The German Trappist monastery of Mariawald has announced, with the permission of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, that it is returning to its pre-Vatican II liturgy and strict form of monastic life.
The monastery, founded originally in the fifteenth century, currently has 1o monks.
Trappists and tradition
The move is particularly significant in that up until now, while there are considerable variations between individual houses, the Trappists (including Australia's Tarrawarra) have been amongst those who have most strongly resisted any return to tradition.
The Abbot General of the Order for the last eighteen years - who stepped down only only a few months ago - for example wrote recently in a paen to spirit of Vatican II-style reform (A monastic vision for the 21st century Where do we go from here?, ed Patrick Hart) that:
"There is a special place reserved in purgatory for those monks and nuns of all ages who sin by being slavishly faithful to tradition instead of daring to be creative…"
Recovering the charism
New Liturgical Movement carries a translation of the monastery's press release on the subject. It is heady stuff:
"The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has granted to the abbot of the Trappist abbey Mariawald (diocese of Aachen), Dom Josef Vollberg OCSO, according to his petition, the privilege to return with his abbey to the liturgy and observance in the Ancient Use of the Order which was in force up to the reforms in the wake of the Second Vatican Council....
This so-called "use of Monte Cistello" was approved during the time of the Council in the years 1963/1964 as a preliminary step of reform. In a letter of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" of 21 November 2008 this papal privilege is granted to the Abbey. In it, reference is made to the personal decision of the Holy Father to accede in all respects to the privileges desired by the Trappist for a full return to the Ancient Use in liturgy and monastic life. This includes the return to the ancient liturgical tradition of the Order in the celebration of Mass and Divine Office as it was binding until the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.
The project of reform in Mariawald and the petition of the Abbot concerning this can be regarded as a fruit of the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI for the renewal of the Church in the spirit of tradition. As the various postconciliar reforms not for yielded for the monastery the expected flowering in liturgy and in the life of the Convent, now the return to tradition links to the centuries-old tradition of the Order. Through the return to the ancient Gregorian liturgy and the stricter use of the monastic form of life, Dom Josef promises himself new spiritual impulses, also regarding new vocations for the abbey.
Worldwide, it can be felt that monastic communities, which cultivate the preconciliar Latin liturgy, can boast of significant numbers of vocations. Especially in France, on the background of a traditional interpretation of the rule of St Benedict and the Gregorian liturgy in Mass and Divine Office, there are flourishing abbeys. In Germany it has previously not been possible for vocations to the monastic life of a traditional form to join a corresponding community. With the papal privilege in Germany, too, there is now for the first time the possibility for young men to live the ancient tradition of contemplative life in the august forms of the classical liturgy and in the strict observance of the rule of St Benedict.
Dom Josef sees himself confirmed in his decision by the Holy Father, whose generously formulated privilege of all desired forms of return to tradition also bespeaks his personal desire that in the rediscovery of the ancient liturgy and manner of life, a renewal of monastic life as a whole may be stimulated. Thus, the abbot is convinced, the personal and direct action of the Pope for the Mariawald Abbey corresponds to the "Project of Tradition", which the Holy Father has initiated in 2007 by his Motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" for the liturgy.
Dom Josef finds himself and his abbey sustainably motivated by the Holy Father and his immediate and direct papal juridical act, to implement the tradition-oriented reform of the monastery with new spiritual vigour for the sake of its future. The Abbey assumes in this a pioneering role worldwide to renew the monastic life out of the spirit of tradition and to counteract the decline of monastic life, which especially some Trappist abbeys have had to experience in recent years.
In the field of economics, the monastery has in recent years already put an emphasis on its focus on organic agriculture. Now it is the spiritual content of contemplative life which is to receive new stimuli from the great tradition of the Order and its classical Latin liturgy.....
Josef Vollberg, O.C.S.O., abbot"