Visit to our Abbey

of Father Abbot Ansgar Schmidt OSB

President of the Congregation of the Annunciation

 

We had with us in early December Father Abbot Ansgar, who had attended the election of Father Abbot in Trinidad.
We are grateful to God for seeing him, in our Monastery, as a true Father and Teacher of our Monastic Rule.

Below, we report the letter of Abbot John of Trinidad to Mother Abbess Marianna and the Circular Letter of Fr Abbot Ansgar to the Monastic Congregation of the Annunciation.

 

1.

Dear Mother Abbess Mariana and Community,

We pray for you during this special time of Advent.  I am attaching to this email the Advent Message of Abbot President Ansgar, which he wrote during his stay at your Guest House.

God bless you all!

Abbot John and Community.

 

 

 

___________________________________________________________________________________

2.

BENEDICTINE CONGREGATION OF THE ANNUNCIATION
CIRCULAR LETTER 14 – ADVENT 2011

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I write this letter from St. Lucia, more precisely from the Guesthouse of the Abbey of Our Lady of the Assumption on the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. The monastery was founded in 1975 by the present Abbess Marianna Pinto, and since the last General Chapter the community has been an affilliated member of our Congregation.

This is a lively community with many young faces, both contemplative and hard-working, and well-integrated with the local church, and in the same time engaged in a new foundation in Zambia.

The monastery is situated on a hill above Castries, the capital city of St. Lucia, and offers magnificent views of the ocean – in every direction. I am here with Fr. James McMahon (Glenstal) following the abbatial election in Trinidad and the one-year review of the most recent visitation there. This is a fraternal visit, and the community here have made it into a foretaste of paradise.

The year has been full of visitations, elections and visits. You will see that from the list that I have
attached, as in every year, to this circular letter. The jubilee of AIM, held in Ligugé at the invitation of Abbot Jean-Pierre Longeat, was a high point of the year. The next newsletter from AIM will have a more complete account, but I wish to mention here the excellent lecture given by Mgr. Rouet, the recently retired archbishop of Potiers. His understanding of how local church and monastic community can work together, which he interpreted with clarity and simplicity while making use of Rodin’s The Cathedral, seemed brilliant to me. I do not wish to go further than that here, it is enough to advise: Tolle – lege. Take and read! The celebration to mark the anniversary of the Prayer for Peace in Assisi in 1986 was another memorable event. It took place in Maredsous at the invitation of Abbot Bernard and the bishop of Tournai, and Cardinal Daneels gave the introduction, in words that came straight from the spirit of Vatican II. In view of the tendency, clearly increasing in our church, to check the forces that Vatican II set free and gave flight to, an event such as this was a joyful sign. Of course, problematic developments have to be named and dealt with, but it is worth asking the question whether it is about that or about trying to close the windows once again...

The Abbots’ Congress takes place in Rome in the coming year, followed immediately by the General Chapter (27 Sept. – 5 Oct.) The official invitations will be sent out in January and at that
time you will also receive more detailed information; I would ask you to make a note of the dates for the time being. Since we did not find any suitable place to meet in Rome, we will be relocating
the “Oasi sacro cuore” (www.oasisacrocuoreassisi.com) in Assisi.
Before I move on to offer a few thoughts on Advent, I wish to offer my heartfelt thanks to you for your support in my service as President, in particular to P. Bernard Poupard and the members of the Council, and equally to all those with whom I have travelled, all who have helped with translations or with other requests for assistance and also the many of you who have promised me your prayers, who have thus sustained and carried me in this work. I am deeply grateful to you all for your continued support as brothers and sisters with whom with confidence I may share my tasks (RB 21:3).

***


There follow a few thoughts on Advent that I put together in St. Lucia: Advent is a precious time, for us and for the church. Three short and thus memorable words come up again and again in these weeks, they help to explain why this season is so precious.
The first word is conversion. It is found in the preaching of John the Baptist, who played a special
role in the life of Jesus, as we have just heard in the Gospel. He had the gift of reaching all kinds of people with his preaching. He preached conversion, and he moved the people to stop and consider their lives carefully, to look at their actions and at the reasons why they acted as they did. They were baptised by him and this baptism was an expression of their wish to repent: to turn away from evil and to turn towards God. Conversio – Saint Benedict writes that on the monk’s heart. He understands this as a task for each day, and even before sunrise, he arranges for our prayer to begin with the verse from the Psalm: O, that today you would listen to his voice, harden not your hearts.
God has no chance with a heart that is hard... In Advent we are invited, to listen carefully to this word, to give it back its strength, its explosive power. There are things in each one of us that need to be done away with, and other reasons for conversion...
The second short, small and thus memorable word is: Come! Just like the first word, it is associated with proclamation, directed not at us, but at Jesus: Come, Lord Jesus, come! It is one of the very last words of Holy Scripture, it forms the conclusion of the Book of the Apocalypse and is an expression of our deep personal longing. It formed early Christianity and monasticism like no other word. It is the longing call for the completion of the promise that all tears will be dried and all wounds be healed, and that God will save us from poverty and suffering, from distress and death. It is a word that wishes to relativise our wishes, to give them a new centre.
Come, Lord Jesus: has that become nothing more than a liturgical phrase? Or is it the focus of my life, that which drives me, the motor? I ask this question not to give anyone a bad conscience, but to 3 remind and to invite each person to give this word back the place that it had not only in the early years of monasticism, but also at the start of my own life, what Saint Benedict called the fervour novitii, the fervour of the noviciate. The church reminds us in these weeks about this precious word, and about how it wishes to give a new centre to our lives.
I spoke at the beginning of three small words what then is the third? It is the word that gave its name to the coming Sunday: Gaudete, rejoice! Once more, it is a word of proclamation - a challenge to us to look at life with hopeful eyes, with the eyes of the prophet Isaiah, who promised
light to the people in darkness, and not only light, but the coming of God into this world. In wonderful pictures he describes what will be changed by this coming of God, what effects God’s coming will have: desert and waste ground will start to bloom, eyes that are blind and ears that are deaf will be opened, and the lame will leap like the deer. Wonderful, hopeful images, full of power.
Are they nothing more than images, images of the future images full of promise that have nothing to do with real life? Do we have any reason to be joyful? Advent is inviting us to look into our own
lives to discover what God has already done for us: how and when we have experienced God as our saviour. At Vespers each day we sing the song of a woman who was able to sing, although she had more than enough of suffering and need in her life: My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my saviour. And she based her joy on these words: For he has done great things for me. I wish to invite you to carry these words of Mary into your own lives. To make them your own personal song, to look for and where possible to name concretely the great things that God has done for me. I am sure that such miracles are to be found in the life of each person here, whoever finds them and frees them from the dust will be given confidence and joy.
Repent! Come! Rejoice! These three small words are precious. They encourage us to prepare the way for the God who saves. Let us carry them with us into the coming weeks of Advent.

***


I wish you all, dear sisters and brothers, a blessed Christmas and, in the sense of verse 11 of the Prologue to the Rule, a happy New Year 2012.

St. Lucia 07 december 2011


+ fr. Ansgar Schmidt OSB


Benediktinerabtei St. Matthias • Matthiasstraße 85 • D – 54290 Trier • Telefon +49 651 17090
ansgar@abteistmatthias.de

 

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