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September 30, 2013

Development of Prayer in the Monastic Tradition

Monastic Controversy: 

Pure Prayer (Imageless Prayer)


Anthropomorphic Prayer (Praying with mental images) 

The structures of Monasticism developed drastically in Egypt during the 4th Century. In Lower Egypt lived the “Antonite” hermits who followed the example of their founder, St. Antony
St. Antony
(251-356 AD); and in Upper Egypt lived the “Pachomian” monks who followed the example of St. Pachomius (d. 346 AD) and his innovation of community life. Although the Antonite hermits and the Pachomian monks had great respect for each other’s founder, they severely disagreed on the topic of Prayer.

In Lower Egypt, the Antonite hermits took a highly systematic and philosophical approach to prayer.
For the Antonites, prayer should be “Pure”. “Pure Prayer” is a lifting up of the mind to God in such a complete manner that all thoughts and images are expelled from the mind so that the light of the Holy Trinity may fill the soul, causing a state of ecstasy, a state of contemplation in which one lacks self-awareness. For the Antonite hermits, God is so “simple” that one’s mind cannot approach Him as long as it remains complex (i.e. filled with wandering thoughts, spiritual images and intellectual concepts).

On the other hand, the Pachomian monks of Upper Egypt tended to practice “Anthropomorphic Prayer” without exception, that is, using mental images to enhance their prayer. Whether it was creating mental images based on scenes from the
Life of Christ or creating mental images based on various retreat conferences they listened to, the Pachomian monks loved to create these spiritual mental pictures in their minds.

The controversy between the hermits and the monks was not a major issue until around the year 400 A.D. when the Antonite monks convinced Archbishop Theophilus of Alexandria to condemn the use of prayer with images. This attack was aimed directly at the Pachomian monks. Thoroughly upset by this decree, thousands of Pachomian monks marched to Lower-Egypt with torches in hand to see the Archbishop.

Theophilus of Alexandria

Upon sight of this crowd, the Archbishop went out to meet them, saying: “in you, I see the face of God”. Since his statement of “seeing the face of God” in the monks was a form of “anthropomorphic prayer”, the Archbishop reversed his decision to ban prayer with mental images.

Overall, both “Pure Prayer” and “Anthropomorphic Prayer” remain part of the monastic tradition and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Neither of them can be condemned as invalid forms of prayer. “Anthropomorphic Prayer” cannot be condemned in light of the Incarnation; Jesus is “the image of the invisible God”. Because God became man, man has seen the “face of God” and therefore he can depict this “invisible God” in his mind. Likewise, “Pure Prayer” cannot be condemned based on the utter transcendence of God. Although we have come to intimately know our God in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s ways are higher than the ways of man’s. No matter how great our mental depictions of God are, all analogies will eventually fall short of God’s Greatness. Therefore, we must also approach our Wonderful God with the silence and stillness of “Pure Prayer”.

September 27, 2013

Seminary Formation: Part 4 of 4

What is Seminary Formation Like?

Ever wonder what seminary is like? This short passage is taken from a book, "To Save a Thousand Souls," written by Fr. Brett Brannen. Although he wrote this book as an aid for men discerning diocesan priesthood, his chapter on Seminary is very insightful for monks preparing for the priesthood as well.

To "Look Inside" this bookhttp://www.amazon.com/Save-Thousand-Souls-Discerning-Priesthood/dp/0615345514

Fourth Pillar of Priestly Formation: Pastoral Formation

“The whole training of the students should have as its object to make them true shepherds of souls after the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest, and shepherd” (PPF #238).

Priesthood is about getting people to heaven! All priestly formation culminates in pastoral skill: being able to shepherd people and help them to grow in holiness. We often say in formation work that “grace builds on nature”. Though a priest will receive the grace to be a good shepherd at his ordination, that grace calls for the priest’s personal commitment to develop the knowledge and skills to teach and preach well, to celebrate the sacraments properly and prayerfully, and to take care of people’s spiritual needs.

Pastoral formation brings together all aspects of formation. It is analogous to the graduate of medical school who finally starts to see patients during his residency. He must develop his bedside manner, learn what to look for an how to treat “real people”.

