"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

Monday 10 June 2013



I have started a website as a companion to this blog.   It deals with the relationship between monasticism, east and west, and the Charismatic Renewal.   It is called: "BATHED IN SILENT LIGHT"  and will be replenished with new posts once a month.
The first post in the June edition is how the Charismatic Renewal and monastic communities can contribute to the 
The methods are necessarily different, but the underlying vision is the same.

If you have a blog or website, please refer back to it so that it will be noticed.

Conference                                                                                5th June 2013

            Brethren, in a few hours’ time I’ll be leaving for Peru, where I’ll be visiting the brethren at Pachacamac and Fr Joseph up north. It will be a particular joy to confer the ministry of acolyte on Brs. Percy, Wilmer and Juan Edgar.

 As you might know, Fr Joseph will be retiring at the end of December and returning to Belmont early in 2014.

 In less that two weeks’ time our brethren will be returning from Rome bringing with them Br. Pablo, a Nicaraguan monk of the monastery of Our Lady of the Angels, Ahuatepec, Mexico, who studies with Br. Jonathan and whom I met four years’ ago when I gave a course for Mexican Benedictines and Cistercians at his monastery. We also look forward to the return of Fr Brendan and Br Alex. The monastery seems empty without them all.

            As I won’t have time to write a letter before I leave in the early hours, I’ll mention here that the Profession Council for Br. Jonathan’s Solemn Profession will take place on Friday, 5th July, at 10am. Should there be a Chapter, this will take place on Wednesday, 17th July, at 2.15pm and should he be professed, this will take place on the Feast of the Transfiguration, Tuesday 6th August, at 2.30pm.

            I also remind you that General Chapter takes place at Belmont from 9th to 16th July. I apologise in advance for any inconvenience, but it will also bring us many blessings and graces. It will be at least another 30 years before it’s held at Belmont again.

            This week we’re reading the Epistle of St James at Vigils, a book that has some very thought provoking things to say about Christian life and life in community. On Tuesday we heard what he had to say about the dangers of the tongue and that was followed by an equally interesting commentary by St Gregory the Great. Of course, the whole purpose of reading the Scriptures and practising Lectio Divina is that the power of God’s word, through the inspiration and grace of the Holy Spirit, should transform our hearts and minds, so that we become more and more conformed to the will of God and the image of Christ.

            St Benedict also has much to say about silence and speech. It’s important to note, first of all, that his chapter “On the Restraint of Speech” comes between the two important chapters on Obedience and Humility, almost as though silence or taciturnity were the vital link between the two, which of course it is. We all know that the word obedience has its root in the verb to listen. How can we obey if we do not listen and how can we listen if our minds are full of our own words, or the words of those we allow to flood our minds to the extent that we block out that “still, small voice of calm”, the voice of God. One of the key words of Scripture is “listen” and the Lord constantly asks his servants to listen. Think of the short prayer the priest Eli taught the boy Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” That simple prayer should always be on our lips and in our hearts. What more could we possibly want than to listen to the voice of God? And what does the divine voice have to say other than that God loves us and wants us to become holy and do his will? How can we discern that will unless we listen closely to what the Lord is saying and how can we recognise his voice and listen to his word if we cannot practise silence and be still in his presence?

            It seems to me, and I speak from my own experience so I am not pointing the finger at anyone, that as the years pass in the monastic life, we can easily forget why we are here, why we became monks and why God called us to serve him in the Belmont Community. We lose the sense of obedience, putting our own will before that of God and totally ignoring the ladder of humility, by-passing it, and so fail to arrive at that “perfect love of God which casts out fear”. Even when trying to do good and serve the Church faithfully, we make our own decisions, oblivious to the needs and common will of the monastic Community. We become a law unto ourselves and even begin to criticise and disparage brethren and superiors. This happens when we give up that spirit of taciturnity which St Benedict esteems so important and vital for our spiritual growth and development, a holy silence that alone makes obedience possible and enables us to climb the ladder of perfection, the steps of humility.

