Thursday, August 02, 2007
Where Are Our Monks?
La Grande Chartreuse
I strongly commend to you a post on O Cuniculi, which is a most moving address given in 1977 by Dom Gerard, then prior of the Monastery of Sainte-Madeleine-a-Bedoin. Do read it all here, and then ask with me, where are our monks?
Here are some excerpts:
"A religion which is not contemplative is unworthy of God. So because he interests himself in God above all, the monk not only points to God, not only testifies to Him, he bear witness to the excellence of God. The God whom the majority of men forget - it is He whom the monk makes the centre of his life. The only thing that interests him, the only interesting thing in the world for him, is God. A monk is thus simply someone who has been ravished by the thought - by more than the thought of God; the monk has been caught up by the very sweetness of God, by the goodness of God, by the beauty of God. So he reaches out to seize hold immediately, in this present life, of what others lose sight of and end by encountering, sometimes too late, at the moment of death, on the threshold of eternity....
"(The monastic institution) reminded men that there is another world, the world of God. The sacred penetrated human institutions. It shaped the piety of Christians, because our West, however sick it is, however decadent because unfaithful to its vocation, has nevertheless received a seal, an impression that has marked it forever: it was the first monks sent out by the Benedictine Pope St. Gregory the Great who completed the evangelisation of Europe. He sent them to England, to the Friesians in Germany, to Spain and as far as Scandinavia. St. Maurus, the first disciple of our Father St. Benedict, had already planted the Benedictine monastic life among the Gauls. These missionary monks were sent not at first to preach, because at the beginning that was impossible, but to live their monastic life among the pagans. They founded monasteries, they lived the Rule of St. Benedict, they taught men how to work. It is good when a man works well, when he does a beautiful piece of work. They taught men to read in a beautiful book which the pagans did not know, the book of Holy Scripture. And, above all they taught them how to pray, thanks to the liturgical river which flows throughout the year and which is the best school of prayer.
"In this way, Western Christianity was moulded by the first Benedictine monks. And something of it remains, something not always found on other continents where Anglo-Saxon Protestantism has placed its mark, where temporal success is considered a blessing from God, where luck evidently has its place. With us, it is not the same pattern. In our West, sick as it is (it is perhaps stricken to death), despite our degradation, our surrenders, there is a sense of God, a spiritual quest. Why? Because it is in our blood. It was instilled into us in our cradle. Our civilisation was signed by the Benedictines in the early centuries. They laid stress on the gratuitousness of divine service on disinterested love. And I believe it is this which will save the world..."