To Learn About St. Vincent Seminary:

September 23, 2013

Seminary Formation: Part 3 of 4

What is Seminary Formation Like?

Ever wonder what seminary is like? This short passage is taken from a book, "To Save a Thousand Souls," written by Fr. Brett Brannen. Although he wrote this book as an aid for men discerning diocesan priesthood, his chapter on Seminary is very insightful for monks preparing for the priesthood as well.

To "Look Inside" this bookhttp://www.amazon.com/Save-Thousand-Souls-Discerning-Priesthood/dp/0615345514

Third Pillar of Priestly Formation: Intellectual Formation

“For the Salvation of their brothers and sisters, they should seek an ever deeper knowledge of the divine mysteries” (PDV #51)

Disciples are learners. The first task of intellectual formation is to acquire a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the fullness and completion of God’s revelation and the one Teacher. This saving knowledge is acquired not only once, but it is continuously appropriated and deepened.

Intellectual formation entails acquiring the scientia debita (debt of knowledge) needed for effective pastoral ministry. Thus seminary classes are very challenging. Major seminary includes rigorous academic programs on par with master’s-level programs in secular universities.

According to the PPF, intellectual formation specifically prepares seminarians to be:

  • Hearers of the Word (to know Scripture and Biblical Theology)
  • Proclaimers of the Word (Preachers)
  • Catechists (teachers)
  • Followers of Christ (to acquire a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus)
  • Faithful to the Church
  • Culturally aware (able to understand the world and diverse cultures in which the Gospel must be preached)
  • Historically aware (familiar with the two-thousand year history of the Church and of societies in general)
  • Ministers of the Sacraments
  • Promoters of Marriage and Family

To learn about the Fourth Pillar, Pastoral Formation, see our blog post on Sept. 27

September 19, 2013

Seminary Formation: Part 2 of 4

What is Seminary Formation Like?

Ever wonder what seminary is like? This short passage is taken from a book, "To Save a Thousand Souls," written by Fr. Brett Brannen. Although he wrote this book as an aid for men discerning diocesan priesthood, his chapter on Seminary is very insightful for monks preparing for the priesthood as well.

To "Look Inside" this bookhttp://www.amazon.com/Save-Thousand-Souls-Discerning-Priesthood/dp/0615345514

Second Pillar of Priestly Formation: Spiritual Formation

“To live in intimate and unceasing union with God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.” (PDV #45)

"Spiritual formation is about falling in love with Jesus. It is about developing a personal relationship with each Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. It is about communion with the Church, the Body of the Lord. It is not enough that a Catholic Priest know “about” Jesus and his Church; he must know Jesus personally, and be convinced of the Lord’s unconditional love for him and for every person. Nemo dat quod non habet (One cannot give what one does not have).

Spiritual formation entails developing a life of prayer that will sustain the priest throughout his life and work. The PPF mentions

specifically: devotion to the Mass and the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of Penance, liturgy of the hours, spiritual direction, the Bible (lectio divina), retreats, personal mediation, devotion to Mary, interceding for others, doing penance, obedience, celibacy, and simplicity of life. The seminary spiritual directors are responsible for making sure that every area is appropriately treated.

The seminarians learn how to pray using many different methods. They learn both through their courses and their own struggles about the difficulties and obstacles of praying well. The purpose of this regimen of prayer is not just to come to know Jesus better personally, but to gain the ability to guide others in prayer and spiritual direction."

To Learn about the Third Pillar, Intellectual Formation, see our blog post on Sept. 23 

September 16, 2013

Seminary Formation: Part 1 of 4

What is Seminary Formation Like?

Ever wonder what seminary is like? This short passage is taken from a book, "To Save a Thousand Souls," written by Fr. Brett Brannen. Although he wrote this book as an aid for men discerning diocesan priesthood, his chapter on Seminary is very insightful for monks preparing for the priesthood as well.

