Friday, August 07, 2015


There is fruit on Papa Stronsay, they are in the middle of harvest in the green house, the cherries have just past, but then they are fruitful; all those young men they attract, despite or maybe because of the ghastly weather, the distance from anyone's home, the extraordinarily uncomfortable looking habits, the long hours in prayer, the penance, and although I haven't visited, though I have met some, what people remark on is the joy they have.

Fr Hugh writes about a meeting of the English Benedictines that has just ended, they have been discussing their future. In many ways their discussion is emblematic of the rest of the church, they are the 'canary down the mine'. The health of contemplative religious is an indication of the health of the wider Church.

One could make the that suggestion that the Traditional liturgy seems to make monastic life flourish, if one did, one could cite Norcia or Fontgombault and its several daughter houses or La Barroux or the Franciscans of the Immaculate, and Silverstream too have just professed Benedict Andersen, my congratulations. It might well be 'trad' communities do seem to flourish, but I would suggest that was only part of the answer. Some might be attracted to the religious life just because they are liturgical pedants, most monasteries need at least one. Liturgy is certainly important to monastic life as it is to the rest of the Church but there is something more, liturgy is the fons et origo but it is a means to an end, as the Church itself is, that end is union with God.

CfqLEYPpWRBezSJ-oWHtqmpI19mFkVHy0cJOzBWm2sk=w388-h291-noUltimately religious life is about holiness, about saints, about growth in the supernatural virtues, about Faith, Hope and Charity, it is about effective brotherly love, as should the Church as a whole.
The big question, which we dare not ask is, can we see the theological virtues being lived out, is the Church, is a monastery producing saints? Are vessels of clay shining with supernatural light?

The great problem  in religious life is perhaps the modern heresy of Gradualism, it infects parishes too, the idea that we cannot be saints today, that we do not encounter God, that we are not changed by God. What this means in reality is that there is no need for Faith, we are not reliant on God, or Hope, that God will take care of all things, or Charity that we are called to love with supernatural power. Whether it is the Universal Church, a parish, or a monastery or even a Synod the loss of the supernatural, of Grace is the killer, and yes the Sacred Liturgy is the key! Does a community believe it is a supernatural act, and therefore a fruitful thing, or just a community exercise.


Just another mad Catholic said...

The Funny thing is Father that its often the 'great Saint's' who although not directly teaching gradualism, taught a mindset that leads to it.

Think of Jerome who regarded marriage as 'legalised fornication', the The Doctors of the Church who so hated the world that in their sermons in extolling the virtues of the Priesthood and Religious life they condemned those of us who live in it as little more than dust who'd be lucky to scrape into purgatory, whilst they poured lavish praise on those who entered the religious life.

I see the same though processes revived under today's Traditional Religious, the F.S.S.R in one of their web pages on the religious life basically say there's no way you worldly lay people can be as Holy as a religious so don't bother trying, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (MICM) say pretty much the same thing on their website.

And you wonder why people don't try .............

Benvenuta said...

I would disagree with you as saying that the MICM as saying the same thing. SBenedict Center has always been a place for the laity and encouraging the laity to be holy and to have holy families. I am no longer there but I never felt that the religious there seemed to think they had a corner on holiness.
The Church has always taught that objectively religious life, which don't forget is not priesthood, is a higher state in life. Now for a person it could be that it is marriage or dedicated single life that will be a better means for holiness. But this doesn't negate the objective truth that a life consecrated by the vows is a more direct means toward charity. The kicker, of course, is that the persons living this way life of be faithful.
Monastic life has always been a life that strongly acknowledges we are sinners. It's a life for sinners to become saints.

maryfrances said...

Have a look at Clear Creek in Oklahoma. Benedictines alive and well and growing.

Chloe said...

'Just a Mad Catholic'. Could you provide a link to where the FSSR say this? Though saying lay people can't be AS holy doesn't mean they can't BE holy, does it?

Just another mad Catholic said...


Go to their blog-site and on the right hand side click on the link entitled "Advantages of the Religious State"


Well I can't remember whether it was Brother Francis or Brother Andre who wrote the particular article but was one of their articles on vocations which I read a long time ago.

