Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category
Interview With the Prioress of Regina Laudis Abbey
BETHLEHEM, Connecticut, AUG. 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Adherence to the Benedictine tradition of work and prayer is the key to the success of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, according to its prioress, Mother Dolores Hart.
The Abbey of Regina Laudis is the topic of the recently released book “Mother Benedict,” written by Antoinette Bosco and published by Ignatius Press.
Mother Benedict Duss founded the Benedictine monastery 60 years ago, after the Second World War. She died in 2005.
In this interview with ZENIT, Mother Dolores discusses the history of the monastery, her own personal journey from Hollywood film star to Benedictine nun, and the personality of the abbey’s founder.
Q: Mother Benedict, the founder of the first contemplative Benedictine Abbey for women, is described in the book as strong and determined, but also a gardener, both of flowers and of souls. What was she able to accomplish through this unique set of personality traits?
Mother Dolores: Mother Benedict loved to garden. She said her ideal monastic life was gardening and studying.
God had other ideas, however, and she was driven to establish a foundation because she could see that is was what God wanted.
Mother Benedict was also a very creative, intelligent woman who cultivated many friendships and who always had time for a crisis.
Q: Can you explain the connections between General George Patton and the Abbey of Regina Laudis at the end of World War II?
Mother Dolores: General George Patton, Sr., liberated France as the commanding general of the Third Army. His was the army that liberated Jouarre, the abbey where Mother Benedict was in hiding.
Years later his granddaughter, the daughter of General George Patton, Jr., Mother Margaret Georgina Patton, found her way to the Abbey of Regina Laudis, and that began the conscious connection between the liberator and Mother Benedict.
This connection continues through the whole Patton family to this day.
Q: Many convents, during the turbulent time after the Second Vatican Council, were forced to close for one reason or another. What do you think kept Regina Laudis not only stable, but flourishing during that time?
Mother Dolores: Regina Laudis suffered its own turmoil during those years. What kept Mother Benedict going was her adherence to Benedictine tradition in work and prayer and a dedicated program of renewal, engaged in by the whole community.
For Mother Benedict this did not mean throwing everything out, but taking on perennial values with a new dedication.
Q: Your own life could be a story, going from a movie star, in roles opposite Elvis Presley and George Hamilton, to a cloistered Benedictine nun. In what way were you drawn from your Hollywood lifestyle, to the quiet, contemplative life at Regina Laudis?
Mother Dolores: My life will soon become a story by the good grace of my long time friend and collaborator, Dick DeNeut, who headed Globe photos in Hollywood for many years.
My good fortune was to have him as a professional contact who made certain that my reputation in the press never went the way of becoming a “starlet.” I learned very early in my career that good complements held your life intact, and I was indeed graced.
Hal Wallis signed me to a seven-year contract when I was only 17. In those seven years to follow, I was the leading lady for Elvis Presley, Montgomery Clift and Stephen Boyd, and I learned my trade from such greats as Karl Malden, Anthony Quinn and Cyril Richard.
To experience the fullness of my profession through the gifts of these artists and many more who came my way in the short years of my time in Hollywood was a gift from God that I never had dreamed possible. Yet it was one I had prayed for since I was a small girl, watching the films on Saturday afternoons in my grandfather’s movie projection booth.
I was watching for my Daddy who was an actor and had been whisked off to Hollywood by a talent scout because he looked like Clark Gable. I vowed that I would do this too.
But God had other plans for me. I had to acknowledge the vocation I had been trying to run from for years. I knew this the first time I came to Regina Laudis. I was finally home.
Q: In the preface of the book, you discuss Mother Benedict’s wisdom on living out one’s sexuality even under the vow of virginity. Can you describe her thoughts on this?
Mother Dolores: There is no contradiction between virginity and sexuality. To be truly virginal is to be fully oneself. To be fully a woman, one’s sexuality must be integrated and expressed in all that one does.
This integration should lead to the ability to collaborate with men or women, lay or religious, in creative movements within the community or with laity, according to one’s mission.
Sexuality is not limited to genital expression but pervades all we do. In a life dedicated to virginity the genital expression is sacrificed, but not the total giving of oneself to the mission.
Q: The book ends shortly after the death of Mother Benedict. Now, after nearly 60 years since the abbey’s founding, how do things look today at the Abbey of Regina Laudis?
Mother Dolores: Today, the Abbey of Regina Laudis is blessed in a number of ways.
On July 11, the feast of St. Benedict, we were privileged to receive the archbishop of Hartford, His Excellency Henry Mansell, for an unprecedented ceremony of monastic consecration in which the archbishop consecrated five members of our community who had been married before they entered religious life. This was an enormous blessing for all of us.
We are also planning for the November release of our new CD, “The Announcement of Christmas,” that celebrates our work in chant covering the season of Christmas from the beginning of Advent through the close of the season at Epiphany.
This will allow listeners to enjoy the musical treasures of the church’s liturgy that are often hidden from the ears of everyday churchgoers. These time-honored chant melodies for centuries have so beautifully expressed the glory of Christ’s continual coming through the ages in the Flesh of Humanity.
There is also our own birth, in August, as the community celebrates the ceremony of “clothing,” which welcomes the entrance of a postulant into the novitiate, reminding us that Our Lady’s gift of fecundity is ever-present in the growth of our own community.
And Regina Laudis remains hopeful for continuity as a new postulant has arrived to fill the new novice’s place in the ranks.
We are reminded in Romans 5 that it is through faith that we are in grace and so we pray for this gift continually, that we may be worthy of him to whom we have pledged our lives.
