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In the past few years, we have received the gift of 6 new members to our community. They are:




January 26, Feast of the Founders of the Cistercian Order. 


The following is a homily given by our Chaplain this morning regarding this feast.

Jan 26th   Feast of the Cistercian Founders


You may remember we prayed for the soul of Fr Carthage of Tarrawarra before Christmas.  Well, Fr Carthage was one of two brothers who entered my monastery at Roscrea in the 1940s.  Both of them would later go with a founding group to begin a new monastery, Fr Joseph to Nunraw in Scotland and Fr Carthage to Tarrawarra in Australia.  Both would be founders who would bring Cistercian life to two countries 12,000 miles apart.

The story goes that when Fr Carthage and his Abbot, Dom Camillus were on their way by plane to Australia, they encountered severe turbulence somewhere over the Pacific.  Dom Camillus thought they were going down, and he hurriedly asked Fr Carthage if he knew a quick form of absolution!

Well, as it turned out the plane made it all the way.  But on his return to Roscrea, Dom Camillus told the assembled brethren, ‘The Abbot risked his life for the community and the new foundation.’  Notice he spoke in the third person and made no mention of Fr Carthage!

We could well say our Cistercian Founders risked their lives as well to bring forth a new monastery at Citeaux.  And not only the founders but the whole group who left Molesme in search of a deeper meaning for their monastic identity.

Stephen Harding lamented – “We have done what we could, and we are accused of novelties, and worse, we are accused of causing divisions, and what is more, few are those who come to join us, to whom we can pass on this ‘form’ of our way of life.”

But their great faith would be rewarded.  Little did Robert, Alberic and Stephen know, that all who were to follow the form of the “New Monastery’ over the centuries – would be standing on the shoulders of these giants.

That ‘form’ of course, that soon many would find so attractive, so beautiful, our Founders called ‘observances’.   It was the organization of space, and the breakdown of the day, and the agreement about what you did as a monk, in and with your body.

Whether these blessed Founders directly intended it or not when they began what they were to call the New Monastery, where the Rule of St Benedict could and would be lived with utter faithfulness and simplicity, there came about through them a way of life, where community was central.     

Community is made up of people, but mostly community makes the people who make it up, and friendship is the way it makes us.

This is the form of community that has been blessed by the Church down the centuries and has produced countless saints, most of them hidden and unknown.  In a recent article  (Tablet) read in the refectory there was an attempt to name the most influential Catholics in the world of our time.

Of course, this is an impossible project to attempt because the church herself has said over and over that the most important Christians are most often those at the heart of the church, who by their prayer and asceticism and bring countless graces on mankind.

Most of these live hidden lives and will scarcely every get a mention among the greats of the church.    Even Jesus himself would seem to rubber stamp this by saying that the least will be the greatest, the unknown more luminous than the illustrious.

To get some understanding of how this works we have only to go back to the gospels and see how Jesus organized The Discipleship Movement.

"Follow Me" Jesus proclaims over and over again as he invites others to help change the world. Some of his actions may seem illogical.   A carpenter from Nazareth telling fishermen to "follow him" and he will make them fishers of men.    Who is he to tell others how to fish?

Later, Jesus issues an invitation to a tax collector to "follow him" in the Movement with no promise to make him treasurer.   Time and time again, Jesus invites others to join him.   The invitation is broad, and the directions are minimal but consistent.   All who are willing to join are welcome, but you must "follow me."

Isn't it just like Jesus to teach us so much with so little?   The organizing skills of Jesus remind us that true movements of liberation are best led by those who are being oppressed.   This is why it matters that Jesus did not come as a person of great privilege, but rather as an Afro-Semitic Palestinian born on the wrong side of the tracks.

It is from this context that Jesus begins a Movement, and it is from this context that Jesus invites others to follow.    And allies begin to show up, bringing their gifts and their skills with them.

So too it was with the Founders of Citeaux.  They did not come as people of great privilege, but rather as humble monks formed by the Rule of St Benedict.  They didn’t have anything worldly attractive to offer any new comer.   If they had gifts or skills, they were given no guarantee of being able to practice them in the monastery.

And yet, people begin to show up, led by the brilliant Bernard with their bodies, gifts and skills.  Perhaps, Bernard’s greatest gift was the gift of family, not only literally, but that intimate sense of belonging to this group, to this place.     This idea of course would be enshrined in the Charter of Charity and would give clear direction to the Cistercian form of life.  All observances are guided by charity.

So, this Solemnity each year invites us as a Cistercian community to reconsider where we are, where we have come from, and where we are going.     It invites us to do an inventory of ourselves and see whether our ‘form of life’ provide a mirror for each of us.  We are challenged to see if it fosters friendship and is attractive.

We can take inspiration from St Bernard, where he says, “As for me, as long as I look at myself, my eye is filled with bitterness.   But if I look at divine mercy, the mercy incarnated in my brothers and sisters, I will see my true self, and it will be a step to the knowledge of God… who will become visible to me according as his image is being renewed within me”.

Nowhere do we see that image renewed better than in the lives of our brothers of Atlas.  Archbishop  Desfarges of Algiers has said that the Cistercian martyrs and their companions are “models for our lives as disciples today and tomorrow.”

The archbishop said that the witness of the Beati “takes us down the path of ordinary holiness.”  “Life is given to us in order to live it, giving ourselves in the everyday...holiness is not a perfection in virtue or morals” but “is a matter of giving your own life, loving and serving in the ordinary things of every-day life.”     May our Holy Founders help us become model disciples too.

Twentieth Anniversary of Tautra Mariakloster: short history through photos

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