"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 30 July 2009

Br Juan Edgar's Profession: Abbot's Conference at the Blessing of the Cowl, July 29th

Br Juan Edgar and me at Belmont.

BR juan Edgar is kneeling, second from the left, in this old photo of the community as it was before we left Piura. It has shrunk since. The abbot and the abbot president of the English Benedictine Congregation are alo in the photo.

Conference 29th July

Dear Br Juan, tomorrow you will make your Temporary Profession during Conventual Mass. Your brethren in Peru and the Community here at Belmont are filled with joy as we share with you in this act of faith in God’s mercy and love. For surely a monastic profession is an act of faith, in which we publicly declare our trust in God’s merciful love towards us, his sinful and unworthy children. We trust in God and in the grace monastic profession bestows on us, because we know that it is He who has called us to the monastic life and specifically to be monks of Belmont and of the Incarnation. No monastic community can come into being and survive without God’s help and no man can come to a monastery and persevere in his vows unless it be God’s will and unless he rely entirely on God’s grace and the help of his brethren.

Part of this Preliminary Rite involves the blessing of the cowl. Now your own cowl awaits you at Pachacamac and it’s so cold and damp there at the moment that you will need it! So tomorrow you will receive a borrowed cowl. Cowls are such expensive items of monastic clothing that normally the cowl of our profession is the cowl we will wear until we die. Cowls are often inherited from a monk who has died and we will probably leave our cowls to those who come after us. That in itself is a sobering thought and a sign of perseverance.

There are two prayers, which the Abbot has to choose from, for the blessing of a cowl. The first speaks of it as a sign of a monk’s renunciation of the world and of his innocence and humility. The second sees it as a symbol of the Incarnation, by which God clothed himself in human flesh in the womb of our Blessed Lady, the very flesh that was raised from the dead, transfigured and glorified at the Resurrection. These are indeed powerful images for a humble, black garment, which we normally snuggle into as we sing the Divine Office on a cold, dark winter’s morning or wear to accompany a dead brother to his last resting place on a bleak, stormy afternoon.

As you prepare, then, to make your profession tomorrow morning, let us take a close look at these ideas. The first prayer reminds us of our mortality. On Ash Wednesday we are told, “Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust shalt thou return.” St Benedict tells us that a monk’s life should always be Lenten in character. Now the monastic life forces us to see and to accept that we are frail sinners who are pretty much helpless without the help of God and that our only hope lies in his loving mercy and forgiveness. It’s not easy to come to terms with being a sinner and it takes real humility to confess our sins over and over and over again. A monk’s greatest enemy is pride and it’s easy to be proud. Our salvation lies in climbing up the rungs of the ladder of humility. Only at the top will we discover and experience that perfect love which casts out all fear.

Some advice, then, for what it’s worth. Go to confession frequently and don’t let your sins accumulate. There’s nothing more disheartening, no burden heavier to bear than the weight of our own sins. So don’t hang on to them, but confess them regularly, handing them over to God. Just as he did with the publican in the temple, the Lord looks at our humility and not at any false perfection we might think we have. Each time we go to confession, we recover our innocence and the beauty of God’s image and likeness. That really is a cause for great joy, even if it doesn’t last very long! So the cowl reminds us: you are mortal, you are sinful, but ask for forgiveness and life is yours.

St Benedict also tells us that the goal of our Lenten observance is the joy of Easter and that the goal of our monastic life, the fruit of perseverance, is the glory of eternal life. It is towards the glory of the Kingdom that we run with a joyful heart as we do our best to fulfil our vows in the monastery until death. Now you, Juan, have a naturally happy disposition. What a gift of God that is and a gift not only for yourself but for your community as well. It is a joy that springs from faith and from forgiveness. As you progress each day in the monastic life and grow in virtue, may that joy come to be more and more spiritual, the fruit of prayer and the fruit of suffering, in other words, that patience St Benedict speaks about in the Prologue which is a sharing in the passion of Christ so as to share in the glory of his Resurrection. So the cowl must become for you a sign of joy and a sign of your assimilation into the Body of Christ, of which the monastery is but a cell, a sign of your intimate union with God.

