Letter to our friends

September 2, 2012, Solemnity of the Dedication of Novy Dvur

Tenth anniversary of the foundation

Dear Friends,

The fall of communism in Europe already seems to be a long-ago event, since the youngest brother at Novy Dvur was born after the Velvet Revolution. And yet it is on the ruins of this iniquitous regime that the first monastic vocations of our community found favourable terrain for their development. Similar regimes exist today in other parts of the world, and monastic vocations are coming forth that will hasten their ruin. Some of our brothers remember a grandfather or a great-uncle who was imprisoned for several years in the former Czechoslovakia for refusing to submit to the communists. This resistance was not in vain. Others have been witnesses to the tireless prayer of a relative or of their parents. The monastic vocation of our brothers is the fruit of this faithfulness. Today, in our situation, how can we manifest the same courage? Resistance to prevailing unjust attitudes that are false but comfortable is not reserved for the past. Is the darkness of our age less thick than in the old days? In a single action that manifests his faith and his uprightness, a man can be the expression of something essential, even if he is then prevented from acting or is imprisoned because of this act. In the eyes of God, of the believer and of people of good will, that action has an absolute value, not only in and of itself, but as a testimony. The truth and grace received in a sound heart are the strongest.

On August 20, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the foundation of our monastery with a day of prayer. What can we say about these first ten years? Every time we get caught up in concerns that turn us away from the ordinary acts of monastic life, we find ourselves weakened; on the other hand, whenever our principal intent is focused on the concrete practice of prayer, on the celebration of the office, on reading, on attentive fraternal relationships, our existence is stabilised. We have tried to place our trust not in the work of our hands, but on the invisible element that God builds in us little by little, by evoking our freedom. When the inevitable accidents and everyday struggles are break up the schedule of daily, ordinary accomplishment of mundane tasks – essential in terms of their supernatural fruits – then our life is simplified. It is lit up by being harmonized, little by little, with the will of God. Bearing our inevitable struggles patiently, without focusing on them; soothing our lives by consecrating every day that which God expects of us in our reality; seeking the accomplishment of our immediate duties rather than entertaining unattainable desires… Faithfulness consists of these things.

However real our weaknesses and our fragilities may be, how is it that at Novy Dvur, the graft has taken, and the young sapling begins, imperceptibly, to grow? We are not more gifted, nor holier than others, nor more virtuous. It is faith that holds us up. We believe in the future of the monastic life, even though, in this day and age, it requires a powerful grace to believe in it. A man only conveys what he believes and what he lives. To impart the Gospel, the monastic life requires, as a foundation, a life moulded by that Gospel, structured by that monastic life and whatever gives it meaning, truth and a future. We have received this faith at Sept-Fons. The monks who live at Sept-Fons today received it from Father Jerome. Father Jerome received it from Dom Chautard and from Dom Belorgey. Dom Norbert of Scourmont… All of them tried to keep it alive and to pass it on. It is the same task for us, and, when their time comes, for the youth who join us. The trees that we are cutting down today to pay for the construction of our workshops were planted when these teachers of Father Jerome were undertaking their monastic formation. The trees that we are planting today, when will they be cut down? Will the monastic life still be alive at Novy Dvur? That depends on us, the older ones, and the brothers who surround us, with the grace of God.

To consider our abbey from far off, the hurried spectator could think that all is well. This is true, in a certain way. Some parts of the building have already suffered from bad weather and we are surprised, after ten years, to already have to change the equipment for our water supply or repair such and such part of the façade. What is true of the buildings is also true of men. A monk’s life does not resemble a sea of oil. The youth of our community, the brothers’ zeal for prayer and for the service of God are promising realities that we receive with thanks. The difficulties, however, have never been lacking, and will not be lacking in the future. By accepting that the monastic life is a kind of combat, we come to the heart of our vocation. The People of Israel were torn between the slavery of Egypt – the part of it that was comfortable – and the austerity of the Sinai desert. Christ himself was tempted in the desert, and after him, the first monks. Like them, today’s monks. The mundane and daily face of our combat does not alter its value, nor its hidden supernatural fruitfulness. If we try to avoid this combat or disregard it, a fatal illusion will take hold in us.

If these reflections seem serious to you, know that our life is not. The other day, I asked the novices why, when Saint Benedict defines the cenobitic monk (he who lives in a community, under a rule and an abbot), he puts the abbot in the last position of all. After an awkward silence, one of the brothers answered, “Maybe it is because the abbot is not that important?” Everyone burst out laughing.

Ten years after our foundation, we are looking at the present and the future more than at the past. A present in which the joys are not lacking, thanks be to God, but which is still a bit bumpy, thanks be to God! And always uncertain, except for that confidence that we place in the hands of the Lord and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In your lives, it’s the same, isn’t it?

It is with particular gratitude that we thank you today for your aid, which has never failed us. May God repay your generosity in kind. Keep us in your prayers, as we pray for you.

Br. M.-Samuel, Abbot de Nový Dvůr

February 2009
September, 2nd 2014
Autumn 2013
July 5, 2013
March 10, 2013
A few weeks before Christmas 2012
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
September 2, 2007
July 5, 2007
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March 25, 2006
February 2, 2006
September 2, 2005