To "Look Inside" this book: http://www.amazon.com/Save-Thousand-Souls-Discerning-Priesthood/dp/0615345514

First Pillar of Priestly Formation: Human Formation

“The human personality of the priest is to be a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of the Human Race” (PDV, #43): 

"I always explain it like this: people usually buy a product because they like and respect the salesman. Thus they will listen to their priest and follow him to Jesus if they like him as a human person. Human formation includes instilling the virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. It includes developing humility, constancy, sincerity, patience, good manners and hygiene, and truthfulness. A man who has received good human formation can relate to others, even perfect strangers. He is a man of affective maturity, who works well with others, is free of prejudice, and who is a good steward of material possessions. He
is joyful, he smiles and laughs, but he knows when to be serious. Human formation means that this man is ready to take on the role of a public person. It also includes a balanced and healthy sexuality and preparation for loving others, both men and women, in a life of celibacy."

To learn about the Second Pillar, Spiritual Formation, see our blog post on Sept. 19

September 15, 2013

Novices' First Ridge Trip

Br. Matthew H., Br. Miguel, Br. Matthew L., Br. Charles, Br. Mark & Br. Ignatius

Four Novices begins their first week-long Retreat on Chestnut Ridge today; they will return to the monastery next Sunday, 9/22.  Accompanying them will be Fr. Warren (Novice Master) and two Socii (Br. Miguel and Br. Matthew - seen in the picture above), two monks entrusted by the Abbot to help the novices grow in the monastic way of life
Ridge Chapel

Beginning in the mid 19th century, our founder, Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, utilized timber from monastery property on Chestnut Ridge in order to construct buildings on St.Vincent Campus. Similarly, in the 20th century, the monks continued to use the Ridge grounds; however, this time it was utilized more for the purposes of farming. Today, although it still functions as farm land, the natural peace and silence of the Ridge is used most effectively as a place of retreat where monks can simultaneously find time for prayer, leisure, and fraternity.

September 14, 2013

Development of Cenobitic Monasticism: Pachomius

Pachomius Brings New Elements to the Monastic Tradition

Before Pachomius (d. 346), the eremitic form of monasticism, that is monks who lived alone as hermits, seems to have been the only available option for those seeking a white martyrdom; in fact,
even Pachomius began his monastic life as a hermit. However, at the biding of an angelic messenger who told him that it was God’s Will for him to serve the human race in order to reconcile it to God, Pachomius began to build many houses so that others could join him as monks; thus Pachomius became the father of the cenobitic movement (that is, monks living in community, not alone as hermits). In a short period of time Pachomius had thousands of people join him in order to live the ascetical life in community; by the time of his death, he had already founded eleven monasteries, nine for men and two for women. Overall, the Greek term koinonia specifically referred to this congregation of communal monasteries developed under Pachomius’ leadership.

Compared to the anchoritic life, the cenobitic life of Pachomius introduced some radically new elements to the monastic life. First of all, the sheer size of the population in the communities was second to none. Thousands of monks lived together, worked together, served the poor together, attended common liturgies and listened to Pachomius’ conferences together (The topics of these conferences were centered on Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist). Also, from the layout of the monastery buildings to the monastic horarium, the life of these monks was very much influenced by Pachomius’ short time in the military. Overall, the most radically new element that this koinonia brought to the monastic tradition is the community’s love, devotion, and veneration to their
founder, Pachomius. Like St. Paul was for the early Christian communities, Pachomius was their sole spiritual father; he was the point of unity for everyone. All of the monks had a great love for Pachomius who would travel from one monastery to the other giving conferences. The death of this great leader was devastating to the koinonia; who could possibly replace their beloved founder as the next leader? Eventually the community, after the threats of disillusion, came to an agreement that Pachomius was still their beloved spiritual father who was watching over them as intercessor. They continued to turn to him for divine aid and follow the rules that he established.   

September 13, 2013

Br. Martinho Renews his Vows

Br. Martinho was born in Peru.  After getting a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics, he entered the San Bento monastery in Brazil.  Since San Bento is a priory of St. Vincent Archabbey, Br. Martinho renewed his simple vows this morning before Archabbot Douglas.  Br. Martinho's "Simple" vows will expire in one year; at that time, he will make "Solemn" vows, valid for the rest of his life.    

