My son: after you have pronounced your vows this morning you shall lie prostrate on the floor of the chapel and be covered with the funeral pall. The death knell shall sound on our largest bell. Thus, these sacred rites shall bespeak your death to the world, the death of the old man (who in truth is not that old at all).
Some would regard you as foolish. Why should a well-educated young man with many gifts seemingly throw them all away to live a life of renunciation and penance in the cloister?
Some, indeed, may even regard our monastery as foolish. Who in their right mind would seek to restore these conventual buildings to their purposed use? Is it not a folly even to hope so to do?
And yet, as we have been privileged to experience in the past month, there is goodness, beauty and truth to be found in restoring this chapel to the worship of Almighty God after more than two hundred years. There is a rightness about the return of the refectory to monastic recollection.
So too, in the life of the cloister. Goodness, truth and beauty – Almighty God Himself – are to be found there, as you have experienced day in and day out in the three years since pronouncing your monastic vows. You have encountered that pax inter spinas in the reality of our daily monastic life. This morning you state publicly before the Church – all of the faithful, present, absent, living and dead – that you desire nothing else and you solemnly commit yourself to that quest for as long as you shall live.
You do so before the relics of many monastic saints and beati who themselves have made their solemn profession as you are to do today. Indeed, most probably, some of them have even knelt in prayer within these very walls. They, too, were young and foolish in the eyes of the world, and through their supposed foolishness they have done great things for God. Their perseverance has won them the crown of eternal life and glory.
You may rely on their prayers to assist you in your perseverance, as you may rely on those of your brethren. And you may be sure that Almighty God shall reward your self-oblation today with that particular grace that comes with monastic profession and which enables us to persevere and find that peace amongst the thorns of this life in the sure hope of unending peace in the next.
Shortly before Holy Communion the deacon of the Mass will instruct you with the words: “Get up, he who sleeps, and arise from death, and Christ enlighten thee.” You will arise to a new life of consummated dedication to Christ alone according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and the Constitutions and customs of our monastery.
Dearest Dom Ildephonse, it is our fervent prayer this morning that the next time the funeral pall shall cover your mortal body – and may it be many years, full of humility and good works, into the future - you may be found already rejoicing having received the crown of unending life together with the saints who have preceded us. Stay faithful to the vows you pronounce today, my son, and all this and more shall be yours.
Cher fils, les rites qui accompagneront votre profession dans quelques instants proclameront votre mort au monde. Qu’un jeune homme comme vous, qui a tout pour réussir, dédie sa vie à la prière et la pénitence, est une folie aux yeux du monde.
La vie monastique n’a pour le monde aucun sens, tout comme la fondation d’un monastère. Pourtant, nous avons vécu, ces dernières semaines, la joie de rendre cette chapelle, abandonnée depuis deux cent ans , au culte de la Divine majesté.
En vérité, la vie monastique est remplie de cette joie, vraie et pure, comme vous avez pu le vivre pendant les trois années écoulées depuis vos vœux simples. Vous avez vu combien la vie monastique apporte chaque jour la paix au milieu des épines.
Aujourd’hui, vous proclamez devant toute l’Eglise du Ciel et de la Terre que vous consacrerez votre vie à chercher cette paix. Vous le faites devant les reliques de tant de saints moines qui ont eux-mêmes fait ce vœu avant vous. Peut-être que certains ont prié ici même. Eux aussi étaient fous aux yeux du monde ; mais leur persévérance leur a remporté la couronne de la vie éternelle. Soyez assuré de leurs prières, de la prière de vos frères, et de l’assistance de la grâce divine.
Peu avant la Sainte Communion, le diacre vous admonestera : « Lève-toi, toi qui dort, relève-toi des morts, et le Christ t’illuminera ». Vous vous lèverez alors pour une vie nouvelle, dédiée au Christ et à lui seul, selon la Règle de Saint Benoît.
