into what we do in our daily lives and, indeed, over the span of our allotted time in this world. Often the distance, perhaps at times the deep chasm, between theory and reality and between history and the present moment, can lead us to disillusionment, frustration, anger and despair. Now these feelings can be directed towards ourselves, at our personal failures and the way we give in so easily to temptation, laziness or lax living.  There are times when they are directed at our brethren and what St Benedict calls their “weaknesses of body and behavior.” I suggest that, at these moments of trial and uncertainty, you have recourse not only to prayer but also to the Rule of St Benedict.
There is so much wisdom and common sense in that “little rule for beginners.” Just look at what he tells the abbot. He is to ‘shepherd a restive and disobedient flock, always striving to cure their unhealthy ways,” - not a very encouraging description of a monastic community. If anything, St Benedict was a realist. He knew about men and about human nature. He also knew how difficult it is for us to persevere in a regular life of prayer and work, which is why the abbot is to “hate faults, but love the brethren.” He “is to distrust his own frailty and remember not to crush the bruised reed.” These faults he is to ”prune away with prudence and love as he sees best for each individual, striving to be loved rather than feared.” Discretion, the mother of virtues, is always to be his guideline, “so he must arrange everything so that the strong have something to yearn for and the weak nothing to run from.”
There, in a nutshell, lies one of the fundamental problems, though I would also call them riches, of the coenobitic life: we are all different and yet we can live together, pray together and seek God together in harmony, peace and fraternal love. As you can experience here at Belmont, more than in a small Monastery like the Incarnation, there is a great variety of personalities among the brethren, many different works we can do and even a fair number of different life-styles. In that respect, a monastic community is a bit like a rugby team: there is a position for every kind of shape, size and talent. The important thing is that we pull together in compact formation and aim, by means of obedience and humility, to reach the goal of fraternal charity, that “perfect love which casts out all fear” and, without which, we cannot come to the vision of God and see him face to face. We do not choose our brethren: it is God himself who chooses them for us. It is he and no other who has called us to this life and placed us together in this community, so that we might help one another grow in virtue and holiness through patience and long-suffering as well as through prayer, lectio and contemplation. We learn to listen to God speaking to our hearts through our brethren. We learn to seek and find Christ in them, as they will come to see him and serve him in us. So, in a monastery, we have to get on with others and learn to love them, even those who, in other circumstances, we would dislike or even hate.
Another aspect of the monastic life we all find difficult, not only at the start but to the very end, is that of giving up our own will, which in itself sounds wonderfully heroic and Christ-like, and having to do what we are told. Of course, today this doing what we’re told is somewhat mitigated by the consideration an abbot or prior gives to those facing change and the fact that their opinions are sought and their preferences and abilities taken into consideration. However, in the end, we are not masters of our own destiny nor are we free to do what we want. Unlike in Protestant churches, we do not apply for positions or go for the job we fancy most. Oh yes, we can dream about our likes and dislikes, but in the end we have to knuckle under and do what is best for the community and, indeed, for the Church. As a novice, this is usually little more than being given some unpleasant manual work to do or yet another essay on some topic we find less than interesting, but when you are older in the habit and, possibly, a priest, though there is no obligation nowadays for that, you might be asked to move from one post to another or from one parish to another. You will be asked politely, but expected to accept. In old age, you could be told to stop driving or to retire from a job you love and find fulfilling. In every circumstance, we pray for the grace to conform to Christ our Lord and his sacrifice on the Cross. Jesus did his Father’s will. “Not my will but yours be done, O Lord.”
Remember what we read in Ch. 68 of the Rule. “A brother may be assigned a burdensome task or something he cannot do. If so, he should, with gentleness and obedience, accept the order given him.” St Benedict does offer the opportunity for some discussion on the matter, but if the superior still insists, then the brother “must recognize that this is best for him. Trusting in God’s help, he must in love obey.” In the words of Jesus, “To God all things are possible.” And in the words of St Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” You need faith to be a monk and a Christian.
These, then, are two fundamental aspects of our life that show clearly whether we are truly seeking God or not, love and obedience, both offered to God through our brethren and superiors in a total self-emptying and surrendering that not only reflect the truth of Christ in his Incarnation but flow freely from a life lived fully in Him. Our prayer for you tonight, dear José Luis, as it is for ourselves, is that we may all grow in total commitment to Christ in the monastic life and so grow in holiness according to the will of the Father, the loving mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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