Br. Martinho & Archabbot Douglas

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I, Brother Martinho Zevallos,

promise with vows valid for one year,

before God and his saints,

in the presence of our Father in Christ, Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki,

and the monks of this monastery,

stability in this community,

conversion through a monastic way of life,

and obedience according to the Rule

of our Holy Father Benedict

and the law proper to our Congregation.

In witness whereof I have prepared this document

and signed it here at St. Vincent Archabbey

in the year of our Lord 2013, 

on the thirteenth day of September.

Br. Martinho's Vows

Br. Mark (Ast. Junior Master), Br. Martinho, Archabbot Douglas, Fr. Jeffrey (Junior Master) 


September 12, 2013

Seminary Formation for Monks

What is Seminary Formation Like?


There are two foundational documents which guide the structure of priestly formation. Every Seminary program in the U.S. is structured according to these two handbooks:
In today’s seminaries, priestly formation rests on four pillars which the Holy Father clearly outlined and explained in PDV. The four pillars of priestly formation are:

  1. Human Formation
  2. Spiritual Formation
  3. Intellectual Formation
  4. Pastoral Formation

More information about each of the Four Pillars of Seminary Formation will be posted in the near future, beginning with "Human Formation" on Sept. 16

September 9, 2013

Monastic History: Origins of Monasticism (Part 3 of 3)

Antony of Egypt (251-356 AD) cont.


Retreating deeper into the desert, symbolizing his deepening combat with the devil, Antony came upon an old abandoned fortress where he spent the next twenty years of his life cloistered in spiritual combat. Though he had locked himself in the fortress, his reputation for holiness drew many people into the desert, seeking him for spiritual wisdom. At this point in the story, the author, St. Athanasius, partially begins to reveal his underlying
St. Antony of Egypt, Desert Father
intentions for writing the text; for, he tells us that when Antony emerges from the fortress for the first time, his skin is beautiful, his eyes are bright, and his teeth are white (this typically is not the expected image of an ascetical man who has been locked up in a fort for many years). However, contrary to the heretical Arian sects and the dualistic/neo-platonic views of the body prevalent in his time, Antony’s beautiful bodily appearance is intended to show that holiness heals the disharmony of body and soul, and brings us back to a preternatural state. Antony’s appearance seems to personify humanity before the fall of Adam and Eve. Therefore, since God created the physical world and called it “good”, and because Christ Himself took on our human flesh through the Incarnation, for Antony (and Athanasius), the body is not seen as “evil”, deserving to be punished, as the Arians believed, but rather, the body is good!

In addition to giving us a natural aversion to the heresy of Arianism, during Antony’s life, a time in which monasticism was widely practiced but not properly structured, St. Athanasius presents Antony as a prototype for monks, a model for emulation. Overall, Antony is a model for a monk’s spiritual formation; he is a model of discipline and holiness. For Antony, the focus of monasticism is not the Arian torture of our “evil” human bodies but rather, it is the primacy of charity and a complete focus on Christ, acknowledging our own weakness and inability to do anything without Him; victories of the ascetical life are victories of Christ conquering within us, body and soul. In this white martyrdom, the motivation and focus should be “for the kingdom of God”. Therefore, the greatest glories of the ascetical life are not merely ascetical prowess but the litmus test of charity.

To read the Life of Antony, by St. Athanasius: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2811.htm

September 7, 2013

Monks in Seminary

Ever wonder what seminary is like? This passage is taken from a book, "To Save a Thousand Souls," written by Fr. Brett Brannen. Although he wrote
this book as an aid for men discerning diocesan priesthood, his chapter on Seminary is very insightful for monks preparing for the priesthood as well.

To "Look Inside" this book:  http://www.amazon.com/Save-Thousand-Souls-Discerning-Priesthood/dp/0615345514

To Save a Thousand Souls: Seminary

"Seminaries are very much like specialized universities such as medical schools or law schools. They exist to train men to do a specialized work which requires not only academic knowledge, but also the development of the skills to do their work: to bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus. But priesthood (just like the Religious Life of a Monk) is not just a job; it is a life. Seminarians must be formed not just to do something but to be someone – someone very extraordinary. Seminarians must be formed to be an alter Christus – another Christ."

