Being a monk is one of the many ways in which a Christian can be lead to union with God. In the year 530 St Benedict established a Rule of Life for monks which he described as a “school for God’s service” (Prologue 45). This captures the first purpose of the Rule of Life of a monk. It is to fashion a discipline, a school, in which the monk grows in love of God and in the embodiment of Christian virtue. This Rule was written at a significant historical moment as the Roman Empire was disintegrating. Benedictine monks would become the preservers of the Christian heritage and become a significant missionary force in the centuries ahead.
St. Benedict's biographer, St. Gregory the Great (pope from 590 to 604), commented that Benedict "wrote a Rule for monks that is remarkable for its discretion and its clarity of language" (Dialogues, Book 11, ch. 36). In presenting his Rule St Benedict commented that “in the institution of which we hope to ordain nothing that is harsh or difficult”. (Prologue 45) This Rule of Life has endured because of its balance and its moderation. It has provided a path for countless thousands of monks to find the way to holiness.
St Benedict hoped that the monk would find in the Rule a means to eternal life. He said, “But when one shall have advanced in this manner of life and in faith, he shall run with his heart enlarged and with an unspeakable sweetness of love on the way of God's commandments.” (ibid)
On this Foundation day of Notre Dame Priory, which continues to live out the Rule of St Benedict, we hope and pray that monks living the Rule here in Tasmania will indeed find a path to salvation.
The monk seeks God by means of prayer – both liturgical and silent – and by means of sacred reading: that is, through the faithful celebration of the Divine Office and by engaging daily in Lectio Divina. Quoting the psalms St Benedict said in his Rule, “The Prophet says, ‘Seven times a day I praise you’ [Ps 119:164], and we will fulfill this sacred number of seven if we perform the duties of our daytime service at the time of Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, and Compline”. May the praise of God expressed in the Divine Office celebrated seven times a day flow in the life of the Priory of Notre Dame.
The life of the monk is marked by silence and humble work. The monk, living in community, will love his brothers and the community will have, according to Benedictine tradition, a special gift of hospitality to guests.
This Priory is being founded by Fr Pius Noonan. Fr Pius is a monk of the Abbey of St Joseph in Flavigny, France. The monastery at Flavigny, while established in a 7th century Benedictine Abbey, is in fact a community founded in Switzerland in 1972. So this expression of the Benedictine tradition is relatively recent, but it has wonderfully flourished, now having 50 monks in the community. Fr Pius has received approval from his Abbot, Dom Antoine Marie Beauchef, to undertake this work. It is with great joy that I have accepted the request from Fr Pius to establish a priory here in Tasmania.
Today the Church universal celebrates the feast of the Chair of St Peter. This feast has special significance as it was the feast day of the foundation of the monastic community in France. So this foundation here in Tasmania is occurring on the 35th anniversary of the foundation of Flavigny.
In the Epistle today taken from the First Letter of St Peter, we hear the words, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according to His great mercy has regenerated us unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. We as Christians live in the radiant light of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the source of confidence and hope. God has been victorious over all the powers of evil and darkness. Grace and mercy now flow upon the world. The saving action of God in Christ continues to be a transforming force in the lives of individuals who have turned their hearts towards God.
Some who have known this regeneration in Christ are attracted to give themselves totally to Christ in a monastic vocation. This monastery begins today with a number of young men who have experienced such a call. They desire to live a monastic way of life. We pray for them today that as they commence this journey to be monks – that the grace of God which has brought them this far will enable them to embrace this vocation of prayer, silence, and simple labour. So my brothers – Ora et Labore.
May this monastic community which looks to establish itself in this beautiful and peaceful valley become a source of light which will attract many to seek the source of light, found in Jesus Christ.
We pray that God will grant Fr Pius an abundance of wisdom in his role as spiritual father to this new monastic community. We pray that the Blessed Virgin under whose mantle of protection this priory is placed will provide maternal care for this fledge wing community.
May what has begun today be brought to fruition for the glory of God and the upbuilding of his people.
Mary, Notre Dame, pray for us.
Archbishop Julian Porteous
Wednesday, February 22, 2017