Monastic: April 2007 Archives

No Peace Without Chastity

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A Holy Abbess

The Benedictine–Cistercian calendar commemorates today Saint Franca of Piacenza, virgin (1173–1218). Franca was an intrepid monastic reformer. After enduring sufferings and persecutions as abbess of the Benedictines of San Siro, she became abbess of the Cistercian monastery of Plectoli, ruling her monastic family with maternal love. Franca was accustomed to spending entire nights in prayer to God in the oratory of the monastery. She died on the feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist, 25 April 1218.

The Collect of the Day

Only recently did I discover the beauty of the Collect given for the feast of Saint Franca. I don't how it escaped my notice until now.

Tua nos, omnipotens Deus, protectione custodi,
et castimoniae pacem mentibus nostris atque corporibus,
intercedente beata Francha virgine tua, propitiatus indulge,
ut veniente sponso Filio tuo Unigenito,
accensis lampadibus, eius digne praestolemur occursum.

Here is my translation:

Keep us safe, almighty God, by thy protection
and through the intercession of Saint Franca, virgin,
grant to our minds and to our bodies
the peace of a life that is chaste
,
so that at the advent of the Bridegroom,
thine only–begotten Son,
we may hasten forth to meet Him
with lighted lamps.

Chastity Produces Serenity

The Collect makes us ask, "for mind and body the peace of a life that is chaste." One might also translate the phrase as "for mind and body the peace that comes from living chastely." Serenity, or peace of mind and body, is one of the benefits of chastity.

That Terrible Itch

Those who have lived in unchastity — I am thinking, in particular, of Saint Augustine these days, but one might also allude to Mary of Egypt, to Charles de Foucauld, and to Julien Green — know the "itch" of restlessness that torments the mind and body. If you would know peace of mind and body, be chaste.

The Chaste Person: An Instrument of Peace

Rarely in our culture is chastity presented as a positive virtue. It is almost always mocked or disdained as the appanage of the inhibited personality when, in fact, the chaste person is wonderfully free and, therefore, at peace in mind and in body. Serenity is a fruit of chastity. The chaste person becomes an instrument of peace at home, in the Church, and in society. The unchaste person sows trouble wherever he goes.

How many readers of Vultus Christi have seen those bumperstickers in the U.S. that read, No peace without justice? Wouldn't it be splendidly subversive to have them read No peace without chastity?

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An Offering to the Father

Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagghedu, a Cistercian nun of Grottaferrata in Italy, died on April 23rd in 1939. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1983 and in his encyclical on Christian Unity, Ut Unum Sint, presented her again to the whole Church as a model of “the total and unconditional offering of one’s life to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit."

Silence Turned to Praise

Blessed Maria Gabriella is one of those who, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, having heard the Word, held it in silence: in the silence of awe; in the silence that confesses God present; in the silence that allows the Word to sink into the deep and secret places of the heart. For Maria-Gabriella, this silence turned to praise: a praise that she found expressed in the priestly prayer of Christ given in the seventeenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. At the end of her life she murmured: “I cannot say but these words, ‘My God, your Glory.’”

A Discerning Abbess

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The Trappist Cistercian monastery of Grottaferrata (moved to Vitorchiano in 1957) was governed by Mother Maria Pia Gulini (1892–1959), an intelligent and discerning abbess with a broad vision of all things Catholic. She corresponded with the Abbé Paul Couturier (1881–1953), the Apostle of Christian Unity. The Italian abbess nurtured a passion for Christian Unity and communicated that passion to her community. Maria Gabriella was receptive to Mother Gulini's spiritual teaching. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, she asked permission of her abbess to offer her life for the Unity of Christians. The Father accepted her offering, drawing her into the prayer of Christ and into His sacrifice.

The Priestly Prayer of Christ

Blessed Maria Gabriella’s monastic life was brief; she entered the abbey of Grottaferrata in 1935 and died in 1939. She suffered from tuberculosis for fifteen months. The Bridegroom Christ came for her at the hour of the evening sacrifice on Good Shepherd Sunday. The Gospel of Mass that day had been from Saint John: “There will be one fold, and one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). After her death, her little New Testament, worn from use, opened by itself to the seventeenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. The pages of Jesus’ priestly prayer, so often touched by Madre Maria Gabriella’s feverish hands, had become almost transparent.

Unity

Blessed Maria Gabriella’s offering for Christian Unity witnesses to the fundamental thrust of every monastic life. Monastic conversion is a movement from the divided, fragmented self to the whole self, healed and unified in the love of Christ. The restoration of unity is the great monastic work; it is the end and fruit of every Eucharist. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that the end proper to the sacrament of the Eucharist is the unity of the Mystical Body. Blessed Maria Gabriella, pray for us that we may go to the altar, letting go of the things that damage the unity of the Body of Christ, and ready to receive the gifts by which unity is repaired.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

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