ST. BENEDICT’S MOTTO, “ORA ET LABORA,” IS ALIVE AND WELL IN BREVNOV

ST. BENEDICT’S MOTTO, “ORA ET LABORA,” IS ALIVE AND WELL IN BREVNOV

On Thursday July 26, my second full day in Prague, I was privileged to visit the Benedictine monastery of Brevnov on the outskirts of Prague with my new friends from the bishops’ conference, along with our guide, Benedictine Father Ales.

Brevnov, the first monastery on Bohemian land, was founded in 993 (!) by Duke Boleslav and by Prague’s second archbishop, St. Adalbert. It kept its Romanesque features until the the mid-13th century and was one of the most significant institutions of the land, eventually becoming a “parent” monastery to others.

Over the centuries, with political vicisstudes, conflicts and economic downturns, the monastery struggled and its members, even for brief periods, had to leave for other convents. There were years when the priests returned, years of rebuilding and prosperity that alternated with years of struggle and hardships.

The brewery – the brewers, the malt, some tasting, the hops –

Much of what you see today at Brevnov, the many buildings used for the hotel, the restaurant, and the brewery and the many rooms available for academic groups and for pilgrims and retreats date from the 17th century.

The earliest foundations – 

From the 1950s under the communists to the 1990 return of buildings to the Benedictines, the main convent was the seat of the State Secret Police! This happened in many instances for Church property in the communist years – sometimes total destruction, sometimes partial devastation and more often ecclesiastical buildings were confiscated to use for prisons, hospitals or offices of communist officials.

The grounds –

This is all important to know when we look at the post-communist years, from 1990 on, when parishes, monasteries, convents, dioceses with their buildings and offices – all had to do enormous rebuilding, both material and spiritual.

Rooms and halls open to groups for study, retreats, etc.

Father Ales, in addition to spending hours with us and explaining every nook and cranny of Brevnov as well as the spiritual and material rebuilding, gave me a small booklet on the history of this monastery. I was still grappling with the fact I was spending the day at a living, breathing, working monastery that was 1,025 years old!

The booklet noted that, among the vicissitudes of history, “certain forms of monastic life have changed throughout the centuries. The monks had to react to the changes in society in which their convents belonged and where they were active. There is, however, one significant constant: the day of the monks is now, as it was a thousand years ago and in compliance with the Rule of St. Benedict, divided between prayer (public liturgy, ie, the Mass and the Divine Office, as well as private prayer) and work.”

The church of St. Margaret –

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Today, in addition to the St. Adalbert hotel, the great restaurant and the brewery and a small publishing house, the monastery is a fully functioning parish of St. Margaret.

I immensely enjoyed my visit to this Benedictine monastery and so wished that I could have just registered at the hotel to spend a few days in the calm and peace of this abbey and the Czech countryside.

Here we are, over a post prandial coffee, reflecting on our memorable visit to Brevnov monastery –

I focus on monasteries, the ones that I visited in the Czech Republic, because, in case you did not know it, staying at a monastery in most European nations is an eminently doable possibility for travellers. Your mind will whirl with ideas if you start an Internet search on this possibility!

But start here, near Prague, at Brevnov monastery!

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DAY TWO IN PRAGUE: THE BENEDICTINES ARE ALIVE AND WELL

DAY TWO IN PRAGUE: THE BENEDICTINES ARE ALIVE AND WELL

I am about to go to Mass at Our Lady Victorious, the church in Prague that is home to the lovely Infant of Prague, a statue whose name is known the world over.

I have spent another amazing day in this very beautiful and hospitable country but time is short now so this is more of a “please come back tomorrow” column than it is a daily diary. You see, I want to write about my day at the historic Benedictine monastery of St. Adalbert and St. Margaret when I have time to do the story justice and post my photos, and tell you about my new friends, workers in the Lord’s vineyard.

I’ll be visiting another monastery tomorrow, well outside of Prague. These stories are all about the rebirth of the Catholic Church and religious congregations in the Czech Republic in the post-communist years.

Thanks for understanding! More tomorrow!

