Letter to our friends

September 2, 2007

Dear Friends,

On September 14, the Feast of the Holy Cross, during the Eucharist that our bishop will celebrate, the monastery of Novy Dvur will be named a priory by the Father Abbot of Sept-Fons. We will make a vow of stability in our community – which, thanks to your help, lives and grows – and then we will elect our prior. We entrust this day to your prayers.

Three years after the dedication of our church and five years after the foundation, we turn to the past in order to gain lessons from it. A few weeks ago, I was struck by a story in a book. In France in 1965 – when communism was particularly on the rise and the West, in its full growth, refused to take notice of it – a Soviet writer met another writer, a Christian. As the communist boasted that he had had his old illiterate servant buried by a priest, the Christian asked him if any believers remained in Russia. “A few,” he replied. So the Frenchman, who knew the gospel of the yeast in the dough, responded, “That’s enough!” Events have proved him right. Christians are a minority in the Czech Republic, as in France. It’s a new fact that might also be an opportunity: an opportunity to say what we are and what we believe with the freedom of the prophets.

We freely express our convictions, even if they do not please everyone. Before leaving on foundation, the Father Abbot said to me one day, “What forms our strength? Every time something does not go well at Sept-Fons, there is always someone to ask this, and it is not always the abbot!” May God deem that it is the same at Novy Dvur. Along the same lines, please know that our debates are lively about the construction works in our two communities. Dom Eustache de Beaufort, the reformer of Sept-Fons in the seventeenth century, built in wood – without excessive refinement – so that the monks ended up lasting longer than the buildings. The church of Sept-Fons, which we will restore next year if God wills, will shelter for fifty years the prayers of the brothers who today begin their monastic formation. The guesthouse that we are building at Novy Dvur is also a pertinent issue, since this summer we had to allow guests to sleep in the monks’ dormitory for lack of a better place. But if the desire to build or to restore were to come before the will to lead the monastic life and to form the brothers, or if it entered into competition with it, failure would be certain. There is a subtle temptation here as well.

In our community meet two experiences that are linked to history, to national histories fraught with trials, sometimes with weakness, and most often with courageous attitudes. The Christian grandparents of our Czech and Slovak brothers resisted courageously. The Dominican great-uncle of Br. John-Paul died at 34 years of age in 1954, following an illness contracted during his detention. The grandfather of Br. Procopius served time in prison. They are not the only ones. In France, the Church is now confronting the problem of aging. In the Czech Republic, the Church is impoverished as well, yet she is younger and more fervent. She is looking for her place in a society in which she no longer has her pre-war brilliance, and she is changing rapidly. If the impossible were to happen and she got back that brilliance of the past, what would she do with it? Our desire to intervene in the destiny of our age is often strong. However, that is not our place. We have a role to play, but it is another one; it is more hidden. During the Second World War, Father Jerome, who was then in charge of priest retreatants, got wind through one of them of what was happening to the Jewish people. He was so shocked (as one can well understand) that he got to the point of saying to himself, “You, you are here, and at this moment there are men and women your age who are suffering this horror…” The monk with whom he consulted reassured him and asked, “But you, during all this time, are you just having a good time?”

How should we maintain our place – and what is that place? Whatever the strength of the supernatural calling that leads a Christian to baptism, a religious to his community, or a monk to a monastery, and whatever our sincerity in responding to that call, we are haunted by mediocrity. Our faithfulness hits rock bottom. To tend toward a certain integrity and truth in life, to uphold and form those whom God leads to us, to know how to be aided by others, as poor as we are – this is our daily combat, always insufficient and unachieved. On that vigilance and on grace depend the supernatural efficiency of prayer, which can turn around, with God’s help, the destiny of our contemporaries.

All this gives this letter a grave tone. However, our daily life is made, as much as possible, of lightness: this summer, we have worked on the surroundings of the monastery and of the future guesthouse so that they may have flowers and be easy to take care of. The organ, nearly finished, already underlines the solemnity of our offices. We have found a good professor for Br. Bruno. We are preparing a new mustard and hand cream that will be available to you in early 2008. Your gifts will serve to finance a part of the necessary investment (15,000 Euros). Two-thirds of our community is in formation. To arrive at complete financial autonomy, we would need to require of the brothers a rhythm of work that would put their monastic balance in danger. I am convinced that you will support this choice of not overloading the brothers.

The building works continue at a slower pace. But we still have a vital need for you. I thank you sincerely.

In all ages, each generation finds itself facing a future that holds troubling elements, certainly, but, even more so, it finds promises. Let us build not walls, but faithful hearts; this is an immense and stimulating task. Be assured of our prayers, of our thanks, and of our sincere friendship.

Father Samuel

PS The King Baudouin Foundation continues to receive gifts for our community. It sends them to us very regularly. With their assistance, we have financed the organ, which is almost finished, and we are currently financing the work of the guesthouse. Nevertheless, if you do not need a tax receipt, you can also send a cheque made out to Klaster Novy Dvur.

February 2009
September, 2nd 2014
Autumn 2013
July 5, 2013
March 10, 2013
A few weeks before Christmas 2012
September 2, 2012, Solemnity of the Dedication of Novy Dvur
Whit Sunday 2012
January 11, 2012
September 30, 2011, Feast of Saint Jerome
May 1 2011
September 2 2010
May, 2010
January 29, 2010
Pentecost 2009
February 2009
May, 2008
February 2, 2008
July 5, 2007
September 2, 2006
March 25, 2006
February 2, 2006
September 2, 2005