The big kicker for me is that I wanted to be a religious priest but was turned away from several Traditional houses on the grounds that 15 years ago my father decided that he didn't mean it when he said "Till death do us part". Now I'm sure that most sane people would agree that I shouldn't be punished for something that wasn't my fault, but apparently this doesn't include the majority of Traditionalist Priests and Religious. Now I work with old Etonian, Old Harrovianss etc and I'll tell you what, they are more accepting of those that come from outside of their ranks than Traditional Priests / Religious.

The other thing is these Trad Priests and Religious (those who've discovered the internet anyway) seem to delight in writing articles that tell you 'how you're praying wrong' or 'you do know you're not getting any grace because you're fasting the wrong way'. This is to put it mildly, quite discouraging. They also preach in my experience a God who makes the most anally retentive compliance officer look as lax as a well known German Cardinal, who won't take any responsibility for his creation.

Now faced with being barred from religious life because of something that wasn't my fault (and yes I'm barred from the 'non traditional' houses because I'm traditional), being told that God won't accept my prayers or sacrifices because I've apparently missed out an action on the check list, why on earth would I bother trying? I can go to Mass everyday and be no better off than I was on Sunday. The Traddy crowd who pride themselves on having rejected 'feelings' in favour of cold hard religion really should learn the importance of self-esteem (something that apparently God doesn't care about).

That's what led to the crises in the first place; you had Traddy Priests who delighted in telling the laity how wicked they were, who offered a religion of works and a bean counter God with no place for the individual.

Rant over

Woody said...

Well, Mad Catholic, I hope you feel better getting that tirade off your chest.

Unknown said...

Brotherly Love and the Virtues? I hope and pray that all your readers are people of faith, because I can assure you that my experience in religious life etc found anything but those things. In fact, I can honestly state, in all my previous experience with the uncatechised and professed un-Godly I never experienced such wantonly wicked thinking and behaviour. I have no answer. But I’m sure the heresy of Gradualism is only a small part of a much bigger problem: A fundamental crisis of faith.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Goodness me! If you look at Father Hugh's photo of the under 55's you will see that the immediate problem is premature ageing. I could only identify one and unless my maths is wrong he is 62.

Seriously though what has gone wrong that they have reached this crisis? I was at Worth when it was a prep school in the 1940s and religious instruction was brilliant. The faith they gave me enabled me to survive Downside for a time. There were some brilliant minds there: Bishop Butler and Iltyd Trethowan spring to mind but they did not seem to come down to our level. Worldly success seemed to be more on the agenda coupled with psychobabble. In RI we were given a book on Apolgetics but I don't think we ever got to opening it. I remember sitting waiting interminably for a monk to turn up for our RI class with Bron Waugh and others. We got down to discussing the monks and came to the conclusion that the Benedictines were a pretty soft option. It was only the early 1950s but one could see early manifestations of what was to become the spirit of Vatican II.

But what were the English Benedictines supposed to be about? A mission to the English? So what were they doing going off to exotic places like Peru? Educating a Catholic elite? Well as I say it seemed more about worldly success. Their schools have evolved into places which no decent Catholic who is neither a banker or with inherited wealth could possibly afford and anyway in what sense are they Catholic? Perhaps they are evangelising the Chinese?

Worth is perhaps recovering from being uber Liberal but still seems not to be aware of what is orthodoxy. Their liturgy is returning gradually to being more traditional but I fear that barring miracles the decline is terminal.

Anonymous said...

Just Another Mad Catholic,

You're full of nonsense. You're judging all orthodox Catholics based on perhaps one or a few experiences or, more likely, some fake horror story that you've heard gossiped about. You also refer to the orthodox as "Traddies" like a petulant child. The fact of the matter is that people you would refer to as "Traddies" are those who have helped hand down the wisdom of the Church for 2,000 years now. The modernists who are infecting the Church with heresy arrived on the scene only quite recently in historical terms.
Perhaps you should find something more productive to do with your time--volunteer at a soup kitchen or something!

God bless you!

Just another mad Catholic said...

Augustine Thomas

I'm afraid my experiences are all to real, I have been told by more than one vocation director that I cannot even enter the postulate because my parents are divorced and that this applies to Orthodox religious houses who don't use the traditional liturgy as well.

