Written by Hilary White
The Blessed Martyrs of Nowogródek were members of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, executed by the Gestapo in August 1943 in occupied Poland
Italian Priest: ‘Contemplative nuns, seek the face of God while you can’
The ancient Christian occupation of full-time contemplation of God, the voluntary withdrawal from the world and its temporal concerns, the self-immolation and immersion in the life of prayer, may soon be effectively suppressed by the current occupiers of the Holy See, the men determined in all spheres of Catholic life to force conformity with the Vatican II secularist trends. The document issued recently by the Congregation for Religious, re-writes much of the canonical norms for women’s contemplative communities, and will centralize control over the monastic life.
An Italian priest has expressed the fears of many that the aim is to force the few maverick traditional or tradition-minded nuns to comply with the New Paradigm of Francischurch. Monasteries, that have traditionally been granted broad autonomy, will come under central.
Few in the Church, and almost no one outside it, even noticed the Apostolic Constitution, “Vultum dei quaerere,” that tells all monastic houses of women they must join “federations” that will direct their formation and training. Failure to comply will likely result in your house being declared to be non-viable and closed.
Don Giorgio Ghio has offered the obvious advice to nuns: continue. No matter what, ignore the new regime’s attacks and continue to seek the face of God. They cannot stop you from praying. They can take away your monastery. They can force you to get rid of your habit. They can set modernist heretics over you and issue new “formation” rules. But because they don’t believe, they cannot know that none of this will truly stop you fulfilling your vocation.
Calling the contemplative life the “diamond tip of the Church,” Don Giorgio writes that “the stakes from the supernatural point of view,” which is “the only appropriate one to give the true extent of ecclesiastical decisions” are the “very highest,” (“altissimi” in the original).
Those who are familiar with post-conciliar texts, he says, can “sniff” in this document the “ideas, intentions and typical movements of the ‘renewal’ of religious life” that has caused almost everywhere the “outrageous decadence,” in the convents and monasteries. This false renewal, he says has “had the effect of reducing [the religious life] to a kind of middle-class life that differs from the secular equivalent only to a comfortable exemption from the need to work and to take on real responsibilities.”
From the outset the document proposes a set of vague goals – “testimony, sign, prophecy…” – rather than God Himself as the aim of contemplative religious life.
Starting, “From this distorted perspective,” he continues,
“are often vague or abstract norms established, aimed at solving problems mostly not real, but raised for reasons of ideological flavor, derived from unrealistic ideals and possibly suitable to be a cover for a surreptitious intention.
“It should also be noted that the quotes included in the text (Scripture, the Fathers, the Magisterium) are often forcibly bent to confirming the speech, typically modernist in tone: since the cloistered life is a challenge for our time, we must change it.
“It is hard to understand the logic of such a tacit assumption, unless you want to distort the vocation that from the beginning is the most effective antidote against corruption and the making tepid [“intiepidimento”] of the Christian people.
The suspicion is reinforced by the insistence of the decree on the need for lifelong learning, collaboration between monasteries, belonging to federations: it is difficult not to think of an attempt to interfere in the monastic life and a method of indoctrination, given the good results produced on the religious in general from the study of bad theology and the influence of local associations …”
He goes into details about the sections of the document, among which is its denial of the Church’s longstanding belief that the contemplative life is a more perfect Christian life: quoting, “The praying community, and especially of contemplative life… does not offer a more perfect realization of the Gospel,” a notion he calls “obviously false.”
The document calls for [§§ 7-8] “appropriate renewal to the changed conditions of the times , changing socio-cultural conditions…” Don Giorgio asks, “Evangelical perfection is not good at all times and places?”
On the document’s extraordinary bombshell, that contemplative life must now require [§ 15] “nine to twelve years of training before profession,” Don Giorgio asks, “It needs a PhD to become a cloistered nun?”
“It does not appear that St. Teresa of Avila had studied in Salamanca, while making use of learned spiritual directors,” he adds.
At the end, Don Giorgio says the document is “totally lacking in the perspective of the rights of God and selfless service which is His due unconditionally”.