Another word of advice. It’s an ancient monastic tradition to kiss the habit as you put it on each morning and to kiss the cowl as you prepare for Divine Office or for Mass. That kiss can become the kiss of Judas, so beware! Let it be for you a kiss of love, of reverence and of peace, a kiss that says, “Lord, I am yours.” May that kiss remind you that it’s not the habit that makes the monk, but rather the monk, through his personal and God-given holiness, who makes the habit.

Dear Br Juan, we, your brethren and your community, wish you God’s blessing on the eve of your Profession and a lifetime of God-given joy among us in the monastic life. Amen.

The Abbot's Homily at the Simple Profession of Br Juan Edgar

Br Juan Edgar’s First Profession

Dear Br Juan Edgar, all of us are gathered here this morning for your First Profession. We had hoped to be back in the abbey church by now, but, as you have seen, British workers are a wee bit slower than their Peruvian counterparts: they knock off by four in the afternoon and don’t appear on Saturdays. So things take a long time and cost far too much.

Even so, the monastic refectory isn’t a bad place for you to make your Profession. At least it brings home to us the important fact that monastic vows refer to the whole of one’s life and that no aspect of our lives can be excluded from the vows we make the day of our profession. Now traditionally in monastic architecture, the refectory is the reflection of the church: we sit in the same order as in choir, we even take our meals in a liturgical way, prayer and reading being the main condiments of the food we eat.

In professing monastic vows, the vows St Benedict describes in the Holy Rule, we commit our whole life to Christ in a specific monastic community. St Benedict tells us that from the day of our profession, not even our body is our own. We give everything away and our whole being belongs to God and to the community of brothers among whom we work and pray as we strive ahead towards the heavenly Kingdom, our hearts overflowing with love and joy. Monks are chaste but not really celibate: we are not single like hermits but live in community.

St Benedict uses many images for a monastery, mostly taken from the Bible, in his “little rule for beginners”. It is a School for the Lord’s Service, the word school being used both in the sense of a place of learning and in the sense of a team of players or singers. Using the powerful arms of obedience we are like soldiers setting out for war and battling against the forces of evil: the monastery is like an army. Some monasteries, though not Belmont, even look like an army barracks. In that the Abbot is called to be the shepherd of his flock, the monastery is like a farm. All abbots should keep border collies! St Benedict tells him that he has been given the care of weak and sickly men, of men who are sinners like himself, so a monastery is also like a hospital where the infirm are healed. He is also given Christ’s name, Abba, and holds the place of Christ in the Community, so the monastic community is like a family. In this we reflect the early Church in Jerusalem and the very first Christian community. The key word in the Rule is coenobitic. We are that strong kind of monk, coenobites, who live under a Rule and an Abbot and who follow the Gospel as guide and teacher.

One of the biblical images St Benedict does not use to describe his monastery is the one found in today’s Gospel, a net. “The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.” That’s a good way of describing a monastic community, for the Abbot, taking the place of Christ, is also a fisher of men. Some fish are easily caught, others less so and some just slip away: not even a strong net can hang on to them. But we monks are also fish of every kind, no two of us are the same, we don’t always get on, at times we tend to flap around a bit, and yet each one of us has been caught by Christ and it is his will that we should live in community and together come to be part of his Body, which is the Church. The Belmont Community is rich in fish of every kind and your presence among us makes the catch even richer.

A monastery, then, is an image, an icon, of the Church or, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, a domestic Church. As monks we are aware that it is Christ who has called us to the monastic life, Christ who called us to be monks of Belmont and only Christ who can make us what he truly wants us to be. So, Br Juan Edgar, as you take your First Vows today, we pray that, in the depths of your heart, you will always be open to the saving work of Christ, the true Opus Dei. We pray that you will always allow the Holy Spirit to form and transform you and that you, together with all your brethren, will one day come rejoicing to our heavenly home, whither we run together, placing all our hope and trust in God. As we go forward with our eyes ever fixed upon Jesus, may we all find true happiness and fulfilment on the journey, the pilgrimage we make together as monks of Belmont and the Incarnation. May we remain faithful to our calling and so, our hearts filled with gratitude and enthusiasm, keep firmly to the way that God has chosen for us and that St Benedict writes about so eloquently in the Holy Rule.