Cher Dom Illdephonse, la prochaine fois que ce voile funéraire recouvrira votre corps - espérons, après de longues années d’humilité et de bonnes œuvres – puissiez-vous déjà avoir reçu la couronne d’immortalité et de gloire, avec tous les saints qui nous ont précédé. Soyez fidèle à ces vœux cher fils: alors, tout cela sera vôtre, et bien plus encore.
+ If there is one thing that the Gospel teaches us today, it is that worries about material things – food, drink, clothes, etc. – are nothing new. Our Lord’s generation knew them only too well, as do we.
Even monks must have material resources and places and spaces in which to live the monastic life. As we prepare to celebrate – with profound joy and thanksgiving to all who have made it possible – our fourth Sunday here in our new home, we are acutely conscious of all that needs doing in these buildings and on this estate of which we have become the privileged custodians. And, humanly speaking, what is needed is beyond us: we are poor and have no means, of ourselves, of generating the necessary funds to heat the chapel, rebuild the library floor, complete the dormitories or begin the work of restoration on the other buildings, etc., etc.
Humanly speaking we shouldn’t even be here. You know that the reason that we are is because a visiting monk took one look at the place, inquired as to the means we had available and then fraternally rebuked me with the question: “Don’t you believe in God’s Providence?!” Five months after that rebuke we moved in.
And so, here we are. A great deal has been done in four weeks. We have a functioning chapel and refectory. Our cells are taking shape and even have elecricity. The chickens and bees are happily installed. Yet very much more needs to be done. The enormity of the task at hand could easily give rise to worries, even anxieties – greater ones, perhaps, than those listed in today’s Gospel.
If he found us worrying about all of this our monk friend would rebuke us again, as does today’s Gospel when it teaches: “Quaerite ergo primum regnum Dei, et justitiam ejus: et haec omnia adjicientur vobis.” Seek first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things will be added to you.
This, surely, is one of the most instructive verses of Sacred Scripture – and not only (but certainly) in our particular circumstances. For what is a monk if not one who seeks first the Kingdom of God; one who spends himself in a life of the worship of God by putting nothing before the Work of God; one who seeks entry into the school of the Lord’s service so as therein to seek God before all else? A monk is – or should be – the epitome one who seeks first the Kingdom of God.
So too, a monk is one who seeks God’s justice. God’s justice requires our conversion. The old man must die. The new man, remade in God’s image and likeness, must live and grow. It is, perhaps, easy enough to seek first the Kingdome of God – celebrating the ancient rights of the Sacred Liturgy beautifully and optimally in a monastic context (and indeed in an eleventh century Romanesque chapel) are captivating and enthralling, certainly – but the conversion of my life, the conforming of myself to God’s ways, is costly. It is painful. And it is necessary if I am to find God.
Of course, the sweetness of dwelling in the Lord’s Temple (of which today’s Introit sings) is a consolation and indeed a motivation for this conversion. The Lord does not require us to endure an arid desert so as to find Him. In His mercy He gives us the beauty of the Sacred Liturgy with its many sacramental supports and consolations. He gives us the charity and fraternal love of our brethren and the consolation of a beautiful place in which to pray and work.
But he gives these gifts to us precisely so that we may conform ourselves to His justice. If we avoid this duty, if we do not truly seek to progress in the conversion of our lives, we are little better than passing tourists or, a rather sad form of (monastic) liturgy geeks. And that will not do. We are called to seek the Kingdom of God and His justice, not to acquiesce in the ways of the old man whilst admiring the aesthetics of a beautiful Romanesque apse. The integrity of aesthetic beauty exists so as to call us to become ever more integrally beautiful in the sight of God. The privileged encounter with God into which we enter in the Sacred Liturgy draws us closer to Him so that we may be purified. If we hold back, if we will not let go of the old man, if we will not wholeheartedly enter into the refining fire that is the encounter with God that in the Sacred Liturgy, we are not truly seeking God, but ourselves.
Yet, if we do truly seek God and His justice, the Gospel assures us that “all these things” – all that we need – shall be ours without asking.
