Page 5, 11th September 1970

11th September 1970
Page 5
Page 5, 11th September 1970 — The Editor, Catholic Herald, 67 Fleet Street, E.C.4.

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The Editor, Catholic Herald, 67 Fleet Street, E.C.4.


THE article on the Breton monastery of Boquen, by Sister Madeleine, O.S.A. (August 28), is surely the most naive piece of writing since Vatican II.

During the last two years, she tells us, there has been "some tension" between the monastery and the "higher superiors" of the Cistercian Order; and this because "the Eucharist transformed Boquen." Strange that the Eucharist did not transform Melleray or Aiguebelle or Gethsemani, or, long centuries earlier, Citeaux and Clairvaux.

The Eucharist (which is not the monopoly of Boquen), according to Sister Madeleine, "is a sign of and an invitation to fellowship in Christ." The Eucharist, I suggest. is not a sign of or an invitation to fellowship in Christ. It is fellowship in Christ.

Sister Madeleine exults because at Boquen "a new kind of monastery has come into being—a communion of men and women, some celibate, others married." An enclosure of this kind is certainly new; it is distinctly novel. It might be described, with the help of mental gymnastics, as a monastery; but one thing it certainly is not—and that is a Cistercian monastery.

Yet the action of the AbbotGeneral of the Cistercians in deposing the Prior of the new Boquen is branded by Sister Madeleine as an "authoritarian gesture" (though it is the function of an Abbot-General to exercise authority), an example of "the dismal grey rain of legalism" (which is emotive nonsense), and as yet another stupid battle between inspiration and fear." (Whose inspiration. whose fear. and whose stupidity?) On the tiny disc which I brought back with me from Boquen some years ago (hefore the blight, I might say), and which I still play over occasionally, the place is described as an "Ahhaye Cistercienne." Now it is a holy spot where anyone (man or woman. married or celibate) may "express belief as well as unbelief and call anything into question." (Anything, mark you!) But Sister Madeleine is reasonable enough, for she admits that "this particular way of living in Christ is not the only possible way." The point is well taken. There is also, for example, the Cistercian way.

More disturbing by far than Sister Madeleine's naive advocacy of the "monastic revolution" are the opinions of Dom Bernard Berret, which she quotes without adverting to the simple fact that they blast both her case and his.

Dom Bernard is a doctor of theology and an ex-professor of philosophy. and during Vatican 11 he was one of the periti who advised on the religious life; yet now he tells us that the monastic life should not mean "a flight from the world and men, a withdrawal from the turbulent life of the People of God."

But this, surely, is what it must mean: going and staying; withdrawing from the world but not forgetting it; leaving it but still loving it—loving it enough to intercede for it without ceasing, and by a dedicated life of silence, meditation, prayer. work, and worship, to bespeak God's mercy for it and prevent it from bursting like a rotten apple from the pressure of the evil within.

John D. Sheridan

Terenure, Dublin.

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