Blessings!

VATICAN INSIDER: BENEDICTINE ABBOT PRIMATE GREGORY POLAN – AN ELOQUENT, SAVVY PAPAL DIPLOMAT DEAD AT 75

VATICAN INSIDER: BENEDICTINE ABBOT PRIMATE GREGORY POLAN

Join me this weekend for Part II of my conversation with Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation Gregory Polan. Born near Chicago Illinois, Abbot Polan is a linguist, a scripture and theology scholar, a translator and, I have heard, is quite the organist. As abbot primate of the Confederation, he is also the abbot of St. Anselm in Rome and chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm and its Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

The 4th American to occupy this post, Abbot Gregory will tell us about the history of the order, his specific ministry as Abbot primate, what it means to be a monk and he looks at the growth of the order in the world.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

AN ELOQUENT, SAVVY PAPAL DIPLOMAT DEAD AT 75

An eloquent, impassioned voice for the Catholic Church, particularly for relations between Catholics and Muslims, was silenced yesterday.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, died in the United States on July 5 where he was being treated for Parkinson’s disease. (photo: vaticannnews)


Born in France, this Prince of the Church was at the Vatican for many years, serving in the Secretariat of State in particular. He was secretary of the nunciatures to the Dominican Republic and Lebanon, came back to Rome and over the years participated in special missions in Haiti, Beirut and Damascus and knew the Middle East especially well.

In 1990 he was appointed Secretary for Relations with States, and in 2003 was named Archivist and Librarian of Holy Roman Church. In 2007 Pope Benedict appointed him to head the Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

Pope Francis on Saturday, December 20, 2014 named French Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran as Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church, replacing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who had turned 80 on December 2.

On March 13, 2013, as camerlengo, Cardinal Tauran announced the election of Cardinal Bergoglio who took the name Pope Francis:

And this is only the tip of a very large iceberg that is the cardinal’s years of service to the Church.

Cardinal Tauran, a true gentleman and a brilliant scholar, was considered one of the most knowledgeable and capable diplomats of generations of papal diplomats.

A reserved personality, he nonetheless always made a remarkable impact when he was a member or head of a Vatican delegation to international conferences. Cardinal Tauran was a terrific listener and yet, when he spoke in his soft voice, he made his audience become the good listeners. You knew you were listening to someone with vast knowledge of the topic he was speaking about, someone of great authority.

I had the wonderful great luck, in my years at the Vatican Information Service, to have interacted with Cardinal Tauran on a number of occasions. When he was Secretary for Relations with States, VIS was constantly writing news stories about his speeches, his interventions on the international stage, his meetings with foreign leaders and so on.

When he was made a cardinal, he was the first one I went to see during the afternoon courtesy visits.

In May 2004 I was one of six journalists chosen by Cardinal Tauran to join him in Doha, Qatar for the Qatar Conference on Muslim-Christian Dialogue.

Those were amazing days, not just the conference but breaking bread with the cardinal or sitting around in the lobby with my journalist colleagues, chatting away and asking questions of him like mad.

There is much more to say about those days and about Cardinal Tauran and his life and work and I’ll do so next week. I published an interview with him in the National Catholic Register, I did three stories for the Vatican Information Service and in later years, June of 2009, I interviewed him for Vatican Insider. I will re-air that conversation.

I admired and respected so very much about Cardinal Tauran – the man, the diplomat, and the humble priest who found time behind the scenes for personal charities and helping people and institutions. My esteem grew with every encounter.

What was most remarkable about Cardinal Tauran, certainly in these later years, was his indefatigable spirit, his endless love for the Church, for diplomacy, for trying to bring peace to a world that so badly needs it. He never stopped working. He was in his 11th year at the council for Inter-religious Dialogue, He seemed to be tireless, when it came to all things Church, notwithstanding the increasingly devastating effects of Parkinson’s.

And today he is resting in the Lord. RIP!

VATICAN INSIDER MEETS THE BENEDICTINE ABBOT PRIMATE

I wish Pope emeritus Benedict XVI God’s choicest blessings as today he marks 67 years of priesthood! God sit on your shoulder!

