Thursday, July 12, 2007

July 11-St. Benedict, patron of Europe

Here's a look at the present Benedictine world courtesy of the newly updated Catalogus Monasteriorum...male and female editions. Among the women: 15,400 throughout the world, over 3,000 in the United States in over 65 houses. Benedictine men number 7,800: in the US over 1,500 in 60 houses. St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN (60 miles west of Minneapolis) is the country's largest with 165 monks. Kathleen Norris wrote her wonderful book Cloister Walk there. Their neighbors, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Joseph Monastery, are the largest women's monastery in the country. These totals do not include the Cistercians and Trappists, followers of the Rule of Benedict as their founders sought to reform Benedictine monastic life in 1098 and the mid-17th c. respectively.

St. John's Abbey is home to the poet Kilian McDonnell, OSB. In his book, Swift Lord, You Are Not he gives a glimpse of everyday life in his abbey....and in every Benedictine house.

The Monks of St. John's File in for Prayer

In we shuffle, hooded amplitudes,
scapulared brooms, a stray earring, skin-heads
and flowing locks, blind in one eye,
hooked-nosed, handsome as a prince
(and knows it), a five-thumbed organist,
an acolyte who sings in quarter tones,
one slightly swollen keeper of bees,
the carpenter minus a finger here and there,
our pre-senile writing deathless verse,
a stranded sailor, a Cassian scholar,
the artist suffering the visually
illiterate and indignities unnamed,
two determined liturgists. In a word,
eager purity and weary virtue.
Last of all, the Lord Abbot, early old
(shepherding the saints is like herding cats).
These chariots and steeds of Israel
make a black progress into church.
A rumble of monks bows low and offers praise
to the High God of Gods who is faithful forever.

For all things Benedictine go to