Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hagiography doesn't get much better than this!

Three Religious Rebels
The Forefathers of the Trappists 
M. Raymond
IVE PRESS. Kindle Edition. (2013-08-02).

My stumbling upon this dear book I count not only as fortunate but as a pure grace. I think at my age, I can safely say that I do not have the call to the monastic life, let alone to the strict observance of the Trappists, who owe their origin to these three holy founders of the Cistercian Order. Even so, without maudlin or exaggeration, this book gave me as much of an answer as I could possibly want to what is possible when men and women give themselves over totally to God in the consecrated life. Most encouraging in this year dedicated to the consecrated life in the Church!

Read it, please, and decide for yourself if it is a book for old men or young idealists. Just don't tell me you didn't like it or didn't gain profit for your own soul from reading it. I won't hear of it, as I honestly had a hard time putting the book down.

Father Raymond does a super job not only on his three major characters, the founders, but also on some of the minor characters. He sets his story in most difficult times for the Catholic Church and the Papacy; he hazards as much of an explanation of the miracle of Citeaux as anyone would dare. As I say, read it for yourself.

The book itself was written seventy years ago, but strikes me as if its 2012 copyright in the print edition might actually be its first edition. The book is neither quaint nor antiquated. 

One of the points discussed any number of times in the book was whether these saints were attempting to turn back the clock by six centuries and recapture St. Benedict of Nursia. True to its Benedictine matrix, much is made not only of the roles of poverty, silence and manual labor for monks, but a goodly part of it is a reflection of the limits or dimensions of the obligation the monastic community has to choir, to the singing night and day of the Divine Office.

People who know my blogging will not be surprised that I focus on what is said of devotion to the Eucharist and the profound praise reserved for the silent Low Mass of the individual priest monks. Many of those who entertain doubts about the urgency of the task of moving with conviction toward a restoration of the Roman Rite as sine qua non for regaining the possibility of the organic development of a living liturgy should let this book speak to you as well.

The Cistercian Order was God's gift to save the Church from all kinds of evils, but especially from the lack of faith which found the ideal seedbed in the feudal system. Sadly, faith is also lacking today and the Ordinary Form of the Liturgy would leave many priests at a loss to identify with these lovely words attributed by Father Raymond to St. Stephen Harding: 

"I can tell you that I never feel so small, so utterly unworthy, so crushingly humiliated as I do when I, Stephen Harding, a sinful man, hold God in my hands. Why, Peter, every time I reflect on the power God has given me, I blush as deep as my soul. No, my friend, to be conscious of being God’s instrument does not make a rational man complacent; it makes him confused and deeply, deeply humble.'” [Kindle Highlight Loc. 9372-91]

Very simply, we have to take arms against the abuses which hold the Ordinary Form hostage; the arbitrary must give way to a new God-centeredness. This book offers much food for thought about the clear sense of restoration as something quite other than archaeologizing. The orientation mentioned in this next quote is both cosmic and profound:

"You spoke of being ‘God-orientated.’ Well, that’s the secret of Citeaux. Even your church is facing due east! You’ve got your face to the sun. And if you’ll allow me to play on words, you’ve got your face to the Son of God. I see now why Cistercians are so little self-conscious and so utterly unconscious of the world. They are entirely Christ-conscious, totally God-conscious; that’s the reason." [Kindle Highlight Loc. 11804-7]

Legend has it that Our Lady espoused St. Robert of Molesme, the first of the three founders, already in his mother's womb. The predilection the Mother of God had for the Cistercians is no more than an indication of her great love for all in the Church and of her longing that we be washed and saved in the Blood of her dear Lamb. Could a Cistercian or a Trappist revival be in the cards for the Church today? We need only ask for generous hearts to return with valour the love showered upon them and upon our world unceasingly by God through Mary and all the Angels and Saints.


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