We also pray for your parents and all the members of your family. May they come to appreciate the beauty of your life and vocation and may you support them always with your prayers. Amen

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Maronite Monasticism: the life of Father Hardini

The Maronite Monastic Tradition is very old, very traditional, and, because of its links with western Catholicism while retaining its Eastern roots, it has much to teach us.



Monday 27 July 2009

Photos taken at the solemn pontifical Mass on St Benedict's Day at our Monastery.

The beginning of the Mass on St Benedict's Day, celebrated by the Bishop of Lurin

Bishop Jose Luis Guruchaga, a Salesian and retired Bishop of Lurin, who is our confessor.

The congregation: many were outside in the rain.

Bishop Carlos of Lurin at the consecration of the Mass.

The doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, "Through him, with him in him etc.

The procession from the altar

Bishop Carlos of Lurin. The religious sisters have a an orphanage, and you can also see some of the children. There are eighteen childrens homes in the diocese run by the Church, and a good number of other homes as well.

Bishop Jose Ramon, retired Bishop of Lurin, leaving the chapel.

Bishop Guruchunga, with the support of Br Percy, leaving the chapel after Mass.

Sister Jennifer and eight year old Michael of the Cenacle, after Mass

Fr Luis is the very first Peruvian to make his Solemn Vows as a monk on Peruvian soil since the Conquest.

Pablo (St Martin de Porres), photographer from Paxtv, enjoying a joke with Bishop Carlos.

Bros Mario and Alex with Don Cesar who is a writer and has a programme on Paxtv.

Me with a group of children being looked after by the "Cenacle" who have a house in Kendal (UK). Here they look after abandoned children.

Saturday 11 July 2009

Commemorating the Feast of St. Benedict of Nursia

TORONTO, JULY 10, 2009 (Zenit.org).- To commemorate the memorial of St. Benedict of Nursia on Saturday, we present this interview by Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the chief executive officer of Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Canada, with the Archabbot of Monte Cassino, Benedictine Father Pietro Vittorelli.

The interview took place during the abbot's recent visit to Canada and aired on the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Canada

Father Rosica: Abbot Pietro Vitorelli, you are Father Abbot of an abbey that is famous around the world -- Monte Cassino. When one thinks of Monte Cassino, one think of the Great War, of the battle of Monte Cassino and the long, rich history of this abbey. You are a very young Father Abbot, how is this possible?

Archabbot Pietro: Well, when the need arises to elect a new abbot, the Holy Spirit is invoked and the brothers decide, autonomously, according to what the what needs of community are at that time. Then there is the need to respond to another vocation. Saying "yes" after an election is a vocation within a vocation.

I was born in Rome. I met the Benedictines because my family comes from the land of St. Benedict, which is the area around the Abbey of Monte Cassino. This little town is called San Vittorio del Lazio. That's where my grandparents were born and in the summers I would often go visit them in the town. My great-grandmother spoke to me often about the Abbey of Monte Cassino because in southern Italy there's a saying that goes, "Whoever doesn't see Monte Cassino, doesn't believe in Paradise." I never would have thought that one day I'd be in that paradise that is Monte Cassino

Father Rosica: You saw and you also believed! Let's go back to rediscover the appeal of St. Benedict. Ever since April 19, 2005, Benedict is a well-known name. The Holy Father explained the influence that St. Benedict had on his life. Who was Benedict of Nursia?

Archabbot: In his Second Book of Dialogues, St. Gregory the Great tells us about Benedict of Nursia who knew even as a young man, the attraction of a calling. After completing his studies in Rome as was common in the sixth century, Benedict moves towards answering his calling as a hermit. First he goes to the grotto of Subiaco, close to Rome, then wanting to bring to fruition his vision of a monastic life that still needed to be fleshed out, he moves to Cassino and at Monte Cassino. There he finds an ancient Roman building that became the first monastery. There he gives life to a great adventure, the Benedictine Family, writing a short rule for novices that consists of 73 chapters and he calls it the "Regula Monacorum" or the Rule for Monks.