Interview With Chicago’s Cardinal George
CHICAGO, JUNE 27, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Suffering, says Cardinal Francis George, has taught him to know that no one is saved alone.
On his 10th anniversary as archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal George spoke to ZENIT about the lessons and demands of shepherding the third largest diocese in the United States.
Q: What have been the most significant trials and triumphs for you in leading 2.3 million Catholics as the archbishop of Chicago?
Cardinal George: The challenge in every generation of the Church’s history is to help God create saints, holy people formed by the Gospel, enlivened by the Church’s sacraments and encouraged and loved by pastors in apostolic succession.
All the Church’s institutions are secondary to her mission to make people holy so that they can transform the world here and live forever with the Lord as his saints.
The Archdiocese of Chicago has developed many institutions in her history, and it is a constant struggle to keep them alive and to decide when they should be allowed to die.
The population of the city and the two counties that form the archdiocese changes and moves, but the institutions are rooted in place and have to respond to the challenges of population shifts and changing economic constraints.
Extra efforts have had to be made to strengthen liturgical life and assure adequate catechesis. The reform of the clergy, overseeing the seminary and creating new formation programs for deacons and lay ministers are particular concerns. All of this is the constant administrative challenge.
Planning is part of governing, but one can’t see too far into the future. Planning is often overcome by events. The important thing is to keep the principles clear and then make decisions in light of them.
Two events of the last 10 years have impacted the Church’s life and ministry in this country and in the Chicago Archdiocese: the attack on our country in the name of God on Sept. 11, 2001, and the ongoing effects of the crisis of sexual abuse that occurred, for the most part, between 1973 and 1986, but which became a cause of national notoriety in 2002. These challenges to the Church’s mission continue here and elsewhere.
In partial response to some of these challenges, Chicago now has a new liturgical institute of some importance, a Chicago Scripture school for the laity, and reformed preparation programs in lay ministry and youth ministry.
Catholic Charities continues to strengthen its work with the poor. The cemetery system and the network of parishes and schools bring the mission home to practicing Catholics.
Unfortunately, only about 30% of Catholics go to Mass each Sunday, and many of these are immigrants, people trained to be Catholic elsewhere. The huge influx of Spanish- and Polish-speaking immigrants has been a life-giving challenge, and the archdiocese has responded in many imaginative ways.
Ideological conflict in the Church destroys the unity necessary for mission. We can’t live and act together if we are divided on essentials of faith and morals, or if some decide they don’t have to obey bishops unless they govern the Church according to their particular expectations.
Some groups operate as a kind of fifth column in the Church, convinced of their own righteousness and willing to weaken or destroy the Church if she doesn’t change to suit them, or if bishops don’t do exactly what they want when they want it.
This is also a major challenge today, but the response is what it has been for 2,000 years: conversion of mind and heart.
Q: You have written a pastoral letter on racism, and promoted workshops on the topic in the archdiocese. What has prompted you to focus on this issue so particularly?
Cardinal George: The archdiocese has an extensive program to train people to see the effects of racism, because racism is a terrible sin and one that is firmly embedded in the country’s history. It is the original sin of the English-speaking colonies of the Eastern seaboard and it affects all of us.
The pastoral letter “Dwell In My Love” addresses this sin by looking at many of the effects of racism as it influences our lives together.
Q: Your archdiocese, perhaps more than most, is known as home to large numbers of immigrants. From your experience in this area, what are the most pressing pastoral needs of immigrants?
Cardinal George: The first generation of immigrants needs to find the Church here a welcoming place, able to minister to them in their own language and culture. The children of immigrants present a different pastoral problem, for they are at home with their family in one culture and at school and work with their friends in another culture.
Priests have to be not only bilingual — or trilingual — but also bicultural, which is a bigger challenge. Culture tells us what is valuable and what not, and so does faith. Both are part of us, and the Church has to respect that dialogue between faith and cultures in the hearts of believers. It is a complicated situation, but a positive one.
The Church’s fundamental message is that we worship a God who is love, and we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for others. This means giving up things that are dear to us, sometimes even our first language, in order to be part of something bigger. This gives the context for both combating racism and welcoming immigrants.
Q: As a long-time colleague of Joseph Ratzinger, what has been your impression of Benedict XVI’s pontificate thus far?
Cardinal George: Benedict XVI is living up to his name: He is a blessing for the Church.
Q: You have encountered numerous health problems in the past several years, in addition to polio in your youth. What has your experience of suffering taught you? What message of hope does the Church offer to those who suffer?
Cardinal George: Suffering marks the human condition since the fall. Christ used something evil, suffering and death, to undo the effects of sin and to bring us the gift of eternal life.
In faith, suffering is to be embraced as a means to participate in Christ’s own passion and death. The temptation that hides the meaning of suffering is called self-pity or resentment: the “why me?” question.
What personal suffering has taught me over many years is that one cannot build a life, let alone a call to sanctity, on resentment or self-pity. These are cages that make suffering useless in the quest for holiness.
The response in faith to suffering also must go beyond stoicism, the “grin and bear it” reaction. This reaction continues the isolation that pain brings; it does not invite one to participation, which is how we are saved.
The faith community’s spontaneous response to the suffering of any of its members is to pray for him or her. This expresses the solidarity of the communion of saints. What suffering has taught me, among other truths, is that no one is saved alone; no one lives here or in the hereafter alone.
Learning how to accept help as well as learning how to reach out beyond one’s own limiting experiences are lessons that suffering can teach us. They make suffering an instrument for building communion.