Tenth Anniversary Homily – Saint Bernard 2012

Ten years ago, we had faith!

A few stable walls, some roofs covered with slate, in a chaotic space of slabs of concrete, of steel frames, of gaping trenches…this was our monastery. Early in the morning, we left the parish of Nectiny. The bishop of the diocese that received us waited for us by the pond at Branisov. Strips of fog, filtering the morning sunlight, disappeared as the sun rose. Behind the statue of the Virgin, carried by four brothers, we went uphill, for over an hour, accompanied by the chant of psalms throughout the woods. We all fell to our knees at the door of the temporary chapel. The Father Abbot of Sept-Fons blessed us, one by one, placing his hands on each of our heads. A lively and fleeting sparrow passed among us, just at that moment.

We had faith. We did not know everything that was waiting for us, but we did not doubt that we must push forward. God received every one of our struggles and each of our faithfulnesses, as he still receives them today. He knew how to use our mistakes to let us grow in humility. We ourselves have done nothing, useless servants. He marked out the path and we have followed it, applying ourselves to the Rule, not as an abstract text, but as a living experience, passed on from generation to generation since our First Fathers – and which is a matter of ceaselessly imprinting on us and communicating to those whom God calls to join us. The Father Abbot and the Father Master of Sept-Fons accompanied us, step by step. Each gave the best of himself – very poorly, it is true – and not without having to put up with the incoherence of the others. Here we are now at the threshold of a new decade, more numerous than that day, deciding again to look ahead – especially, not behind us! (cf. Luc 9, 62) – so as to prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

May we not be fooled by the unity that is brought up in the gospel which has just been sung (Jn 17, 20-26). It is not first of all a matter of cultivating unity among us, but essentially that “union to God” that we have desired confusedly since our entrance into the monastery, and for some since infancy: “As you, Father, are in me, and I in you…I in them and you in me.” The apostolic dimension of our monastic life is equally affirmed: “May the world know that you sent me and that I loved them, as you loved me.” The world does not know God, but since Christ loves us, his love reaches the whole world through his presence in us. What a great thing! Are we in unison with these lovely considerations every day? Not really, probably. Sometimes, perhaps…

Another passage of this same discourse after the Cenacle completes these perspectives: My father trims every branch which bears fruit,… Rest in me… Just as the branch cannot, by itself, bear fruit, without remaining on the vine, so it is with you, if you do not remain in me. Outside of me, you can do nothing… If we want to bear even more fruit, we must then ceaselessly accept being purified, trimmed, corrected, right up to the last day of our monastic life, for that trimming is the condition of our fruitfulness.

Here we are today with the same faith as ten years ago, turned toward the future. What do we believe?

We believe that he who receives the Eucharist with a sincere heart (I remain with you, even until the end of the world) can spread its effects over the multitude of those who are sluggish and dense when facing grace.

We believe that there is no more urgent task than that of spending time with Our Lord unceasingly, as he remains present in the tabernacle of our church. There resides the remedy of all the ills of the world as well as our own: our human hearts cured of their egoism, opening up to a durable, fruitful and universal love.

We believe that, for remaining in his presence, the Lord has led us to this community, a troop made up of a mix of people of contrasting temperaments, a representative sample of the contemporary world, with its dynamism and its illusions. In this community, under this Rule, obedience to the abbot allows us to put into practice the Word of God.

We believe that our principal purpose, according to Father Jerome’s expression, consists in receiving friendship without ceasing to fight against the love of self, a permanent obstacle to grace. If we persevere in that state, if we remain faithful to these accents that characterise the monastic life, we are assured that our life will be happy and fruitful, whatever the darkness that crosses it and the trials that we meet there.

We believe that the love of Christ is stronger than our weaknesses.

We believe many other eternal truths, but what counts is that – yesterday, as tomorrow, as today – our faith in the Lord Jesus, assured by the maternal protection of his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the prayer of our Fathers of the first Cîteaux, of the support of the Fathers of Sept-Fons – of their prayers as well – and of the affection of our brothers.