SPEECH OF THE GENERAL POSTULATOR
General Chapter of the Cistercian Order 2015
Reverend father and mother capitularies
I will begin my speech with the words of the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthassar that, in a text about Teresa from Lisieux and Elizabeth the Trinity, writes: “The same God puts the saints as milestones, as hallmarks, as a valid explanatory scheme of his own gospel for today and probably also for the future centuries. Some saints “fall onto church as heavenly lightnings, because they have to make people know about God’s unique and unrepeatable willingness.”Christian people immediately feel that these are the great gifts that God donates them, not only as “patrons” to evoke when specific necessities occur, but as lights set by God in the middle of the Church, to warm it and to illuminate it. For the folk they represent especially a new form of imitation of Christ suggested by the Holy Spirit”. It is spontaneous toask ourselves if we really are convinced that saints are Great gifts of God, or do we think they are a church’s invention to extract money from the faithfuls with the processes of canonization or to pander the wishes of ignorant people? Sorry for this question but I have noticed that there is a lot of prejudice on this topic. In these four years that I have carried out the task of General Postulator, I have had the impression, I hope wrong, that the “Amazement and admiration for the Saints,splendor of the Church and of the glory of humanity” is not clearly understood.
Concretely, at my nomination approved by the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints the 25th of November 2011, I have found at the Congregation le following causes:
- Blessed Vincenzo Kadlubek
- Venerable Veronica Laparelli
- Venerable FeliceKebreAmlach
- Servant of God Jean Leonard
Besides father Felice the other causes were dormant, which means that it had been a while that no one was taking care of them. It was my care to test the waters of these causes. Something has been done by the monasteries mainly interested, but it is still too little. In the meantime in the diocese the following causes have been introduced:
- Servant of God Mother Mary Evangelista
- Servants of God Father SimeoneCardon and other five martyrs
- Servant of GodP.Henri Denis Benoit (in place)
To this cause you must add that of father PlacidoGrebenec and other five religious of the Abbey of Stinca, that for the moment remain in the group of the two hundred Slovenian performing martyrs, at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, at the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference, when and if they decide, the monastery of Stinca can remove them and let their cause go on its own: this was confirmed to me by the archbishop of Lubiana. The same thing concerns the Irish fathers GelasisusO’Cullenan and father Luke Bergin who belong to the second group of the Martyrs of Ireland, whose cause, with other forty martyrs, sees the diocese of Dublin as the main protagonist. In this case I haven’t succeeded in doing much.
The cause of Mother Evangelista, once ended the diocesan process,is now to the scrutiny ofthe Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
The cause of the Martyrs of Casamari is almost finished.
According to me, other causescould have been started (I am thinking about Hungary: the archibishopWendelin and sister Monica).
A separate Charpter is the cause of the doctorate of saint Gertrude of Helfta; I am the vice postulator and treasurer of the cause that, step after step, in collaboration with theCistercian Order of the Strict Observance and the Benedictine Congregation of Solesmes, goes ahead even if the answer from the German episcopate hasn’t really been positive and probably vitiated by bias.The
German Episcopal Conference, has been unnecessarily quirky for what concerns theGertrude’s Sanctity of life, repeating very often the word authenticity but forgetting that an established tradition exists as well. On the other hand there is the support of almost all the Episcopal Conferences of South America and of other ecclesiastical Institutions. Mother Hildegard will deal better with the matter. Certainly it doesn’t mean to give saint Gertrude a university degree, but to encourage the faithful (including the monks) to walk, of course with their feet on the ground, but also with their look heart turned to God: this is saint Helfta’s teaching that for years has been imparted to generations of faithful, up to the point that the title of Great was given to her, the only woman in the history of the church of receiving it.
Besides the work for the causes, lots of people have written to receive devotional objects and information about our monks and nuns; consequently, booklets and holy pictures have been printed out and a dvd has been produced, in order to help the faithful in their journey of faith. About that, my knowledge of languages is weak but with some help I have done something in the Spanish language, besides the Italian one.