Father Rosica: Benedict constructed the first monastery in 529, if I've read my history correctly, and from that moment to the present day that monastery has had several reincarnations. It's had a very interesting history. Talk to us a little bit about the principle of "Ora et Labora" (Prayer and Work), in the Benedictine life. Talk to us about this motto of Benedictine life.

Archabbot: It's a winning motto, I would say, especially in these times. The younger generations tend to underline whatever is extraordinary, exceptional, outside the normal experience. In the sixth century Benedict was already saying, and continues to say, that what's important is the ordinary, the daily, the normal.
today, whatever is normal is an exception. And we, in the normality of a life lived in prayer and work, reaffirm that Christ died and rose again to save humanity. This is, I think, what Benedict wanted to pass on to his monks as a unique way of living the Gospel, to give it flesh day after day. Monte Cassino is, in a way, the icon of all of this. It's an abbey with almost 1,500 years of history, the essence of its strength is summarized in a motto that reads "Succisa virecit;" that is, the plant that is cut is reborn again, like a great oak. Since 1529, Monte Cassino has been destroyed four times, but has always been rebuilt. The last time was in 1944 when it seemed impossible to rebuild.

Father Rosica: We could say that God truly wanted the existence of this nucleus of culture and religious life!

Archabbot: I think I can say yes. Today especially, with such a rich history behind it, especially because even today I see how an energy radiates from this place not just through the Italian territory, but around the world. Also because today the Benedictine confederation is present in all corners of the world with almost 370 monasteries around the world.

Father Rosica: Where in the Benedictine world are you seeing growth and where are you seeing, perhaps, a drop in vocations?

Archabbot: Well, just like the rest of the church, there is a drop in vocations in Europe and the West, while there's a great effervescence in the East and in South America where we're seeing many vocations, just like in Africa where we're seeing a new season of the Holy Spirit. There are some monasteries in old Europe, the big monasteries, are suffering from a lack of vocations, while in the Philippines and South America I can think of some monasteries that are not big enough for all the monks they have and we need to build new monasteries.

Father Rosica: What about at Monte Cassino? Are there vocations?

Archabbot: At this time we have vocations following the crisis of vocations that happened right after the Second Vatican Council when there was that great transformation in the way of thinking about and living the Church. Today, following a trend that started about ten years ago, there is a slow resurgence in our community at Monte Cassino and we have six young men in formation -- all Italians!

Their backgrounds are quite varied. Because Monte Cassino is known internationally, we attract vocations from all of Italy, but we also have a constantly growing cultural life and of these six young men four of them have university degrees from different parts of Italy, each with a different background. We have an engineer, an architect, one with a degree in literature, an accountant and a land surveyor.

Father Rosica: Another important component of your monastic life is the liturgy. You give great dignity to liturgy in the Benedictine world. Why is the liturgy and the care given to it so important?

Archabbot: Because the Benedictines treat the Lord as Lord. There is a place of honor given to the "opus Dei," as St. Benedict called it in his rule, the work of God, the first work of God is prayer. Benedictine monks have always given much attention to this primary aspect of their lives, which feeds everything else. The "labora" the work gets it strength and energy from the "ora," prayer and one cannot be separated from the other. This way even work becomes prayer itself, because it becomes part of that praying without ceasing, as St. Benedict says in the rule, that unceasing prayer of the heart that is so dear especially in the Eastern tradition and which St. Benedict proposed to his monks in the sixth century.

Father Rosica: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is not a stranger to your life or to your monastery because he has a special place in his life for the Benedictine rule. Tell me about your friendship with Cardinal Ratzinger.

Archabbot: I had the honor of assisting him during one of his longer visits to the monastery, when he stayed for about eight days while writing one of his books. That time he stayed quite awhile and I was able to be close to him for an extended period of time.

