How to start a (Benedictine) monastery and some recommended reading

Today being the Tuesday of St Benedict, as well as the notes on the Votive Office I've already posted, I wanted to alert  readers to a couple of excellent blogs with posts worth catching up on at the moment, just in case you haven't seen them.

I also wanted to urge you once again, to pray for and offer financial support to the various traditional foundations, both new and established, and so some brief notes on the foundation process below.

Benedictine reading - from the new foundations

Benedictine spirituality can encompass several quite different streams, and so it is always worth exploring some of the different directions the charism can take.

In this light, the first blog I would urge you to take a look at is from Fr Pius Mary Noonan, Prior of the new foundation in Australia.

His From the Prior Column already has a lot of great material on it all worth a read.  The most recent post is on the newly canonised Carmelite Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, but focusing on some very Benedictine aspects of her thinking indeed, around the idea of peace as our objective, and the concept of the house of God within us.

The second is a series of commentaries on the Rule from Fr Mark Kirby, Prior of Silversteam in Ireland, another still relatively new foundation.  His Vultus Christi blog is always worth reading - I've obtained several excellent book recommendations from over there for example.  And the current series of commentaries on the Rule is really excellent, with lots of interesting insights.

How are Benedictine monasteries established?

Fr Mark's latest piece also alludes to the reason for the various new foundations being formed at the moment, namely some of the false ideas that have "infected and poisoned religious life for the past fifty years, rendering it tired, sterile, and degenerative."

So just how do new Benedictine monasteries get established?

We tend, I suspect, to think of monasteries as typically being founded as daughterhouses of existing monasteries, as Clear Creek was.

In reality, there are many paths!

By the nineteenth century, Benedictine monasteries were, as far as I can work out, split more or less evenly between monasteries with longstanding traditions (such as those in the Germanic countries, Spain and the English Congregation), and new start-ups without any professed nuns or monks and little or no help from existing monasteries.

Dom Gueranger for example, met his first Benedictine monk  - Dom Ullathorpe - seven or so years after he established his monastery, while on his way to Rome to do a week's 'noviciate' at St Paul Outside the Walls, immediately after which he was formally appointed abbot.

In more recent times, there are a range of models.

More than a few monasteries  - such as the nuns of Our Lady in the Desert and Petersham for example - have started from groups of laypeople, who once they have become established, have been adopted by existing monasteries or congregations.

An equally common path in the wake of Vatican II has been a single monk seeking to retain or return to the older traditions jettisoned by his or her monastery (Le Barroux being the most famous example).

The current traditional Benedictine monasteries

I've tried to summarise in the list below, of the origins of the monasteries currently using the traditional Benedictine Office and Mass occasionally or regularly.  There are also a few others that use the traditional Office, but Novus Ordo Mass.

Please do let me know if there are any I have wrong, or have missed (I've mostly used the list on the FIUV website).

(1) Founded by laypeople

Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles
Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope
Clear Creek Sisters

(2) Founded by one professed monk or nun

Le Barroux, France (men) (1970)- founded by one monk (Dom Calvet)
Le Barroux, France (women) (1979)  (Mother Elizabeth de la Londe)
San Benedetto, Norcia Italy (1998) (Fr Cassian Folsom)
Silverstream, Ireland  (Fr Mark Kirby)
Christ the King, Alabama
[Our Lady of Cana]

(3) Small group of monks (not a daughterhouse)

Benedictines of the Immaculate
?La Garde Freinet

(4) 'Reverts' - monasteries choosing to go back to the traditional Mass

Mariawald (OCSO)
Farnborough (Solesmes/Prinknash)
Fontgambault (though they stopped using the TLM only for a short period, under extreme pressure)

(5) Foundations from established monasteries

Fontgambault (founded from Solesmes, 1948)

Randol  (1971)
Triors  (1984)
Gaussan  (1994)
Clear Creek  (1999)
Wisques (refoundation 2013)

(Le Barroux)

Silver City (1991) (now SSPX affiliated)
Sainte-Marie de la Garde (2002)

Jouques (1967, from Limon)
Rosans (1991)
Notre Dame de l'Ecoute, Benin (2005)


Michael Demers said...

May they increase and prosper!

Ivlia said...

As a regular member of the daily congregation at Mass and Vespers at Silverstream Priory in Ireland I can state that they are increasing. They officially became a priory last year, up from 5 brothers to 8,and 2 more took the habit 2 weeks ago. They are now fundraising for a new Offertory to seat 26 brothers plus a growing congregation as the present one has postulants sitting on windowsills and, at times, members of the congregation on the floor in the hallway.