Monday, 9 June 2008

Abbey of Heiligenkreuz

I was reading the Catholic Heralds article on the Monks of the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz, here are some of the pictures of the general life of the abbey...

Stift Heiligenkreuz is one of Europe's religious success stories and not just because of the new Gregorian CD. With 70 monks its membership is at a 200-year high and the average age is 46. This year they have six novices and five candidates. Pater Karl says that, at 45, he belongs to the older third of the monastery's members.

"We are very blessed. I sometimes think that maybe God is using us, especially with this, as an anti-depressant for the general frustration that many people feel with the Church," he says.

Mentioning a Benedictine monastery in Bavaria with a similarly rigorous life and an enthusiastic young abbot, but which has had no new vocations in the last few years, he says that it is impossible to know what it is ultimately that brings them to Heiligenkreuz.

Described as "reform of the reform", the monastery combines tradition with modern life. Singing the Divine Office in public is taken seriously with Vigil at 5.15am followed by Lauds at 6am.

"We reformed the liturgy according to the rite of the Second Vatican Council, but we said, 'please, we are monks' - so we developed our own Latin breviary in the 1970s with our own choral settings. We have Mass in Latin five days a week and in German twice a week.

"It's funny. For years we got walloped by the Left for not entering into the 'spirit of Vatican II' and since the publication of the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, we have been criticised by some conservatives for not using the extraordinary form. But we have our beautiful liturgy which is based on our traditions."

Pater Karl reckons that the Pope came to Heiligenkreuz in 2007 to show his support for their particular approach to the Novus Ordo: "I think that the Holy Father really loves this expression of the liturgy which has taken everything right and good from the Second Vatican Council but avoided the mad excesses committed in its name."

It is this expression of the liturgy, this way of bringing the heart closer to God, that makes Heiligenkreuz so attractive for young and old, looking for a faith that is not radicalised or marginalised, says Pater Karl. But he isn't exactly sure what it is that brings them so many young men who want to join their number.

Paraphrasing the 20th century theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, he suggests: "If you're being walloped by the Left and you're being walloped by the Right, then you know you're in the middle

I think this interview in the Herald this week gives a good line for any Catholic just wanting to be Catholic.

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