On April 19, 2005, Father Abbot gave us permission to watch the television -- we don't normally watch television -- and we were all gathered around the television when it was announced that Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected Pope and had chosen the name Benedict, there was an explosion of joy that the austerity of monasticism had never seen before: bells rang, people were making phone calls to get more details about the event. The joy was great. Very soon after we asked Pope Benedict XVI to come in pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Benedict, this time as Pope.

Father Rosica: Benedict XVI, has allowed the life and teachings of Benedict to permeate his life, his thought, his theology

Archabbot: I have been most impressed by Pope Ratzinger's ability to enter deeply into the Benedictine spirituality, even though he is not a Benedictine himself, and interpret it with modern eyes. This can be seen in an extraordinary way during his last apostolic voyage to France, at the Collège des Bernardins, where the Pope addressed the world of culture and gave a splendid speech on monastic spirituality.

Father Rosica: Father Abbot, you live at Monte Cassino, and in addition to being the Father Abbot you're also in a certain sense a bishop of the place. You’re not a bishop, but it is a territorial abbey, a diocese itself. You're dressed like a bishop, with the pectoral cross which is also used by a Father Abbot, you wear the mitre just like a bishop. What does it mean to be Father Abbot and pastor of this flock that is around you.

Archabbot: St. Benedict has always suggested that we proceed with evangelization of the territory. The Benedictines would found a small house, but around this house, which would slowly become a nucleus of interest because they would teach how to work the land, or they would teach plumbing techniques, or they would teach prayer, or how to read and write. All of this created a nucleus of interest that was filtered through the Gospel message, the message of Jesus Christ, and also the message of St. Benedict. This slowly created clusters; this is why many European cities have names that recall their monastic roots, like Monaco, but also many of the great cities in England, France, and even Italy.

Father Rosica: The territory of Monte Cassino includes Cassino.

Archabbot: Yes, there are 53 parishes, it's a small diocese that's all around the Abbey of Monte Cassino, and all the towns have a saint's name because they are all founded by monks, so we have San Vittore, Sant'Andrea, Sant'Elia, are all towns of our diocese.

Father Rosica: So the influence of the monastery extends into these towns and parishes, we can say it's a diocese with a Benedictine spirit. The monastic life today has many different forms and takes on many different incarnations, but it is still important to the heart of this world. The world is in difficulty in many regions and the monastic life, as is said in the theme of the monastery of the Grande Chartreuse, "the world turns and the cross remains." How do you see the world from inside the monastery? There are many difficulties in Italy when it comes to the practice of the faith, the crises in the Church, instead your life is prayer and work, and there is a calm and peace.

Archabbot: I think, just like Paul VI said in his famous speech for the reconsecration of the Basilica on Oct. 24, 1964, that modern man needs to stand before the Benedictine cloister once again to experience peace, silence and prayer. I always think of the monk as a missionary in reverse, in the sense that his mission is to give witness through a life lived in silence, in prayer, in calm and peace, so that whoever arrives at the monastery -- they generally arrive full of stress and tiredness, spiritual or psychological confusion -- can find an environment that lends itself to healing, to rest for the soul, and can return to the world recharged but also calm and above all full of God.

Father Rosica: You touched on something very important, because another part of Benedictine life is hospitality. Wherever I've been in the world, in France, in Italy, in South America, in many countries, I've always visited Benedictine Monasteries and I've enjoyed this hospitality. What type of person comes to do spiritual exercises, to spend a weekend, a few days? Where do these people come from and why are they coming to the monastery?

Archabbot: It's people from various backgrounds who are coming for many different reasons. Sometimes they're, obviously many are priests or religious who come to make retreat, to pray, but atheists come to us too, or people who don't believe in God or in religion but are curious about monastic life. Monasticism has an easy relationship with other Christian denominations but also with other religions, and we get visits from representatives of various levels from other Christian denominations or even other religions. For example, it's been three years in a row that Lutheran pastors from Sweden have come to spend Holy Week with us, and I see that there is a very profound spiritual participation. I think monasticism offers great possibilities in this area.

Father Rosica: Is there such a thing as a profile of monk? When a young man presents himself at the door of the monastery, what are you, as Father Abbott looking for in that young man?