My brothers, our very presence in this building is proof enough of that. And yes, certainly, we are concerned, and rightly, about how are we going to find the means necessary to maintain, renovate and restore our new – but very old – home. First, however, as our Blessed Lord teaches us today, we must be concerned about maintaining, renovating and restoring ourselves by first seeking the Kingdom of God and His justice. If we ensure that our monastic lives are lives of evangelical and monastic integrity, then, as we have seen already, all that we need shall be ours for, as our monk friend rightly recalled in March, God’s Providence is a reality. +
Le matin de la fête de l'Assomption, nous avons célébré notre première messe conventuelle
dans notre chapelle médiévale. Le Père Prieur a prêché cette brève homélie.
On the morning of the feast of the Assumption we celebrated our first conventual Mass
in our medieval chapel. Father Prior preached this brief homily.
Vous trouverez ci-dessous notre lettre aux amis
pour le temps après la Pentecôte 2020
Our Time after Pentecost 2020 newsletter is published below.
Après sa bénédiction lors de la Veillée de l'Assomption, notre chapelle est revenue à l'usage liturgique
avec la célébration solennelle des premières Vêpres de la fête de l'Assomption.
Avant de commencer les vêpres, le père Prieur a fait les remarques suivantes.
After its blessing on the Vigil of the Assumption, our chapel returned to liturgical use
with the solemn celebration of first Vespers of the feast of the Assumption.
Before commencing Vespers Father Prior offered the following remarks.
Around midday, yesterday, by God's grace and through the generosity of many, many friends and benefactors throughout the world, we signed the final contract and became the proprietors of the 11th century Romanesque chapel built by the monks of St Victor's Abbey, Marseille, and its adjoining Commandery built by the Knights Templar from the 12th century onward and subsequently taken over by the Knights of Malta.
Yesterday afternoon, after many centuries of absence, the black monks returned to Brignoles. Following the processional cross and chanting the Gradual psalms we processed from the main road to our new home which we proceeded to bless immediately.
Work habits were then donned and, with the help of friends and workmen, the work began - principally to have the chapel ready for its blessing on the afternoon of the Vigil of the Assumption and its return to liturgical life and use immediately thereafter.
Our gratitude to all who have contributed to this achievement is immense - our prayers are yours! There is an incredible amount more to do, and we need further support to complete the financial arrangements of the purchase, certainly, and for the renovation and restoration works, certainly. But on the occasion of the return of the black monks to Brignoles, we want to thank you for all that you have done to help in bringing us to this historic day, and to assure you of our prayers.
+ We are very “gospel-centered” in our liturgical life, and rightly so. The gospel of Sundays and greater feasts is sung both at matins and at Mass and is the subject of specific Patristic commentary in matins’ third nocturn. One needs little more for lectio divina than this. Our recollection is furthered still by the succinct recapitulation of the gospel by the Sunday Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons. Sundays and feast days can be busy for the monk (as they can for observant Catholic families) – busy about the right things, of course – but in the midst of this the Sacred Liturgy meditates upon and mediates the gospel to and for us, as it should.
Nevertheless, there are three nocturns at Sunday and festal matins. The first is where, eccleisially, we read Sacred Scripture in a more extended manner. The second has us listen to Patristic commentary upon that which has been read in the first. The riches of both these nocturns are almost too much to digest even in a whole monastic lifetime and, if we are (howsoever justly) ‘gospel-centric’, it is easy enough to pass them by as we hasten toward higher things.
There is no sin here. We are dealing with a surfeit of riches, of choosing between one good and another good, and in that we are surely free according to our circumstances. It may be wise, though, over a lifetime, to ensure that for a given period each of the nocturns receives due attention, or is revisited: their riches are placed before us by the Church in Her Tradition for our nourishment, not to be ignored.
And of course, Saturday vespers flags the content of the first two nocturns of Sunday in its own Magnificat antiphon. It is always an interesting ‘taster’ which serves well to prepare one to attend to the riches to be laid before us during the night which follows.