VATICAN INSIDER MEETS THE BENEDICTINE ABBOT PRIMATE

Join me this weekend for my conversation with Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation Gregory Polan. Born near Chicago Illinois, Abbot Polan is a linguist, a scripture and theology scholar, a translator and, I have heard, is quite the organist. As abbot primate of the Confederation, he is also the abbot of St. Anselm in Rome and chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm and its Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

Abbot Polan was ordained a priest on May 26, 1977. After some years of teaching and pastoral experience in a parish, he completed his doctorate in Biblical Theology at the Pontifical Faculty of Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. He served in the administration at Conception Seminary College from 1985 until 1996. In 1996, he was elected Abbot of Conception Abbey, and subsequently in September 2016 was elected Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation.

Listen as Abbot Polan tells us about St. Benedict, the history of the order, its famous motto, his specific ministry as Abbot primate, what it means to be a monk, the difference between monastery, abbey and priory, the Benedictine Oblates and so much more.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

POPE TO PRIESTS IN AHIARA DIOCESE: “ACCEPT YOUR BISHOP OR BE SUSPENDED A DIVINIS”

Here is a terrific update from the Benedictine Monks of Norcia about the progress in re- building since last fall’s devastating earthquake. I could not get the Facebook icon in their email to work so this is the next best thing: http://mailchi.mp/nursia/springatthemonastery-494285

POPE TO PRIESTS IN AHIARA DIOCESE: “ACCEPT YOUR BISHOP OR BE SUSPENDED A DIVINIS”

(Vatican Radio) At an audience for a delegation from the Nigerian diocese of Ahiara, Pope Francis said he had been “deeply saddened” by the refusal of the diocese to accept the Bishop appointed for them. (photo: news.va)

During the audience, the Pope requested explicitly that the diocese receive Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, who was appointed to Ahiara by Pope Benedict in 2012. In his address to the delegation, the Holy Father, while asking pardon for the harsh language, said the Church in Ahiara “is like a widow for having prevented the Bishop from coming to the diocese.” He called to mind the parable, from the Gospel of Matthew, of the murderous tenants who wanted to steal the inheritance. “In this current situation, the Diocese of Ahiara is without the bridegroom, has lost her fertility, and cannot bear fruit. Whoever is opposed to Bishop Okpaleke taking possession of the diocese wants to destroy the Church.”

In such a situation, Pope Francis continued, where the Church is suffering, “the Pope cannot remain indifferent.”

In response to that situation, which he described as “an attempted taking over of the vineyard of the Lord,” Pope Francis asked “every priest or ecclesiastic incardinated in the Diocese of Ahiara, whether he resides there or works elsewhere, even abroad, write a letter addressed to me in which he asks for forgiveness; all must write individually and personally. We all must share this common sorrow.”

Whoever fails to do so within thirty days, the Pope said, “will be ipso facto [by that very fact] suspended a divinis [‘from divine things,’  such as the celebration of the sacraments] and will lose his current office.”

This course of action was necessary, he continued, “Because the people of God are scandalized. Jesus reminds us that whoever causes scandal must suffer the consequences. Maybe someone has been manipulated without having full awareness of the wound inflicted upon the ecclesial communion.”

Following the Pope’s address, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja and Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara, thanked the Holy Father. Following his remarks, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, asked the Holy Father that the Diocese of Ahiara, with its Bishop, might make a pilgrimage to Rome to meet with him when the situation was resolved; a request the Pope accepted.

The audience concluded with a prayer to Mary and the blessing of the Holy Father.

Complete text of Papal letter here: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-receives-delegation-from-nigerian-diocese-of

SOME BACKGROUND FROM CNS:

When Okpaleke was appointed to the diocese, the announcement was met by protests and petitions calling for the appointment of a bishop from among the local clergy.

Nevertheless, he was ordained a bishop in May 2013, although the ordination took place not in the Ahiara diocese, but at a seminary in the Archdiocese of Owerri.