Archabbot: I can easily answer with the words of St. Benedict to the master of novices; he says that one must see if the candidate si revera deum querit is truly seeking God. I think this is the only thing asked of the monk. There are no specific human characteristics he must have, but if his heart truly seeks God it will be evident in his desire to explore this life and renew himself through the Gospel, through the way of life taught by St. Benedict. Today even monasticism is called to challenge our times, because the young people who knock on our door don't come from the moon, they don't come fully formed as Christians or as monks. They bring with them all the contradictions, difficulties and wounds of our times, and we are called to rise to this challenge and say that God's call was true 1500 years ago it is true today, and monk -- like the rest of the Church -- are asked to understand the language of the young generation in order to respond to them in that same language.

Father Rosica: The tomb of St. Benedict is with you, his mortal remains are in your church if I remember correctly from when I visited as a student. What does it mean to be that close to this great founder of this movement that has been so important in the history of the Church?

Archbbot: It's a very big commitment and responsibility. Every day after the singing of Vespers, in Gregorian chant, the community goes to the tomb of St. Benedict and his sister Scholastica, and we sing a beautiful hymn- every day- called Signifer Invictissime, that is O Strongest Flag-Bearer, a reference to the person who, in battle, carried the flag. And we feel that like St. Benedict we are called to carry high our one and only standard -- the cross. Paul VI said, in the Apostolic Brief in which he proclaimed St. Benedict patron of Europe, “He and his monks Christianized Europe with the book, the cross and the plow. The book is a symbol of prayer, the cross the symbol of the Christian faith which was being spread throughout Europe, and the plow was the symbol of manual labour with which the monks sanctify their day.”

Father Rosica: We have only a few minutes left, I'd like to conclude with that marvelous scene of Benedict and his sister, Scholastica. What is the significance of this last scene between Benedict and Scholastica?

Archbbot: In the foothills of the mountains of Monte Cassino still stands the place where, according to tradition, St. Benedict and St. Scholastica met. And on the seventh of February, three days before the feast of St. Scholastica -- that's what St. Gregory the Great tells us -- everyone at the Abbey of Monte Cassino comes down to that place to celebrate a mass, with many other people. The significance I give to this profound event in the lives of Benedict and Scholastica is that it's all linked to the freedom of female genius. Because Scholastica, according to tradition, observed the rule that Benedict had given to his monks. At a certain point she asks her brother to stay with her to talk, because she felt that she was going to die. But her brother, we men are a little more tied to the firmness of rules, said "no, I have to go back because I've written in the rule that monks must return to the monastery." Scholastica asks God to do something. A great downpour begins and St. Benedict is forced to stay and he asks, "Sister of mine, what have you done?" she says, "I prayed to God and he listened to me, you didn’t listen to me." St. Gregory the Great writes that Scholastica could do more because she loved more. This, in my view, is a lesson that beyond the written rule there is a higher rule, that of love, because sometimes even the laws of man can be unfair and unjust, but the law of God is never unjust.

http://www.saltandl ighttv.org/ prog_slprog_ witness_popup_
0905_vittorelli. html

Monserrat Boys Choir is the oldest boys' choir in the world. This monastery is to the Catalan people what the Queen is to the British, the very centre and symbol of their nationality.
Maria Laach Abbey, a thousand years old. Has immense influence on the Liturgical Movement and on the theology of the present Pope Benedict because of the "mystery theology" of Dom Odo Casel in the first half of the 20th century.
The abbey of Ettal, another mediaeval foundation. It was a monk of Ettal who wrote the Oberammergau Passion play. It is connected with this monastery.
St John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minn. USA. is the largest Benedictine community in the world, with a university, seminary and High School and many parishes. It was in the vanguard of liturgicalreform and is still noted for its liturgical scholarship.
In contrast to St John's Abbey that has been always involved in liturgical reform,Fontgombault in France is completely dedicated to the old Latin liturgy. It attracts many vocations and has made a number of foundations. You could not have two monasteries as different from one another as St John's and Fontgombault. What unites them is that both exist exclusively so that the monks can seek God, simply because God is God, according to the Rule of St Benedict.

