Second Letter of the Father Master of Sept-Fons to Brother Lev, Father Master of Nový Dvůr

Dom Chautard’s expression, “the Godlessness of the cloister,” is undoubtedly an expression that makes you shudder!

It was Father Louis, my own Father Master, who said this to me when I was a novice.

It applies to those monks who stay in the monastery, who drag themselves through an aimless life with no thirst. I was so very impressed that I went to repeat it to Father Jérôme, who corroborated it.

The great asceticism of monastic life does not lie in fasting, nor in keeping vigil, nor in penance... but in its long-lasting quality. This is a formidable asceticism.

You are too new of a Father Master to run into these weary monks already. Sooner or later, you will meet them. However, there is another category you will quickly bump into: that of postulants, novices, even young brothers with temporary vows, who will have come to the monastery with their own set ideas and who will not adjust to the humble reality of daily monastic life. These people are not fools. The young monk at the beginning of his monastic life must make two sacrifices inherent to his very vocation: to agree to forego a direct apostolate and to give up the idea of any effectiveness within the monastery.

Effectiveness is the legiti- mate need to verify what we are doing; the legitimate fruits of our labor; which, in our monastic life, is very thin, evanescent – and becomes even more so as one continues to live there. It is the pitfall of those who enter the monastery with preconceived ideas.

You will have to remain quietly firm and face up to them. This is an act of faith in the value of our life; it will be hard for you, all the more so because these may seem very worthwhile men, perhaps superior to you; of whom you might deprive the monastery if you cast them off. Hang in there!

The Father Master is the servant of the monastic life; he is neither manager nor mercenary.

These situations could wear you out. You will be accused of being authoritarian, of holding on to the truth, of not having a sense of history. You will not yield; nor will you let yourself be impressed. Many of these “false disciples” will believe they know it all, much more than you. Do these people have a monastic vocation? Probably. And this is what will be painful for you; but the renouncements that monastic life would impose on them, its deprivations, are too demanding for them. They keep to their own hotchpotch of a monastic life in keeping with their own wishes and, above all, in keeping with their own ideas. What they want is a life dressed up to fit their own ideas, with their own seasoning.

If, as they leave, not having mended their ways, they threaten you and focus on your shortcomings – often all too real – do not be affected. One of the Church‘s dramas, since the beginning, is that clergymen have used the Gospels and the face of Our Lord, putting makeup on them to serve their own purposes. Nowadays, this is still true.

Sanctity consists in „walking in step with God,“ as Dom Samuel said as a young man.

The Cistercian-Trappist monastery is a place where cultured and humble men of integrity serve God in humility and in living the tough brotherly life.

This is the way they praise God and intercede on behalf of the world. /.../

September 2013