Abbot Timothy KellyMount Saviour Monastery

June 2001

Lecture by Abbot Timothy Kelly, osb:
On June 10th, Abbot Timothy Kelly, OSB, former Abbot of St John's Abbey in Collegeville MN gave the fourth in the series of lectures celebrating our 50th Anniversary Year.  His topic was The Art of Christian and Monastic Life.  Hopefully these lectures will be published in book form since it is impossible to do justice to them in a short essay.  He spoke as a Benedictine monk whose vocation has involved him as student, priest, teacher, missionary, pastor, prison chaplain, convent chaplain, director of novices and an Abbot among other things, and one who has pondered the meaning of monastic life as an expression of Christian life.  Abbot Timothy's focus was not on the lofty and abstract, but on the profound yet simple signs that God uses to speak to us.  Humanity itself is such a sign for we are made in the image and after the likeness of God.  Image and likeness is clearly not in physical appearance, gender, color size, language or the like. Yet in simply living in accord with the truth of our being we are living revelations of who God is.  Using Col. 1:15-20 as a summary of God's plan for us in Christ, Abbot Timothy went on to explain what was torn apart by sin, what lessened the effectiveness of the sign of humanity as the image and likeness of God, is now reconciled in Christ who is the head of the reconciled body of humanity. In him who is "the image of the unseen God" we, in our reconciled unity, might become that people who reveal God with us by our love for one another as members of the Body of Christ, the church.  Or in other words, we are God's art, God's living art.

As Christians, whether monk, married, single or whatever, we have a common goal built on our relationship to Christ Jesus.  The love of God for us even precedes creation and creation itself is the first manifestation and even contains the love of God for all people.
We are to look at God's plan established prior to creation so that we might understand the purpose of creation and in our hearts accept one another and all people because God excludes no one.  The separation from one another that sin produces is overcome in God's plan that God "would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth" (Eph. 1:10).  This, of course, describes Paschal (Easter) spirituality. It takes effort to apply paschal spirituality to all areas of life and yet it is the only spirituality that can help us to make sense out of life.  We are on a journey with Christ to the accomplishment of God's purpose in us.

A monastic community is meant to be a sign to the whole Church and to all creation of the reconciliation Christ has accomplished.  One could say there is a 'sacrament of monastic life" analogous to marriage which is a sign or living revelation of the faithful union between Christ and the Church.

Abbot Timothy developed the sign value of the various aspects of Christian and monastic life in a wonderful and convincing way and reminding us also:  "Monks are no better and no worst than anyone else.  Their way of life is an alternative way of saying Christ to the world, just as marriage is a way of saying Christ to the world.  Following what Saint Paul describes in 1 Corinthians about the gifts of the Spirit, we can say that there are communal charisms as well as individual charisms.  Monastic life is one of the wonderful ways God has given us to be witnesses to his life, death and resurrection, signs of the Paschal mystery that gives meaning to the Christian life".

Mount Saviour & Weston Communities
Mount Saviour & Weston Communities

Weston Monks Visit:
To commemorate our 50th annivewrsary, the monks from Weston Priory spent the week-end with us to attend the lecture of Abbot Timothy.  We shared some common concerns at recreation.  They introduced the lecture with one of their songs and, before leaving on Monday, they sang at mass.  Such gathering is always full of good memories of the respective founders and the mutual support thoughout the years.

Lecture by Prof. Brian Tierney:
Brian Tierney, emeritus Professor of history at Cornell University, gave a delightful and erudite presentation of monasticism and the changing world of the 11th and 12th centuries focusing on four outstanding persons of the times.  Professor Tierney chose Bernard, Peter Damian, Abelard and Heloise to illustrate the period.  Bernard and Peter Damian are both outstanding followers of Saint Benedict and his Rule, but each had a quite different interpretation of its practice.  All four of these people knew each other and came into sharp conflict, but by the end of their lives, they had also achieved a reconciliation we could envy.  The conflict between the early Cistercians and the Benedictines is familiar to most of us, but the quotations of Bernard and Peter Damian about the same issues in the Rule of Benedict were wonderfully chosen to typify the mind-set of Bernard and Peter Damian.  The conflict between Abelard and Bernard was even sharper and deeper by far. Each of the three made serious mistakes and were very human in their limitations as well as being men of deep faith.  Their zeal from time to time did get out of hand.  A wrong headed zeal was more characteristic of Bernard and Abelard than of Peter Damian.  They each exemplified the changing world to which they whole heartedly belonged.

Professor Tierney reminded us of the fact that these men had a tremendous influence on their times.  They were prominent in church affairs and in the secular world.  In those days, Church and 'State' were practically intertwined.  They wrote extensively so that much of what transpired in their minds and hearts is known to us.  The opposite is true of Heloise.  Abelard's letters and poems to her are common knowledge, but as the questions at the end of Brian's lecture brought out, there is very little we know of her inner world except her love for Abelard.  She became Abbess of a Benedictine convent that made several foundations and they flourished.  We felt a great sense of loss that we have no record of her talks to the nuns which as Abbess she gave most mornings at Chapter.  There are no directions to the Abbesses or Prioresses of the daughter houses.  She was known to be kind, gracious, wise and learned. She seems the equal of any of her three male counterparts.  She is on record as saying she was in the convent out of love for Abelard and not out of love for Christ.  As Professor Tierney remarked, if by their fruits, you will know them, there was more love and goodness in Heloise than she realized.  One also thinks of the judgment scene at the end of St. Matthews' gospel where those who fed, clothed, visited and cared for others were, in fact, doing this loving service to Christ.

Coming Events:
Sunday, July 22nd at 4:30pm, Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB.  He teaches at Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon and at St. Anselmo in Rome.  He has written on theology and spirituality, including "The Mind's Long Journey to the Holy Trinity," a translation of the "Ad monachos" of Evagrius Ponticus.

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