Monastic: November 2008 Archives

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The Suitable and the Unsuitable

There is much discussion in ecclesiastical and monastic circles about the discernment of vocations. One gets the impression, at times, that sinners -- even repentant ones -- are to be severely excluded as unsuitable. A monastery, or so it seems to me, is by its very nature a hospital for those afflicted with maladies of the soul. One enters a monastery to get better! My table reading of late is Dom Oury's biography of Dom Prosper Guéranger, Moine au coeur de l'Eglise. The following excerpt from one of the Abbot's letters to Madame Swetchine (13 January 1838) struck me. The translation from the French and the phrases in italics are my own.

As for the good Catholics of the Faubourg Saint-Germain who think that Solesmes is not a place of penitence, I have but one little word to say; it is that, like my Divine Master, I have not come to call the just, but sinners and that our house is at the service of all those touched by grace. Let them all come. I am quite ready to bear the reproach of eating with sinners, for I am a sinner myself and not just, like the One to whom this reproach was made.
O woman of little faith! Why did you think that? You don't know what a monk is. May this house of ours perish if there be in the world a single repentant soul to whom the statutes would close it. ( . . .)
Oh! I admit that I was humiliated to the quick to discover that our house was considered a house for the learned, but I am even more humiliated to learn that one thinks it open only to saints! Alas! If it were so, it would have nothing in common with heaven, which our Saviour opened so widely to the little ones and to the ignorant, but also to sinners and to women of wicked life: He spoke thus. Like Saint Paul, I do not blush on account of the Gospel.

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.

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