At fixed times all the abbots/abbesses come together. They discuss there the salvation of their own souls and of those committed to them. They take measures regarding the observance of the Holy Rule and of the Order where there is something that needs to be corrected or added. They foster anew among themselves the benefit of peace and charity. They devote themselves to maintaining the patrimony of the Order and safeguarding and increasing its unity. (C.77)

Monday, September 19, 2011

The God of Glory Thunders

This line from psalm 28 prayed at Lauds this morning was most fitting for the day. Thunder and lightning and heavy rains woke us up from sleep in the early dark morning. Those of us living at Gesu Bambino a few blocks away from Domus Pacis had to negotiate our morning walk between coats and umbrellas, water from above and below.

We sang “Songs of thankfulness and praise” as Entrance hymn for Mass, today with the US Region preceding and singing: “For your love that flows so free, for your fountain of mercy Be you now and ever blest” we continued singing, many of us not yet aware of how literally these words applied to the reality of the day: As we proceeded to the refectory for breakfast the entrance was blocked by a severe flooding in the basement from all the rain. Luckily there was a back door so we got our breakfast with no delay.

Tsunami, earthquakes, fire and other natural disasters or extreme conditions make an impact on monastic life. This is also reflected in the house reports, just as the economic and social situation in the different countries:
  • One community especially moved us by its desire to live in the insecurity that is affecting the surrounding population, being poor among the poor, wanting to be a sign of hope and of faith for all who see them, writes one report.

Asking more about this, we learned that the community of Mokoto has chosen to return to their monastery after it was destroyed in violence – having lived 15 years in refuge. The commission saw many similarities with the choice of our brothers of Tibhirine. Other communities also face a situation of poverty not knowing if they will have enough means to feed the monks. Others are affected by external events like drug trafficking and demands issued by the government.

We have now been presented by all the reports from the mixed commissions about the house reports. I will quote from one of these reports before going on to general features that came up:
  • The thirteen reports studied have permitted us to travel on four continents, and thus have let us discover a little better the face of each of the houses we have visited, whose features are more or let wrinkled depending on their history, with questions that vary considerably according to the culture and socio-economic situation of the country in which they are established. Some live in an environment with deep Christian roots, others in a country that is not for the main part Catholic, or hostile. One or other house is not directly affected by the ageing of its members, while others are, humanly speaking, in something of an impasse on account both of their small number and of the great age of their members.

Many reports stress the need to recover a certain interiority, mentioning the importance of rediscovering  or revitalizing the principal values of our monastic life, conveying a profound desire to live:
  • We have seen that the vitality of a community does not depend on the age or the number of the members, but rather on the dedication with which they live the Cistercian life. Liturgical prayer,  lectio divina and the practice of silence, are the monastic values emphasized most. They are profoundly formative communities even though they don’t have people in initial formation. The life is passed on by living it.
  • The witness of each superior has impressed us greatly. In spite of personal limitations and those of the community they serve, they have a vital and positive spirit and provide the means possible to make the community better.

Several commissions have seen examples of a turn in the life of a precarious community, and some with the help of the Order through a Commission of Aid and support from other monasteries who have given a superior or monks/nuns to help them, have experienced new life, not only in accepting their precariousness, but even in attracting new vocations and growing so they now can offer help to other communities.

One report notice: - The house reports are open and honest; the communities do not seek to hide their difficulties but simply expose them and ask for the help they need. The mixed commissions experience a greater freedom and more frankness in the way they function. Several of the communities whose reports we studied knew how to find resources to confront their situation by opening up a path to life, thanks to desire held in common. Hope leads us to believe that this is possible for all, even if it is not seen in all the reports.

The awareness of life-long formation and the search for a common vision in community are crucial for living happily today, for approaching the future in the best conditions and for making decisions needed at present. Desire for life (and not for survival) and the vision of faith are decisive for the quality of relationships.

Sr. Hanne-Maria of Tautra