Notes on the traditional Benedictine Ordo for the third week (16-22) of August

Wednesday 18 August – St. Agapitus, Martyr, Memorial

St Agapitus of Palestine was martyred by beheading at the age of 15 under the Emperor Aurelian around 274 AD.

Friday 20 August - St Bernard Abbot and Doctor, Class III

St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 - 1153), though not one of the initial fathers of Citeaux, is certainly regarded as one of the founder of the Cistercians.    The Cistercians initially had a rocky start - their first abbot, Robert of Molesmes, was twice forced to return to his original monastery of Molesmes by the Pope, and third time persuaded to do so by the monks of the monastery in 1100.  St Bernard arrived at Citeaux in 1098 with forty friends, and three years later was abbot of the first of many new foundations of the Order.

I have to admit that personally I don't personally find the Cistercian ethos - of minimalism in architecture, liturgy and Church interiors, and a much greater emphasis (historically at least) on literalism with respect to the Cistercian constitutions' reinterpretation of the Benedictine Rule, and austerity - particularly attractive. And St Bernard's crusading fundamentalism on matters theological and monastic in his long disputes with Peter the Venerable, Peter Abelard and others too can seem less than balanced to the modern eye.  His sermons and writings on Our Lady though, and many other of his works, do offer great spiritual beauty and insight, earning him the title of Doctor of the Church.

Sat 21 – Saturday of Our Lady; Blessed Bernard Ptolemy OSB, Abbot, memorial [REF: St Jeanne Frances de Chantal, W, 3cl]

Today is the feast of St Bernard Tolemei (Ptolemy in the Diurnal) (1272-1348), founder of the Olivetan Congregation of Benedictines.

The bi-ritual monastery of Flavigny in France was founded from this tradition.

Giovanni Tolomei was born at Siena.   He wanted to enter religious life, but his father's opposition prevented him from doing so, and he studied philosophy,  mathematics, law and theology instead. He also served in the armies of Rudolph I of Germany.

Accused of heresy, he went to Avignon to clear himself of the charge; on his return he founded the congregation of the Blessed Virgin of Monte Oliveto (the Olivetans), giving it the Rule of St. Benedict. The purpose of the new religious institute was a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

He (along with many of his monks) succumbed to the plague as a result of devoting themselves to the care of the sick at the age of 76. You can read more about him on the Vatican website.

Saturday I Vespers/Sunday August 22 – Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Class II

The canticle antiphon for I Vespers refers to the first nocurn reading at Lauds, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) chapter 1.   The Lauds and II Vespers canticle antiphons refer to the Gospels for today, Luke 17: 11-19 (the lepers).

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