Someone will smile after having heard about the devotional objects; as an answer to that smile I will make mine the words of Péguy to a person who accused him that his book on Giovanna d’Arci was the result of naivety because it didn’t have solid scriptura l and historicalfoundation;Péguy answered: “The bottom of thought (of his detractor), let’s say it clearly, is that those who believe (in holiness) are imbeciles….Who believes, it isn’t true that he is always a bit silly, between us, a bit stupid, a bit naïve… He (the person who smiled about his Giovanna d’Arci) is one of the highest examples of men who do not believe but claim limit to other people’s faith”.I invite you not to limit other people’s faith, in this field, as if we were in an Olympus of privileged people.
The message of a saint can’t agebecause a saint lives his Gospel message in the concrete of his time; the ways of living this message can age, but never the love that has moved people and it is in this love that we must find the stimulus to live our monastic devotion. Never forget that the saints are the true charisma of a religious Family.
Saints tell us, although they have lived centuries ago, about the vitality of our Order; among the latest saints and blessed proclaimed by pope Francesco, more than about ten lived in the XVII century with mother Evangelista and nun Veronica Laparelli besides more than fifteen in 1800and about twenty in the XX century. In these days the heroic virtues of nun Benedetta Frey who died in 1913 have been celebrated, Cistercian nun of the monastery in Viterbo; how not to see in her an example and a stimulus of endurance or total reliance on God in infirmity? Immobilized on her bed for 25 years, she has never failed to the consecration of the Cistercian nun. How not to look at the fidelity and at the charisma of father SimeoneCardon (one of the martyrs of Casamari) who, after being wounded to death, said to the French general who had come to help him: “When I became a monk I refused man’s help. Submissive only to God, I will do nothing neither to abbreviate my life nor to prolong it…. I, alive or dead, want to stay in this monastery. If the Lord tells me to wait, I will wait for that monastery that will be built, but even if He will call me in advance I will always be the son of Saint Benedict’s Rules, son of Saint Bernard and Cistercian; I hope to die this way”.
How not to be surprised bythe monastic path done by mother Evangelista, who despite adversity, since her entrance at the CistercianRecolette as Lay-sister while she wanted to be chorister, at the foundation of Cassarrubios del Monte monastery, she remained faithful to her monastic vocation?
In one of her visions the mother sees saint Ignazio from Loyola and saint Bernardand the face of this latest is brighter;mother Evangelista is amazed and asks Gesus for an explanation, and he answers: “You ask your Father!”. In Saint Bernard she saw the paternity of the Saint who most symbolizes the Cistercian charisma which never came less.
It is not possible to pass over in silence the monastic and mystic experience of the VenerableVeronica Laparelli of who is said that: “From Father Patriarch Saint Benedict once she was given the rules, while from Father Saint Benedictshe was givena precise instruction to succeed in perfection coveted”.
Going back to some hundred years ago, sister Monika’s Diary can stimulate us in living fully our vocation; in the preface to the Diary the Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar says: “Choose freely, without constraint, poverty and wait for the same choice made by the others. Heaven and earth interweave during the whole life, outright: the first towards the earth and the second towards the sky. The simple liturgy in the spirituality of saint Benedict, that everything pervades-and that community puts into practice in modest chambers- is the eloquent sign of this unity”. After having pronounced the vows, on the first of January 1959 she writes in her Diary: “I would really like to teach the young (the girls of the community) to love the Rule. This in order to make it really the bread of their soul. So that it vibrates in them in the joy of the feast, as well as in the futile difficulties of ordinary lives. ”
Don’t forget that Abbey Wendelin, after being tortured, was threatened that the Order would have been destroied (because of lies and slander) and that he would only have 24 hours to think about and comply with the demands of the torturers. He answers: “I don’t even need a second to think about it. There is nothing to think about.” Tortures and prison continued.
These are only some examples of the fearless and joyful fidelity to the monastic charisma of some of our established brothers and sisters; my task is not to make people forget a precious witness: Christ needs witnesses for his Kingdom, and these are not from only an Order, but from the whole Church, on the contrary, everyone.
I will end with the words of cardinal Giovanni Colombo, archbishop of Milan in the difficult years of the postcouncil: “ I wish all my priests would have every day in their hands a book of a saint’s life”. Probably even if the Cistercian monks would have every day in their hands a book of a saint’s life, at least a saint of their Order… I will let you finish. Thanks for your patience of having listened to me.