"It is true that Catholic seminary is a place of deep prayer, and that necessitates a certain amount of silence, but it is also true that seminaries are places of great joy and excitement. Seminarians study hard, they pray hard, they serve other people, and teach them about Jesus. And they have fun. Laughter rings in the halls of our seminaries because the men are joyful. They are excited to be following Jesus and excited that they might be called to become priests."

September 5, 2013

Monastic History: Origins of Monasticism (Part 2 of 3)

Antony of Egypt (251 – 356 AD), Father of Monasticism & Model for Monks

The Life of Antony, written by St. Athanasius, begins with a brief account of Antony’s home life. Though he was born into a wealthy peasantry, Antony’s parents died young, leaving him as the main care taker for his seven year old sister. However, this was not a long term duty for Antony who soon entrusted his sister to the care of a group
St. Antony of Egypt
of Consecrated Virgins in order that he might set out to the edge of society, seeking an ascetical master (an Appa) to teach him the contemplative / ascetical life. While this might seem to be a radical decision, leaving everything, including his sister behind, Antony’s decision was not merely based on a whim; rather, it was a response to a personal call that he heard in Church on two different occasions: the first occasion, Antony heard the Gospel call him to sell everything and “follow Me;” on the second occasion, he heard the Gospel tell him “Do not be anxious about tomorrow”.

After his initial detachment and flight from the world, Antony underwent many temptations in his early ascetical life such as temptations of self indulgent concerns, bitterness, and lust. At times, Antony even questioned his motivation for leaving the world and his sister behind. However, the greatest of the temptations, the temptation of spiritual pride, came in the form of the devil disguised as a little Ethiopian boy trying to trick Antony into admitting that he had mastered the spiritual and ascetical life. Nevertheless, in all of these trials, Antony kept vigil, fasting and praying, triumphing over all of the temptations, not through his own strength but through the grace of Christ.

Following this last temptation of spiritual pride, Antony fled even further, going into the desert, the domain of demons, where he lived in old abandoned tombs. In the desert, Antony experienced trials similar to those of the martyrs in the coliseum; at night, animals of every type came and tried to terrify him and physically assault him. At one point, a friend of Antony found Antony’s seemingly lifeless body. The man carried Antony back to the city and brought him to the Church. Waking up, Antony returned to the desert tombs, questioning God: “Why have you abandoned me?” Upon this question, Antony experienced God in a descending beam of white light. Like before, the triumphs of Antony over temptation were not achieved by him, but rather by Christ in light.

For more information about the Life of Antony, Part 3 of Origins of Monasticism will be posted on September 9.

To read the full Life of Antony, by St. Athanasius: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2811.htm

September 4, 2013

St. Benedict and Spiritual Combat (Part 3 of 3)

The Blessing of the Medal of St. Benedict has three distinct prayers.  The First Prayer is an exorcism of the wicked spirit, to make void his evil influence, with the earnest petition that the Medal be for the welfare of the body and soul of the user. 

The Second Prayer is a fervent petition that the user of the Medal may devote themselves to the practice of good works, may obtain health of mind and body, forgiveness of sins, and the grace of holiness.

The Third Prayer is very impressive in virtue of the detailed and solemn commemoration of the agony, sufferings and death of Our Lord. 

Exorcism Blessing for St. Benedict Crucifixes and Medals
Done by any priest, preferably a Benedictine
Priest should vest in a white stole

P: In the Name of the Father, And the Son, And the Holy Spirit. Amen.  
P: Our Help is in the name of the Lord
R: Who made Heaven and Earth.

Prayer # 1
P: I exorcise this medal in the name of God, the Father Almighty, who made Heaven and Earth, the seas, and all that is in them.  May God uproot and expel from this object all power of the adversary, all attacks of the devil, and all deceptions of Satan, so that it may bring health of mind and body to all who use it.  We make this prayer in the name of the Almighty (+) Father, of Jesus (+) Christ, His Son our Lord, and of the Holy (+) Spirit, the Paraclete.  We pray also with love for our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead, and to purify the world by fire. 
R. Amen.  