Ahiara is in Mbaise, a predominantly Catholic region of Imo State in southern Nigeria.

Okpaleke is from Anambra State, which borders Imo to the north.

A petition to Pope Benedict launched by the “Coalition of Igbo Catholics” said, “That no priest of Mbaise origin is a bishop today … is mind boggling. Mbaise has embraced, enhanced the growth of and sacrificed for the Catholic Church, has more priests per capita than any other diocese in Nigeria and certainly more than enough pool of priests qualified to become the next bishop of the episcopal see of Ahiara Diocese, Mbaise.”

According to the Vatican, the diocese has close to 423,000 Catholics and 110 diocesan priests.

Trying to calm the situation, in July 2013 Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Onaiyekan to serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese, and the following December he sent Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to Ahiara to listen to the concerns of the diocesan priests and local laity.

Onaiyekan joined Okpaleke on the “ad limina” visit to Rome, as did Kaigama and Archbishop Anthony Obinna of Owerri. Three priests, a religious sister and a traditional elder also made the trip.

 

 

POPE FRANCIS’ VIDEO MESSAGE FOR XXXII WORLD YOUTH DAY – MONKS OF NORCIA MARK TRANSITUS OF ST. BENEDICT

POPE FRANCIS’ VIDEO MESSAGE FOR XXXII WORLD YOUTH DAY

The Vatican today released a video message from Pope Francis for the XXXII World Youth Day to be held in the dioceses of the world on Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017. The Pope’s written message was also released (see below). Following is the text in English of the video message:

Dear young people,

With the memory vividly in our minds of our meeting together at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, we have set out towards the next goal that will be, God willing, Panama in 2019. These moments of encounter and conversation with you are very important to me. I want this journey to proceed in line with preparations for the next Synod of Bishops because it is dedicated to you young people.

We are accompanied on this journey by Our Mother the Virgin Mary. She encourages us with her faith, the same faith that she expressed in her song of praise. Mary said, “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). She knew how to give thanks to God who looked upon her littleness, and she recognised the great things that God was accomplishing in her life. So she set off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was old and needed her to be close by. Mary did not stay at home because she was not a young couch potato who looks for comfort and safety where nobody can bother them. She was moved by faith because faith is at the heart of Our Mother’s entire life story.

Dear young people, God is also watching over you and calling you, and when God does so, he is looking at all the love you are able to offer. Like the young woman of Nazareth, you can improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history ‒ your history and that of many others. The Church and society need you. With your plans and with your courage, with your dreams and ideals, walls of stagnation fall and roads open up that lead us to a better, fairer, less cruel and more humane world.

As you follow this path, I encourage you to cultivate a relationship of familiarity and friendship with Our Lady. She is our Mother. Speak to her as you would to a Mother. Together with her, give thanks for the precious gift of faith that you have received from your elders, and entrust your whole life to her. She is a good Mother who listens to you and embraces you, who loves you and walks together with you. I assure you that if you do that, you will not regret it.

Have a good pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2019. May God bless you all.

For the video: Go to: http://www.news.va/en and scroll down until you see VIDEO CHANNEL – click here to see Pope Francis who speaks in Spanish

Here is the link to Pope Francis’ written message for the 2017 diocesan level celebration of the XXXII World Youth Day, which takes place on Palm Sunday on the Marian theme: “The Mighty One has done great things for me,” taken from the Magnifcat. The Holy Father tells young people that the world “needs your courage, dreams and ideals.” http://www.news.va/en/news/our-lady-at-the-heart-of-2017-wyd-message

MONKS OF NORCIA MARK TRANSITUS OF ST. BENEDICT

Following is a letter and some photos sent by Father Benedict Nivakoff, OSB, Prior with an update as they mark the transitus of St. Benedict:

Dear Friends, On this Feast, for several centuries, monks, clergy and citizens of Norcia have celebrated St. Benedict’s Transitus – his earthly death and birth into Heaven — in a packed basilica with local townspeople in medieval costume. In the crypt of that basilica, the saint (and his saintly sister) was born to life, while in the upper church his birth into heaven was remembered. Eight months after the great earthquake of 2016, the celebrations have a different character.

