Letter to our friends

February 2, 2008

Dear Friends,

Many people criticize us for not sending more news—some of them, on the contrary, for sending too much…what to do? We write to you because the responsibilities that are our own and that we take on as best we can are easier to bear when they are shared by a group of friends. We also write to you because the life that develops around us can encourage those who, wherever they are, have difficulties or cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Finally—it is true—we write to obtain, when possible, your financial support. But that is certainly not our primary objective. And if you cannot help us financially—read our news, write us eventually, and continue your friendship for us. The King Baudouin Foundation USA sends us your gifts regularly and faithfully. But if you prefer another solution, write to us, for this is possible.

In early January, I was able to spend a week at Sept-Fons. To go back to that community, where my roots are, is always good. These stays leave me full of energy and with a clear mind. I find numerous new faces and, since it is vain to calculate the gifts of God, I avoid counting the novices and the postulants! One feels that the community needs the church to be restored, but nobody really wants to begin the major work. This is understandable! The sheer number of brothers will render this period of works uncomfortable. They will need to work quickly. Nevertheless, they are going to begin it. The brothers have already cleaned—by themselves—the back part of the church, taking off the worn-out insulation that had impaired the acoustics. They have also carefully demolished what we call the “de Fontenay” cloister, which had been built in 1950 out of prefabricated blocks and which imitated the style of the abbey in Burgundy, the “founder” of Sept-Fons in 1132. Its neo-Romanesque style was not in the best of taste, but its restoration would have been too costly. The Father Prior, who has a knack for such things, has sold these prefabricated blocks to some Americans.

At Novy Dvur, the winter has been mild. There has been little snow, but for long weeks on end, frost covered everything. Under the sun, it was like a fairytale. The completion of the work on the guesthouse is planned for the beginning of July…that is to say, September… When one orders the door handles and the main telephone, one feels that the end of the work approaches! There remains a small hole in the budget, but we can see the end of it. I have finally been able to order the sheepfold whose construction has been announced to you several times. The plans had been completed, but we could not manage two work sites at the same time. Br. Placid has had forty lambs since the beginning of autumn. To give them a place to stay, we had to buy an old tent that now shelters hay in such a way that the lambs have a little room in the temporary sheepfold. In the spring, we will also need to make plans for the workshop building. Our economy is developing, like our community. For several months now, Fr. Georges has fought to sell our mustard in Russia. Since he is not of an optimistic temperament and he is not always dealing with easy people, he would have preferred that I not sell the bear’s skin before he had killed it! In spite of his prudence (the contract is well tied up), he ordered the labels in Russian. That’s proof that he believes in it. A few jars of monastic mustard, in that immense land…just a drop in the ocean! But who could have foreseen twenty years ago that Trappist monks would be selling the fruit of their labors in a country that had imposed on its inhabitants the most militant atheism? Whatever the Russians may be, the mustard operation will soon be in need of a larger work area.

Some of us went to the ends of the earth to celebrate Christmas with our brothers. The difficulties are numerous, but, with God’s help, they will be able to confront them.

What do you know about the life we lead? We get up well before the sun, at 3:15 a.m. When the economic world begins to stir, the monks have already consecrated a third of their day to their interior lives. Until the monks go to sleep at around 8:00 p.m., they alternate work with liturgical offices or shorter moments of prayer. It is a life in which work, along with mutual relationships, has its place, and one in which cares are not absent—but it is a life that is well directed. By their existence, which is at once laborious and prayerful, the monks testify that it is possible to construct a future in which progress will have its role, but in which man’s spiritual dimension will occupy the place that it merits—first place.

It seems to me that we need to look farther ahead. The future does not depend on us. There is perhaps a manner of living, optimistic and active, detached and confident, which lets us perceive the role of each person and what God wants from him. This view lets us confront difficulties with hindsight—and the successes, when they occur, with modesty.

Please count on our prayers as we count on yours,

Father Samuel, prior

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
September 2, 2007
July 5, 2007
September 2, 2006
March 25, 2006
February 2, 2006
September 2, 2005