Monasticism and the New Evangelization

Late last week we finished reading Dan Jones’s The Wars of the Roses, and began reading a series of two talks by Father Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., a monk of Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon, on “Monasticism and the New Evangelization.”  These talks were published in the December 2014 issue of the American Benedictine Review.

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Benedictines in the Wars of the Roses

In Dan Jones’s book on the Wars of the Roses, there is this interesting passage on Benedictines in the fifteenth century:

Katherine de la Pole, abbess of Barking, had every reason to be pleased with the religious house over which she ruled.  The elegant, richly furnished buildings of the abbey, set around the large double-fronted church of St. Mary and St. Ethelburga, enclosed one of the wealthiest and most prestigious nunneries in England, home to around thirty ladies in holy orders, served by a large staff of male servants and priests.  Wealthy daughters and widows from the titled aristocracy and upper gentry came to Barking to retire from the world as inmates, where they followed the Benedictine Rule in a life of prayer, charity, high-born company and scholarship.  Good connections had, over the years, brought Barking money, property, honor and fame:  Katherine – who as abbess held the same privileged rank as a male baron – controlled thirteen manors and lands in several different counties, besides the hundreds of acres that surrounded Barking itself. [page 67]

Fascinating, but what is the connection to the Wars of the Roses?  In 1437, Barking Abbey became the home of two boys, Edmund and Jasper Tudor.  Edmund would later become the father of Henry Tudor, who would reign as Henry VII, bringing the Wars of the Roses to an end.

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The Ordo for 2015

Even though I would not want to seem obsessed by the Ordo, a previous blog entry may belie that claim.  However, by comparing the new Ordo (the American Cassinese Ordo for 2015 takes effect predictably on January 1) with the first one I appeared in by name some interesting demographic comparisons are revealed.

My first appearance was for the Ordo from 1994, the year after I took simple vows.  At that time I was listed as monk number 50 for Saint Anselm Abbey.  Yes, 50!  Overall, we were officially 53 in the community.  In the 2015 Ordo, I am number 23 of 29.

For the Congregation as a whole, the aggregate number in 1994 was 1236.  In 2015 the number is 743.  Strangely the number of brothers, that is non-ordained monks in perpetual or solemn vows, has not declined as quickly:  271 (1994) to 208 (2015).

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Wars of the Roses

We completed our inspirational table reading during the advent season with the Advent and Christmas writings of Alfred Delp and Dietrich Bonhoeffer:  The Prison Meditations of Father Delp and God is in the Manger.

We have begun a new historical book:  The Wars of the Roses:  The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones.  Jones writes in the introduction how the fifteenth century civil war between the rival English royal houses of Lancaster and York is inaptly named “The War of the Roses”; and yet, the book is called “The Wars of the Roses.”  Regardless, should be a good read.

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Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews of MSNBC recently broadcast his show “Hardball” from the College.  I got to meet him and had the rare opportunity to thank an author of a book we read at table, in the case, Tip and the Gipper, for having provided such an engaging text for our listening.

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Sean Cardinal O’Malley

We were recently visited by Cardinal O’Malley, who in staying for lunch was able to enjoy monastic table reading in the refectory.  We were reading the Pope‘s book that day.  Cardinal O’Malley describes his visit to Saint Anselm’s in his own blog.

Cardinal O'Malley speaks with Abbot Mark in the refectory at Saint Anselm Abbey.

Cardinal O’Malley speaks with Abbot Mark in the refectory at Saint Anselm Abbey.

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The Mystery of the Incarnation

Having finished the Pope‘s book, we are currently reading The Mystery of the Incarnation by the late Cardinal and Benedictine, Basil Hume.

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