Monday 6 July 2009

Our News

Much has happened since we last wrote. Perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences was to celebrate First Holy Communion of children, little girls who live in a home because they have been sexually abused, sometimes by people in their own family. They have visited us sometimes, and Fr Luis and I celebrate Mass for them when their chaplain cannot do so. Anyway, they asked especially to be allowed to have their first communion in our house. As Providence would have it, a young man who sings and plays his guitar in Charismatic prayer meetings and Masses was making a retreat with us. We changed our normal, "monastic" format for a charismatic one, of a kind the children are used to. Afterwards we fed them on cake and chocolate.

Another rather out-of-the-normal thing that happened was doing a programme for PAXTV's blog on Lent. Every week, the cameras and crew visited us to receive short talks on the Lenten season and what it means to prepare for Easter. Brothers Mario, Percy and I were interviewed, as was the superior of the Cistercian convent in Lurin. The blog is read in Peru, USA and in Europe. The whole set is in Youtube under our names. Here is just a taste, unfortunately for non-Spanish speakers, they are in Spanish. At the same time, Paxtv was preparing a long documentary on monastic life which will come out this summer, they tell me. I was also on a programme on Liturgy with a Passionist priest who is a scripture scholar at 8.00pm one Wednesday evening in June. After the show we discovered that we had both studied at Fribourg in Switzerland with the same teachers, about ten years apart. H

At the beginning of June we had the privilege of a visit from Fr Joseph, who is parish priest in the parish we left behind in Tambogrande. I have never known a more dedicated parish priest. He is the English Benedictine Congregation at its best - at least, some of the time!!! Anyway, we enjoyed his company; and he told us a lot about his girlfriend, which is a 1960 Dodge. Here is a picture of Brother Mario and Father Joseph in recreation:

We also had a visit from the Abbot, Father Paul Stonham, who was superior of this community until he was elected Abbot in 2000. He is doing a great job back at Belmont, and we are now doing well for vocations in a climate in England which is not favourable to vocations. Our pleasure at his visit was tempered by his health. He was in great pain, and learned on returning to England that he has cancer of the prostate. Luckily, it is contained only in the prostate, and he will be having an operation in August. Beforehand, he will be coming here to take part in our retreat on July 17th. Here he is sitting down, showing the monks pictures on his laptop.

Here the abbot is being interviewed for the Paxtv documentary on monastic life.

As we are becoming better known, it continues to surprise me how much prestige the Benedictine Order has. One sign of this was the invitation the community received to go to a celebration in the Foreign Ministry to mark 150 years of Peru's diplomatic relations with the Vatican. They put on exhibition some icons which had been painted in the monastery. I went with Brother Mario, and Vatican-Peruvian relations were toasted in altar wine. The minister met us at the door and showed us round before the ceremony began. He had been to Oxford and was very much attracted to Maria Laach when he was a diplomat in Germany. Unfortunately, I do not have a photograph of the occasion. We are obviously now on their invitation list, because I have been invited to another ceremony this Thursday.

On June 29th, we had about 75 people at Mass, mostly elderly people who were on a tour of sacred places in Lima. We knew they were coming, so Brothers Mario, Percy and Wilmer spent the day before cooking, and they all received a light meal, which they paid for. We did not make much; but we gained a lot of good will. The bishop tells me that several people have returned to the practice of the faith after visiting the monastery. He has heard this from people and priests. Clearly we are being really blessed by God. The next day I concelebrated with the Cardinal at the Mass for the Pope

The final bit of news is that,in the last few days, we have re-printed the recording of Belmont monks singing Gregorian Chant, called "In the Presence of the Angels" and have published it in Spanish, "En La Presencia de los Angeles", together with some information about our monastery and guest house. We have sold over thirty in two days. On July 4th (not,hing to do with American Independence Day), there was a fair in Pachacamac, and we had a stall and sold our products, including 25 copies of the recording,mostly to people who do not know us. We were utterly tired at the end of the day, but we made a good amount of money, and - more important - met many people who now know what we are doing in our monastery. Here is Brother Mario at the stall:

Here Mario and I are with the Mayor of Pachacamac who went round inspecting the stalls.

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