Because its only “concrete provisions” are about formation, the nature of the monastery’s cloister and their autonomy, “it does smell of a disguised attempt at manipulation, structuring and control.”
More ominously, he adds that because female cloistered life “is in good health, generally,” the new strictures are likely to be aimed only at monasteries of the burgeoning “traditional trend.” It is therefore “difficult to remove the suspicion that they want them ‘normalized,’ that is, “flattened into the bleak landscape of today’s consecrated life.” This means to “bow to that Enlightenment vision that admits [religious life] only as a function of social and humanitarian purposes.”
“As is notorious, however, institutions that do not conform to the regime’s whims are condemned, one after another, to the commissioner steamroller.”
He calls for the nuns themselves to “endure” because “this storm will pass and all the jailers, one after the other, will have to present [themselves] to the divine judgment.”
“Those who, as in the days of the French Revolution, endure despite and against everything can grow in holiness and receive the reward of the faithful servants and friends of God.”
Don Giorgio, a priest of the Archdiocese of Toulouse, originally incardinated in Rome, is a regular contributor to traditional Catholic blogs and online magazines in Italian. (By way of a caveat, I note that his letter to the nuns was published on a website that promotes the manifestly false Medjugorje “apparitions,” but there is no reason to think Don Giorgio himself agrees.)
Believing Catholics were deeply alarmed at this very specifically targeted attack on the nuns. What little life remains in the Catholic institution is largely the result of the grace and mercy of God being sought and poured out through these prayer powerhouses. This has always been understood by Catholic believers to be the role of contemplative religious. And it is precisely this purely supernatural religious purpose that Rome aims to eliminate. It doesn’t feed “The Poor,” so, as all secularist ideologues have always held, it is worthless. And more than that; dangerous.
There is a reason secularist regimes always close down the houses of contemplative nuns. Very often in history since the French Revolution, they have been dealt with the most ruthlessly, often being publicly executed, because of the total opposition to the aims of the new order their lifestyle represents.
The Blessed Martyrs of Compiegne
Guillotined at the Place du Trône Renversé (now called Place de la Nation), Paris, 17 July, 1794. They are among the first victims of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Before their execution they knelt and chanted the “Veni Creator”, as at a profession, after which they all renewed aloud their baptismal and religious vows. The novice was executed first. ‘She looked,’ says an eyewitness, ‘like a queen going to be crowned.’ And the prioress last. Absolute silence prevailed the whole time that the executions were proceeding.
There has been much speculation on why the Francis Vatican particularly chose to target the contemplative nuns, excluding active orders and men’s monasteries. Many have pointed to the intransigence of the Franciscan Sisters Immaculate as an irritation, an embarrassment and roadblock to the Francis agenda. But perhaps a simpler reason can be found in the fact that the active sisters – what is left of them – are already nearly 100% with the NewChurchian programme.
They are also dying out. Statistically, almost the only orders that can be said to be surviving – with a handful which are actually thriving in terms of vocations – are contemplative monasteries that have retained their ancient traditions, their adherence to the Catholic religion.
Next month, the Benedictine abbots and heads of men’s monasteries will be having their regular meeting in Rome. They are scheduled to have a chat with the pope. We will see what comes of that.
Meanwhile, Fr. Daniel Couture, the regional superior for Canada of the SSPX, has issued a letter encouraging Catholics to join them in their Rosary Crusade for the Social Kingship of Christ in the world.
He quotes Sister Lucia, speaking to Fr. Fuentes in 1957, saying, “The Holy Rosary and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary are our two last recourses, and so this means there will be no others… With a certain trepidation God offers us the final means of salvation, His Most Holy Mother.”
Fr. Couture adds that in the message of Fatima, “We find there a true antidote to the nefarious error of the separation of Church and State, also called secularization, that is, the separation between the spiritual and the temporal orders, which is precisely the evil of our days, and which is perfectly summarized in the title of Archbishop Lefebvre’s book, They have uncrowned Him.”
“The goal set by Bishop Bernard Fellay is a bouquet of 12 million rosaries and 50 million sacrifices for Our Lady of Fatima.”
It seems that more and more we are reduced in these increasingly dark times to this “last recourse.”