Perhaps I should also be more specific in my thoughts on the origins of the crises, especially here in the UK. My Grandfather who hasn't darkened the door of a Church in more than 40 years told me about the sadism of the nuns (Irish) who ran the school that he attended; they didn't speak to his existential needs, comfort him when he lost his mother at a very young age and did not tolerate questions regarding the faith. They thwacked him round the head with those steel rulers that they used to own and shouted at him to 'pray, pay and obey'. Therefore he was offered, compassion and understanding by non-Catholics, can you REALLY Blame him for jumping ship? (as a nb after the death of my Grandmother he moved to Southern Spain and has commented favourably on the the Catholic culture there).

Now back to me.... I WANT to be holy, I go to Mass several times a week in addition to my Sunday obligation, I pray the Rosary, go to confession etc but I find that its not enough, I WANT To give my whole life to God, I want the better part, so why should the fact that my parents are divorced matter?. Its doubly hard because most of my friends and acquaintances are in various stages of formation and I feel as if I'm being torn in two trying to serve two masters. Can you at least understand that? If come across as sounding petulant it's only because I'm a very frightened child who is scared of being out in the cold and wonder's why Jesus and Mary don't listen when he speaks to them.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think often vocation directors might say this, not because of the divorce per se but because of the deep pain and hurt it brings to the child. In the case someone marrying who is in the same situation, there is often a lot of acknowledging hurt and forgiving to be done.

In the case of a religious vocation I would want to be sure that an individual wasn't so hurt that he really wanted to avoid human relations.

Divorce damages children.

Anonymous said...

JAMC, Father, and others:

I visited a house of traditional priests a year ago, and it was a very enjoyable weekend. One of the priests, to my mind, demonstrated particular knowledge through carefully worded advice, of a hidden crisis I was going through - take from that what you will. (I didn't take it and as to my state now - please pray for me!) But this same priest amused me secretly when he asked about the state of my mother and father: "Are they married?" and I informed him that not only were they divorced and had found new partners, but that the marriage in which I was conceived was both's second!

What a restrained reaction it was, and quickly suppressed again, but I had seen it on his face and especially in his eyes. It was almost refreshing to be seen as different - to use a kind word - compared to how it is treated in the world: that is, no reaction at all. It comforted me to know that there is a world out there where people still innately feel a horror for divorce and what it is, despite its consequences for me.


I understand that priestly fraternities and the like would want only the best of the best, and wordly rabble such as myself, who were born in the mud and rolled there more or less contently until the grace of God deemed to pull us out, are not welcome. But so what if I am a broken, hurting man, from a tough childhood, or tough conversion, a tough life, and want to join an order to grow closer to God and "avoid human relations"? So what! Whatever my reason, if I don't fit - kick me out!

Were the saints perfect in their beginnings? All the monks spoken of as holy in the surroundings of saints in biographies - did they have perfect beginnings? I doubt it. I think it we should not be so cruel to those who were unfortunate in their lesser birth, but still wish to seek out God; not to tell them that because of our inferior state or unfortunate start we cannot take shelter with them, but are to be left in the world that hates us and we struggled to escape from. It seems to me very strange.

Chloe said...

There seems to be some confusion here I think. I have a friend who is currently a seminarian in one of the major traditional communities and he told me that candidates are not excluded due to parents being divorced, and in fact several of his classmates have parents who are divorced. So I am not sure what is going here. I can only assume there may be more reasons that this person was rejected. Many of the stories about the Irish Nuns oppression have been well and truly debunked. A hurt child? Are we the victims of a troll here by any chance?

Just another mad Catholic said...


Father knows me personally, I'm not one of his parishioners, nor do I live in the same city or diocese but he can vouch for me.

As for my Grandfather I can only go on what he told me when he stayed with him last January, (bear in mind that this is going on for 60 years ago) and whilst he certainly isn't on the best of terms with the Church I don't take him for a liar.Indeed his 'issues'(for want of a better word) with the Church are well known within my family.

As for my circumstances; it's actually quite ironic that until my parents originally came up, I had just about gotten over it, the Vocation Directors of the Monasteries in question reopened the wounds that had scabbed over and drove a knife into them. I know that the Fraternity isn't quite as concerned with family background, but the superior in England has made it clear on a couple of occasions that he isn't prepared to even talk to me on the subject of joining them.

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