The Benedictine Vision for The New Evangelization

The Love of Learning and the Desire for God By Jean Leclercq
In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to an audience of leaders from the world of culture in Paris, France about the fact that Western civilization has roots that extend into the Benedictine renewal of the Middle Ages. Citing Jean Leclercq’s 1961 book “The Love of Learning and the Desire for God”, Benedict pointed out that it was the monastic communities who preserved the ancient Greco-Roman classics, founded the Western musical tradition through the chants for the Divine Office, and created a new Christian culture in the process. Yet such communities understood all these expressions of their common life to be subsidiary to their core identity: being rooted in the desire for God. Benedict has suggested that it is by returning to the example of these Benedictine monks that we can discover a new monasticism, the creative Christian response to a new Dark Ages, the basis for a new evangelization.

8:30am Mass
9:00 Welcome
9:15 Introduction: Dr. Norm Klassen (St. Jerome’s University)
9:30  The Formation of Monastic Culture
          Dr. Keith Cassidy (Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy)
10:30 The Sources of Monastic Culture
           Fr. Peter Nguyen, S.J. (Regis College, University of Toronto)
11:30 The Fruits of Monastic Culture
           Ania Krysciak (Wilfrid Laurier/University of Guelph)

WHEN:  8:30 AM to 12:30 PM, Saturday, June 16th, 2012
WHERE: St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 45 Victoria Road N., Guelph
FURTHER INFORMATION: Dcn. Charles Fernandes (519-923-0454)
or Fr. Mark Morley (

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One Response to The Benedictine Vision for The New Evangelization

  1. Seán O'Seasnáin says:

    Recommended Summer Reading for the Communio Group

    “There are a great many reasons for Dominicans to esteem Benedictines: the holiness of their saints, the moderation of their monastic rule, the simplicity of their way of life; the list goes on. But there is at least one reason for Dominicans (or, at least for this one) to envy them. It is, of course, a book, and its title is Christ, the Ideal of the Monk. Why should this wonderful book by Blessed Columba Marmion be the cause of such envy? Quite simply, because we have nothing of our own to compare with it. There is no book entitled, Christ, the Ideal of the Preacher, and there should be. For the true preacher can have no other ideal than that of Jesus Christ.”

    So reads the opening paragraph of an essay on ‘Christ, the Ideal of the Preacher’ by Br. Philip Neri Reese OP of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. in Dominicana July 9, 2012. See the complete essay at .

    It struck a chord of recognition reminding me of my eight-day retreat prior to receiving the Dominican habit on October 14, 1959. As I had entered the Order a month later than the rest of my group I was on a solo retreat with Dom Marmion’s book Christ, the Life of the Soul as my guide. At 19 years of age my reading of this classic was quite superficial but nevertheless attentive as I thought the master of novices would be examining me on its contents. That made it at least memorable for me even though I did not grasp its true profundity at that time.

    Although I left the Order some fifteen years later the formation years at the Dominican House of Studies in Tallaght, Dublin gave me a solid foundation in monastic spirituality and theology; so much so that I continued my studies in religion and culture as a life-long learning enterprise. Echoing Hillaire Belloc I can say “Tallaght made me, Tallaght fed me/Whatever I had she gave me”. That is probably why I find the Communio gatherings so attractive and sustaining.

    For the past school year, besides the regular reading of selective articles in Communio, there have been two full day workshops on specific topics, namely Vatican II and Monastic Spirituality. The texts for each respectively were John W. O’Malley’s What Happened at Vatican II and Jean Leclercq’s The Love of Learning and the Desire for God.

    A couple of weeks ago I made one of my regular visits to the Pauline Books & Media Centre – 3022 Dufferin Street, Toronto – and found two gems that make for natural follow-up reading to these texts viz. Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning by Massimo Faggioli (Paulist Press, 2012), and Meeting Christ in His Mysteries: A Benedictine Vision of the Spiritual Life by Gregory Collins OSB (Liturgical Press, 2010).

    I recommend these two volumes to Communio attendees and to any other reader of this website. Here is a small sample of Faggioli’s insightful observations which ring true for me: “The current underestimation of Vatican II in many circles is no different from the underestimation of the consequences of the discovery of vaccines against smallpox and polio. What is disturbing, especially in the last few years, is that younger generations of Catholics have been credited by theological pundits with a detached or even skeptical view of Vatican II that symbolizes polarization, culture wars, and division in the Church – something these younger generations allegedly feel the need to take distance from, as if the common ground they seek could only be a ground as distant as possible from Vatican II. My experience teaching Vatican II could not be more different from this misconception. Whether liberal or conservative, Catholics and Catholic students of every theological and spiritual orientation know well that longing for and aspiring to revive the period before Vatican II is a dream nourished only by people who do not live the real, day-to-day reality of the Church. Ecumenism, religious freedom, and the rejection of anti-Semitism cannot be reduced to partisan issues: the post-9/11 world has revealed the prophetic value of documents like Nostra aetate, whose theological necessity has vastly outgrown the narrow boundaries of its short text. To belittle Vatican II is to belittle these achievements as well, and disparaging these achievements means disparaging the very theology of Vatican II that brought about not only this opening of the Church ad extra, but also the reflection of the Church ad intra.” – from the Epilogue (p140).

    Hilmar Pabel, in his review of Faggioli’s book writes: “Faggioli’s achievement is impressive. Eschewing the reduction of the council’s reception to “gossip” and the obfuscation of “arcane” jargon, he manages to outline the complex dynamics of the debates about interpretation succinctly and clearly. He deftly weaves together historical and theological analysis. The analysis reveals his own position in the debates, but his position does not present an obstacle to understanding their nature. Faggioli’s critical engagement deserves attention.” The full review can be read here: .

    I am still in the early stages of exploring Collins’ Meeting Christ in His Mysteries: A Benedictine Vision of the Spiritual Life. Already I can see the commonalities in Marmion and Collins (they are both Irish-born Benedictines!) particularly in the title although the form and content, as Fr. Collins tells us, “are obviously very different”. Rather I see Meeting Christ in His Mysteries like a ‘Vatican II-applied’ version of Leclercq’s Love of Learning…. A back cover blurb describes it succinctly like this: “The author’s aim is to encourage a contemporary mystical spirituality based on the great sources of Christian revelation. Much of the book consists of reflections on the mysteries of Christ as they are celebrated in the liturgy. It is grounded in theological research yet written in a style accessible to non-specialists; ecumenical in inspiration, it draws largely from Orthodox and other Eastern Christian sources. Deeply committed to the post-Vatican II renewal of the Church, it aims to recover some of the ancient spiritual resources of monastic tradition so as to encourage a new vision of Christ as we meet him in his mysteries.” – from .

    And as I began with a quotation from a Dominican I will conclude with another OP quotation: “[Meeting Christ in His Mysteries is] a profound, deeply inspirational and highly readable exploration of Christian belief, liturgical practice, and the spiritual life. It manages to be an intimately personal as well as impressively scholarly accomplishment while remaining accessible to the well-educated reader. [It is] a finely balanced exploration, exposition, and commentary on Christian life—devotional, sacramental, and doctrinal.” – Richard Woods OP, Doctrine and Life, April 2012.

    Compiled by Seán O’Seasnáin SDL – July 11, 2012 – Feast of St. Benedict

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