Mount Saviour Monastery
Mount Saviour Joins the American Cassinese Congregation
On 18 June, the Feast of the Sacred Heart and the 15-th Anniversary of the
establishment of the American Cassinese Congregation, we became the 22nd autonomous
monastery in the Congregation which includes (among the better known ones)
St. Vincent’s Archabbey at Latrobe Pennsylvania, St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville
Minnesota, St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown N.J.. Up to this time we
had existed as an independent monastery. We were founded by the then
Abbot Primate Bernard Kaelin in 1950 and in 1957 we became an independent
Priory. Rev. Fr. Damasus was appointed the first Prior. We were
members of the over-all Benedictine Confederation and the subsequent Abbot
Primates became our quasi-superiors, an unusual arrangement. Since
we were not establishing a school or involved in parish work, our monastic
life style was quite different from that of the monasteries in the States.
We intended, with Weston Priory, to form a Congregation of our own.
That required at least three independent monasteries and we were unable to
bring our hope to fruition.
The founding of both Mount Saviour and Weston Priory is a wonderful story
which we are unable to go into here. Madeleva Roarke’s fine book:
Father Damasus and the Founding of Mount Saviour, gives an account of
our foundation. It is available from our Book Store for $20.00.
Since congregations are the present form of Benedictine life, it seems good
to say a few words about the genesis of that form of religious association
in the Church.
There were a number of important and successful reforms of the Benedictines
in history yet between 1125 and 1408, things grew more and more out of hand.
In the 15th Century a new arrangement of Benedictine monasteries arose, namely
the congregation. Benedictine monasteries, each retaining its traditional
autonomy, formed overarching associations usually with ‘daughter houses’ which
began as dependent priories of their Abbey. Some Congregations had
their origin because of a common national or language group. The Council
of Trent (1545-1563) made the congregational system ecclesiastical law and
this gave them some exemption from Episcopal authority.
In 1893, Pope Leo XIII created the office of Abbot Primate. The person
is elected by all the Abbots and certain Priors and is chiefly responsible
for the Collegio Sant’ Anselmo in Rome. The Abbot Primate, unlike the
nominal heads of other religious institutes is first among equals and
does not out-rank any of the other Abbots. This is one of the ways in
which the structure of Benedictine life differs radically from that of the
Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, etc. whose person in authority
in Rome is superior to the provincials and local superiors elsewhere.
The Abbot Primate’s responsibilities keep him busy enough without adding to
them a special care for us. To relieve him of this added burden has
been a factor in our seeking to join a Congregation.
Joining a Congregation should provide us with some much needed resources.
We do experience a certain isolation and we are in need of someone expert
in Canon Law, Liturgy, or other specialties on whom we can rely to keep us
up to date. It would be very helpful for us if members of our community
could spend shorter times for ‘tutorial’ or short courses at other monasteries
within the Congregation. We would also benefit from speakers or simply
monks coming here o visit from time to time.
For our part, we believe we could make a real contribution
to the Congregation. There is a letter from Abbot Boniface Wimmer, the
Rounder of the American Cassinese Congregation, who wrote to Abbot Innocent
of Kansas not long before he died that briefly tells of an option he thought
about very seriously.
“ I have had the good fortune to do a great deal for the Order of Saint
Benedict, and I can say without praising myself, that I have worked for its
prosperity as well as can be expected from one with so little talent and
learning as I have. All honor for this belongs to God alone, and the
only trouble arises for me when I try to answer the question: Did I
work in the right direction? Did I do my work as it ought to have been
done? Would it not have been much better had I settled down somewhere
with a few of my followers to lead a religious life in accordance with the
Rule of St. Benedict, to live in retirement with them, devoted to prayer,
to the praise of God, to mortification and self-denial, to occasional preaching
of the Gospel?….The older I become, as I advance in years, the more frequently
this question arises in my mind, and my attempts to answer it causes more
doubts and cause me untold anxiety.”
No monasteries today are awash with vocations, and we are not expecting
or asking members of other monasteries to transfer here. We have the
obligation to recruit and foster vocations to Mount Saviour. At the
same time, we feel we could provide what Abbot Boniface was looking for.
We welcome monks of any community who would be able to take advantage of
a short time in a community living a simpler life style to renew and deepen
their monastic commitment. We believe we might offer a kind of ‘half-way
house sabbatical. Certainly not as rich as St. Vincent’s or St John’s
can offer, but one that certain monks would find just what they are praying
We sincerely ask your prayers that this new venture becomes one of those
things in which God will be glorified.
The Second Damasus Winzen Memorial Lecture:
Ont Sunday, June 26th, Fr. Gerard Sloyan, an outstanding
teacher and author of many theological books and articles presented
the early years of Father Damasus Winzen. He studied under Fr. Damasus
and the two German monks who came to Keyport NJ to found a monastery that
could receive the German monks who were threatened by Hitler. He gave
interesting details of the life and activities of the monks who taught
at the Immaculate Conception seminary in Darlington NJ, in the early 1940s.
Dedication Day this year will be Sunday, August 15th.
Mass at 10 AM will be followed by a Brunch and music.
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