Yesterday evening at Vespers we sang “Exaudisti Domine, orationem servi tui, ut aedificarem templum nomini tuo.” (You have heard the prayers of your servant, Lord, that I might build a temple to your name.)
I confess that it distracted me severely. It did not recall the Scripture readings or Patristic commentary of this morning’s first two nocturns at all. It was as if I had never seen that antiphon before; that it had been composed anew.
This antiphon does, of course, encapsulate King Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple (cf. I Kings 8:16ff.), the Lord’s response to which we heard in the first nocturn this morning. And it is instructive: fidelity to the Lord’s Covenant shall bring security and blessings upon Solomon and his descendants. Infidelity shall make of his people a byword, the Lord’s blessing shall be withdrawn from the Temple, passers-by shall be astonished at the devastation, etc.
But this was not the source of my distraction at Vespers last evening. Rather, after intoning “Exaudisti Domine,” and continuing “orationem servi tui, ut aedificarem templum nomini tuo,” it struck me with force that, given the news we received late on Friday afternoon that our purchase of our new home, the medieval commandery in Brignoles, has now been approved by the civil authorities, and that we shall be able to move there shortly before the coming feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, this antiphon was placed there by God’s Providence for us, in 2020, as we prepare in the coming weeks and days to restore to Christian worship the Temple of the Lord, the heart of which was so brutally ripped out at the French Revolution.
For we have spent months, eighteen or so of them now, some of them not easy, begging the Lord for this grace. And now, indeed, we can thank Him with heart and soul for hearing our prayers and answering them favourably. The Lord has heard our prayers and has established us as the singularly privileged custodians of this ancient House of God.
So too, the Lord’s response to King Solomon pertains. For this sacred place is entrusted to us for a purpose – the worship of Almighty God in the monastic tradition – and, as for the King of Israel, so too for the sons of Saint Benedict: fidelity shall bring security and blessing; infidelity will make of us a byword.
The days leading up to our move and to the blessing of our old yet new chapel on the Vigil of the Assumption shall be very busy ones, and necessarily so. But this activity is a means, not an end, and it is the latter we must be careful to which to attend: that we might establish, through the gracious and generous help of our friends and benefactors, a place of true beauty and right worship that shall serve to glorify Almighty God and thereby bring God to man and man to God, in generous and joyful fidelity to the Rule of our Holy Father Saint Benedict.
For, as with Solomon, God’s gracious blessing on our work requires ever greater fidelity on our part. Indeed, as with the steward of today’s Gospel (Lk 16:1-9), we too shall be called to account for our stewardship. For the graces necessary to be faithful and blameless stewards, throughout this week let us pray this Sunday’s collect with even greater fervour:
Grant to us we ask Thee the spirit always to think and do what is right, so that we who cannot exist without Thee may be able to live according to Thy will.+
By God’s grace and through the generosity of many kind benefactors throughout the world we are due to be moving to our new (well, in fact medieval) home during the summer. By way of preparation we need to reduce our stock of Benedictiones Mensæ—our 2019 publication of the traditional prayers (grace) before and after meals for each day, including the proper prayers for the greater feasts and their octaves, in Latin and newly typeset with their proper Gregorian chant.
Accordingly, we are reducing its price from €4,95 per copy by approximately 50% to €2,50 per copy (hitherto the wholesale amount for purchases of 100 or more copies). This offer lasts up to and including the feast of Saint Benedict, 11th July 2020.
For your convenience you may use the PayPal button below to order. It has been set up to allow for ordering the maximum number of booklets in the relevant postage band. The postage price is the same for all countries outside of France. To order in France, or to order different quantities, please contact us with the number of booklets you require and we will send a PayPal invoice including the relevant postage charge. The booklets will be despatched as quickly as possible.
1 copy: €5,50 including postage worldwide
4 copies: €17,50 including postage worldwide
8 copies: €31,95 including postage worldwide
18 copies: €65,00 including postage worldwide
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