            Now, a conference is supposed to be practical and encouraging rather than making us feel uncomfortable. So I would suggest we all take a close look at our observance of silence. Do I keep silent when I should talk or talk too much when silence would be the better option? Do I keep silent because I don’t particularly want to be sociable or brotherly or do I talk in order to annoy and upset others? Do I gossip too much or constantly indulge in idle chatter? If so, what can I do about it? We could all go back to keeping the house rules on silence, on the galleries and on the stairs, for example. We could think seriously about radio, television, computers, iPads and mobile phones really breaking the rules of silence when used at inappropriate hours. Do we break silence visually, not keeping custody of the eyes, or with our ears, listening to what should not interest us? I suspect we all need to be a bit more disciplined in all these areas.

            Finally, a word on the use of time: every moment we waste is a gift stolen, for we have squandered God’s precious gift of life. He created us to know him, love him and serve him in this life so as to be happy with him in the next. We are here to search for God and that means spending time with him, specific time, not just a vague consciousness that he is present while not interfering with our lives. We have come to the monastery in order to dedicate our lives wholly to him, and that means our time, energy and interests. How much of our time for Lectio and personal prayer is lost each day? I would ask you and I ask myself tonight to spend far more time at prayer, whether it’s with the Bible or before the Blessed Sacrament, alone or together with others. We must transform Belmont into a powerhouse of prayer and that begins with silence, obedience and humility. Let us ask the Lord to help us: he loves us and will never let us down.

(Thanks to the BBC)

Germans flock to see silent monks
By Ray Furlong 
BBC News, Berlin 
An unlikely film has been filling cinemas in Germany in recent weeks: a three-hour documentary with hardly a single spoken word, set in a monastery.
The film Into Great Silence is an intimate portrayal of the everyday lives of Carthusian monks high in a remote corner of the French Alps.

It came about 17 years after the director first requested permission to make it.

At the monastery, only the candles break the darkness.

It is the middle of the night and in the icy cold of their stone cloister, the monks sit in their thick habits reciting Gregorian verse.

"I think they simply do it because they choose to... become close to God," says the film's director Philip Groening.

"It's a very simple concept, the concept is God himself, is pure happiness, the closer you move to that, the happier you are."

Repetitive lives

He first requested to film in the remote monastery of Grande Chartreuse 17 years ago. When he finally got in, he found a regimented world that is largely unchanged since the founding of the Carthusian Order 10 centuries ago.

“ I had had the privilege of living with a community of people who live practically without any fears ” 
Philip Groening
The monks have avowed almost total silence, interrupted only by what one of them called "the terror of the bell".

"Once you accept the fact that when the bell rings - you just don't think about it - you just get up and go and do whatever that bell requires you to do, then, every moment that you have is a pretty permanently present moment," he says.

"You don't have to sort of plan, like 'What do I do in two years?... Where do I want my career to be in 15 years?' And the absence of language makes something - the moment itself becomes very, very strong."

The film tracks the infinitely repeated routines of the monastery. In one scene, a monk bathed in shadow delivers lunch through hatches in the cell doors.

Cinema hit

The cameraman then goes inside where the monks sleep on straw beds, with only a tin stove for heating. Outside, the snow-swept scenery of the French Alps provides a majestic backdrop.

Groening lived here for several months to make the film.

"When I left the monastery, I was thinking about what exactly had I lived through and it was realising that I had had the privilege of living with a community of people who live practically without any fears," he said.

"They have the feeling that death is just a transition, they have the feeling that if something goes wrong, then it's OK because it's something that God wanted and this is something that changed me."

The Carthusians are the strictest Christian order and this three-hour, almost totally silent film about them, was not expected to be a hit. But it is playing to packed cinemas, fascinating audiences with the unique glimpse of a contemplative life, unknown beyond the monastery walls.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/01/05 13:22:39 GMT

© BBC 2013

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