The Archbishop of Spoleto-Norcia offered the Mass at a portable altar in front of the statue of our great patron in the piazza with the ruins of the basilica and its still-standing facade covered in scaffolding in the background. Beloved traditions do not die easily and today’s solemnity is a timely reminder that “deep roots are not touched by the frost.”

The Feast comes in Lent and along with St. Joseph and the Annunciation, this week brings a sort of intermission to the monk’s Lenten routine. Many ask me about it. Here is a brief sketch. Our day still begins at the same time, 03:15 AM. Private Lectio, devotions, low Masses and classes punctuate the morning between vigils, lauds, prime and terce. The sung Conventual Mass is at 10:00 as usual then we go outside to work. The main difference to our schedule is that the one meal of the day is moved to 17:30. St. Benedict was keen that the monks not eat until after vespers, or near sunset. Afterward, there is a short meeting called collation, then compline and bed time. Each monk suggests to the Prior a little extra fasting, a little extra prayer and some almsgiving (within the house) and these are added to his daily schedule.

For one of our monks, Fr. Basil, this Lent has an added gift of service. He is spending the month of March with the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta, India. Last year, Br. Anthony was able to help the sisters there for a month and it proved an invaluable source of inspiration for his monastic vocation and for our community at home. While it is true that there are many ways we try to help people near us in the earthquake zone, the stark poverty that affects that region of India brings an added urgency and we are glad our monks can lend a hand.

One way we help locally is through our beer, and we are grateful to God to be able to announce that after moving some equipment and making minor repairs we will finally be reopening a part of the brewery next week for production. Most of the brewery is still badly damaged but a small part remains intact. Re-opening that part (with some modifications) will allow us to get Birra Nursia out — albeit in limited quantities — to more local shops trying to open again. I’ll have more information about that next week. May Nursia help to gladden hearts in Norcia and abroad and may God bless each of you for your continued support of lour many needs!

UPDATE FROM NORCIA – THE UNSEEN DEVASTATION

UPDATE FROM NORCIA – THJE UNSEEN DEVASTATION

Dear Friends,

Although aftershocks continue, we are doing our best to return to our normal monastic life. As we try, we are still responding to the ever-new and evolving challenges of life in a heavily earthquake-damaged region. The difficulty of this task was epitomized this past week as we returned to one of our community’s “wilder” customs.   Every week, we take a three-hour hike in the mountains near the monastery. Four times a year, though, we extend that to an all-day or even overnight excursion. Last week we retraced an old favorite route of the path from Norcia to the monastery of Sant’Eutizio in Preci. St. Eutizio was a hermit and, along with St. Fiorenzio and St. Spes, educated the child St. Benedict. The walk we took was the walk our patron would have taken 15 centuries ago to build up his foundations in virtue and learning.

Except for the sighting of a family of 12 wild boars – which we chased for 200 yards before we lost them in the thick woods — this normally gentle and welcoming path looks nothing like it did six months ago. Much of the attention after the earthquakes has understandably been paid to the bigger disasters of the towns of Amatrice and Norcia, but what isn’t so often reported are the saddening blocks of tiny ruined country villages. We saw church after church lowered to the ground and house after house destroyed beyond repair in hill towns that news cameras didn’t reach. As we hiked, they seemed to all blend together into one long tragic chain. Even though lives were spared by the grace of God, the men and women of these places have no home to return to and many have no jobs to sustain them. They also must confront the question of whether to stay and wait for the rebuilding of a brand new town, or settle with friends and family in better conditions.

Uniting our prayers to those suffering, we began earlier this month a new tradition of a community rosary procession with a statue of Our Lady, which we pulled from the rubble of our monastery in town. Painstakingly repaired by one of the novices with glue and plaster, we wandered with her through the hillside and up and down the mountain paths asking her to intercede so that new life will spring up in these millennia-old towns and villages. Quia non est impossibile apud Deum.

With the assurance of our prayers and gratitude for your support,

Fr. Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B. Prior