All: Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy, Lord have mercy.          Our Father…
P. Save your servants.                                   R. Who trust in you, my God.
P. Be for us, O Lord, a tower of strength.      R: Against the power of the enemy.
P: The Lord will give strength to his people.   R: The Lord will bless his people with peace
P: Send us, O Lord, help from the sanctuary. R: And from Zion protect us.
P: O Lord, hear my prayer.                           R: And let my cry come to you.
P: The Lord be with you.                               R: And with your spirit.

Prayer # 2
P: Let us pray.  Almighty God, Giver of all good things, we humbly ask you, through the intercession of St. Benedict, to pour out your blessing (+) upon this medal imprinted with sacred prayers and
symbols, so that all who use this medal, and devote themselves to the practice of good works, may obtain health of mind and body, forgiveness of sins, and the grace of holiness. With the help of your mercy, may they be able to resist all the attacks and wiles of the devil, and thus be truly holy and blameless in your sight. Through Christ our Lord.
R: Amen.

Prayer # 3
P: Let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ, who for the redemption of the whole world, willed to be born of the Virgin, to be circumcised, rejected by the Jews, betrayed by the kiss of Judas, bound with ropes, crowned with thorns, pierced with nails, crucified between robbers, wounded with a lance, and finally to die on the cross. Through your most holy Passion, we humbly implore that you drive away all attacks and wiles of the devil, from those who devoutly invoke your holy name, while using this medal imprinted with sacred words and symbols. Lead them safely to the haven of salvation, where you live and reign forever.
R: Amen.

P: May the blessing of Almighty God (+) the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit descend upon this medal and upon those who use it, and may this blessing remain forever.
R: Amen.
(Priest sprinkles the crucifixes/medals with holy water)

For more blessings: http://www.evmcc.org/media/MY%20EXORCISM%20BLESSINGS%20FOR%20SACS%20(BOOKLET).pdf

September 3, 2013

Monks Pray for Peace in Syria

Below is Pope Francis' most recent Angelus address, in which he calls for a day of prayer and fasting on Sept. 7, the Vigil of the Birth of the Mary, the Queen of Peace.  May our prayers and fasting, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, bring about a peaceful resolution to all war driven nations.  

God, our Father, Your Word, Jesus Christ, spoke peace to a sinful world and brought mankind the gift of reconciliation by the suffering and death He endured. Teach us, the people who bear His name, to follow the example He gave us: may our faith, hope, and charity turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, and death to eternal life. Amen.

Saint Peter's Square

Sunday, 1st September 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much
Queen of Peace
pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigour I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries. May humanitarian workers, charged with the task of alleviating the sufferings of these people, be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid.

What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, [11 April 1963]: AAS 55, [1963], 301-302).

All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!

I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mat, Queen of Peace, pray for us!



September 2, 2013

Monastic History: Origins of Monasticism (Part 1 of 3)

Withdrawal From the World

The word “Monasticism” is derived from the Greek term “Monachos,” meaning “sole,” “single,” or "alone".  Since the earliest days of Christianity individuals and small groups of people have chosen to withdraw from the world in order to live in the
Desert Father: Abba Scisoes
solitude of the desert and the fringes of society.  Although this initial flight from the world could be attributed to various reasons, such as the early Christians’ attempt to avoid persecutions or heavy taxes, it soon became the means by which men and women sought “White Martyrdom,” the daily dying to self and the complete giving of one’s self to Christ. 
Developing more or less at the same time in Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt and Cappadocia, as well as in the West, Monasticism was not a phenomenon that sprang up overnight as a finished product.  In fact, early Christian Monks had very different attitudes about what the ascetical life should entail.  Overall, although monastic life was widely practiced, it was not properly structured.  However, it did not take long for a model to arise.  In the Life of Antony, written by St. Athanasius, Antony is presented as a prototype for monks, a model for emulation.  Although Antony of Egypt (251-356 AD) was clearly not the first monk to live in the desert, due to his discipline and holiness of life, he is regarded as the founder and father of monasticism. 

For more information about the Life of Antony, Part II of Origins of Monasticism will be posted on September 5. 


Pax et Gaudium

O.S.B. Vocation Awareness

O.S.B. Vocation Awareness