Saturday, 18 February 2012

The revival of monastic life***updated

Midnight Mass, Monastery of St Benedict, France
Source: Monastery website

There have been a few interesting stories of monastic life around recently, so here is a quick update. 

New community

First some good news - a new Benedictine men's community with the traditional rite is starting up.  It is in the diocese of Frejus-Toulon in the South of France, and includes Australian Dr Alcuin Reid amongst its number.   Fr Blake has a post on them seeking support, and now there is an interview with their prior over at New Liturgical Movement.  Do please pray for their success and consider supporting them financially! 

Maybe they can help counter the effects of the ongoing scandals in the English Congregation which have of late engulfed Downside and Ealing Abbeys. Not to mention the attempt of the ex-Ramsgate monks to sell off the sacred patrimony...

Monastery of Norcia - pray for Fr Cassian

The other, rather less happy news is from the bi-ritual Monastery of Norcia, Italy, which provides daily podcasts of its sung EF Mass, Lauds, Vespers and more.  Its prior, Fr Cassian Folsom, who was chosen as Inside the Vatican Magazine's person of the year for 2011, has unfortunately suffered a relapse in the cancer that had been in abeyance since treatment a few years back.  Please pray for his recovery.

New website

I thought I should also mention the new website of the Clear Creek Sisters in the USA.

Playing the nun?

But just to illustrate how far we have yet to go before religious life recovers its traditional norms, a number of conservative blogs and aggregation services are running the story of the proposed appearance of Mother Dolores Hart, prioress (second in charge) of Regina Laudis Monastery, at the upcoming Oscars as if it was a positive thing.

Personally, I think the story illustrates something quite different!  Dolores Hart was an actress who starred in a number of films with Elvis Presley.  She entered the monastery (without changing her name), which retains the full habit and chant, some fifty years ago.

But rather than being required to give up her connections to her former life, she has remained a voting member of the Academy (watching the nominations each year at the monastery), established a theatre and arts centre in the monastery itself, and this year is planning to walk the red carpet in full habit.

I'm not quite sure how this can be reconciled with the monastery's claim to be strictly enclosed and contemplative!

In fact Regina Laudis was founded in 1947, and its first abbess was a doctor who, according to her recent biography, had a reputation as an intellectual snob, accepting as nuns only those who had excelled in their respective professional fields.  In the 1960s to 1990s the monastery gained a reputation for dangerous psycho-sexual cult-like behaviour, and a Vatican investigation finally forced its Jesuit spiritual advisor to leave in 1994, placed a Vatican-appointed delegate to monitor the monastery's affairs, as well as placing other restrictions on the community...


Martin S. said...

The Regina Laudis article wasn't very helpful. Was it persecuted by liberals or rightly disciplined? 60 Minutes doco was v.unflattering which counts for the former.

Kate said...

Rightly disciplined as far as I can tell. Apparently they made friends with the splinter factions of the Mercy and Franciscan sisters.

R J said...

Re Regina Laudis: Is there something about contemplative life in America which particularly leads to cultic disasters? Or is it just that, Americans being Americans and therefore inclined to painful candour, we hear more about cultic disasters in that nation's communities than about comparable events in, say, Spain?

I'm really beginning to wonder. Look at what Thomas Merton was in youth, versus what he became in middle age. In youth: Merton the strenuously prayerful, bestselling author, out in the middle of the Kentucky nowhere, and sincerely eulogised by no less a master than Evelyn Waugh. In middle age: Merton the sex-maddened commie-symp, whose published "thinking" vied with Mao's Little Red Book for sheer infantilism, and who with exquisite appropriateness accidentally electrocuted himself in a Bangkok bathroom during (you guessed it) 1968.

Then there was the Los Angeles convent where the sisters suddenly decided that Carl Rogers' "therapy" superseded 1970 years of Church law. (At least Rogers' orientation seems to have been heterosexual, so we compatriots of Ronald Conway had better take what comfort we can from that fact.) Rogers's doings - which involved the clandestine theft of fortunes from the American taxpayer - are recounted here:

How much of this can be blamed on the good old "Spirit of Vatican II", and how much on the USA itself? Search me.

Elizabeth D said...

According to Fr Blake in the comments the "mysterious group" are not in the UK. He doesn't say where, just that they are OSBs under their diocesan bishop rather than part of a congregation.

Kate said...

Thanks Elizabeth, I looked and you are right, his comment at the end of the string adds that interesting piece of info, I'll correc the story!