Oblate letter of the Pluscarden Benedictines, Elgin, Moray, Scotland. IV30 8UA.
Ph. (01343) 890257 fax 890258
Website www.pluscardenabbey.org DMB series No 19
Autumn --St John Chrysostom-- 2013
Monastic Voice:- Fr. Mark Hargreaves, Procurator of our Subiaco Cassinese Congregation on "the Fr Aelred Carlyle" of our Congregation ,Fr Pietro Casaretto.
part one: 1810-1843 (sample-for you to follow-up in past Numbers of PAX, Prinknash Abbey's magazine.)
This article began as notes taken from a collection of essays which were produced on the occasion of the first Centenary of our Congregation in 1972 which formed the basis of a series of talks given to the young monks of our foundation in Ghana, Kristo Buase monastery, in the summer of 1998.
My interest in Pietro Francesco Casaretto arose when I went to work at S. Ambrogio, Rome, (seat of the Abbot President and his Curia) and realised that I knew almost nothing of our past history. This is a common fault among monks, who are more aware generally, as is only right, of the origins of their particular monastery (e.g. Prinknash) rather than of the Congregation to which it belongs, as a whole. At S.Ambrogio, however, the emphasis is necessarily to the contrary, giving those of us who live there the immense privelege of being able to see, as it were from the centre, the beauty and diversity of an entire religious family, with about c.1,200 monks spread over 21 countries in 65 houses, its most recently elevated Abbey as far away as Vietnam, together with c.1,000 nuns and sisters, in 14 countries and over 40 houses, who are "aggregated" to the monks' Congregation, while retaining their own Constitutions and such fecundity had
to have a starting-point. It is my belief that we owe it to Casaretto and the early monks of his reform movement, to study their ideas as a way of understanding our present situation. We are what we are, partly because of him. Such historical research, fashionable everywhere today as a means of "finding one's roots", takes on a particular relevance in Ghana, where much emphasis is placed on the cult of ancestors. The classes at Kristo Buase monastery were thus presented, from a Christian and monastic perspective, as a rediscovery of our common "spiritual ancestry" in the persons of the 19th century reformers.
Casaretto was a founder. Yet founders of religious congregations are often mysterious and even difficult people. Those who, for instance, affirm the obvious holiness of Mother Teresa of Calcutta would readily admit that she could appear, at times, stubborn and uncompromising. Zeal for reform and a consuming desire to make things better do not guarantee that one will always have friends or make easy company.
Pietro Casaretto, though not a candidate for canonisation, certainly was a man of remarkable vision and audacity, not to say holiness. As is written of Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St Paul's Cathedral, London, si monumentum requiris, circumspice (if you seek his monument, look around you). Had there been no "golden thread" of genuine spirituality, shining through Casaretto's foibles and blemishes, his work would not have endured and expanded, as is obviously the case. All of us together - monks, nuns and oblates - are his epitaph, words written by the Holy Spirit on the tablets of the human heart.********
*******Born on 16th February 1810 in Ancona, at a time when Napoleon's troops were driving out the religious of Rome (including the Benedictine nuns who once inhabited S. Ambrogio) while Pope Pius VII was exiled in France, Pietro Francesco was the eldest son of Giacomo and Maddalena Casaretto, his father, a prosperous merchant with dealings in many countries of the Mediterranean, his mother, a strong and generous woman of faith, without affectation (according to her son). Pietro was, from the first, a sickly child. Very sensitive, with a tendency towards pessimism, discouragement and scrupulosity, these difficulties of health and temperament would, in his adult years, sometimes lead to accusations of laxity, authoritarianism, abrupt changes of mind and a kind of moodiness, which antagonised his enemies and made life a little strenuous for his friends.
Nevertheless, he must have been a man of great charm and persuasive speech. Early photographs of show him to have been tall and handsome - and he certainly gained a number of friends in high places, including Pope Pius IX and the King of Piedmont and Sardinia.
Showing signs of a vocation at the age of 15, he went first to the archdiocesan seminary at Ancona but soon wanted to join the Camaldolese at Monte Cònero. His parents, though devoutly religious themselves, could not tolerate the thought of their son's frail constitution languishing amid the rigours of the monastery, and persuaded him instead to join the diocesan clergy. This phase clearly did not last long, however, as on 11 June 1827, aged 17, he entered the Benedictine monastery of S.Maria del Monte, near Cesena, a community which, like many others in Italy at that time, was starting to revive after the ravages of war and expulsion during the Napoleonic period.
The monastic observance there, though generally good, was very much influenced by the piety of the period, rather than by a genuine liturgical spirituality. Preferred authors for spiritual reading were St Alphonsus together with two others now unknown, Segneri and Scupoli. We have to remember that the great rediscovery of the Fathers of the Church and monastic authors, now considered as standard monastic lectio, began only in the latter part of the 19th century and is still in the process of development. As a result, the monastic theory and practice of Casretto's era were, to our eyes, somewhat confused. It is worth mentioning at this point an abuse found in the monastery which Casaretto would always strive to eradicate and which would become, in time, a salient feature of his reform. The difficulties of the revolutionary period, combined with a general loss of fervour, had made it usual practice for monks of the Cassinese Congregation to retain small sums of money from the community fund, in order to cater for their personal needs. This tended to get out of hand, with the result that the common life began to suffer. Casaretto's Constitutions (1867) would insist that the money chest of the community should have no less than three locks, the keys of which were to be held respectively by the Prior, Bursar and Cellarer, so that any outgoings could only be by mutual consent This must have been highly impractical, if it was observed at all, but we should understand it in the light of the abuse which it was designed to counteract.
The 17th August 1828 saw young Pietro making his monastic Profession which, though called "Simple", was for life. The practice at this time, and indeed, right up to the appearance of the Code of Canon Law of 1917, was for choir monks to take simple perpetual vows followed by Solemn Profession as much as ten years later, even after priestly ordination. Solemn Vows were thus a ratification of what had already been conscerated for ever.
Pietro then suffered a series of characteristic illnesses. In July of the following year, 1829, he was struck with tuberculosis and went home to Ancona for a few months. 1830 came and his health was no better. In 1831 he was sent to Pegli, to the parish of S. Martino, at that time administered by a monk of the Cassinese Congregation, D. Mauro Rapallo. He managed to undertake some kind of priestly studies under his guidance, but his intellectual formation would remain feeble throughout his life 1832 saw him well enough to receive the Subdiaconate and Diaconate, but his health soon gave way once more and he was forced to take refuge with his family. It appears that he was not so ill that he could not make a trip to Constantinople with his uncle, followed by further excursions to Palermo, in Sicily, to Rome, then back to Ancona.
Meanwhile, in the world of national and international politics, the first stirrings of what would later be called the Risorgimento, or movement for the unification of Italy, with its concomitant anti-clericalism, were being felt, while the country felt itself under pressure by turns from Austria, whose troops occupied Bologna, and France, who occupied Ancona, both in 1832. We can only really understand what would take place in ecclesiastical and religious circles in the light of these commotions.
On the 22nd September 1832, at the age of 22, Casaretto was ordained priest in Ancona, by the Cardinal Archbishop. Mindful of his health problems, the authorities of the Cassinese sent him to the monastery of Cava, Salerno, towards the end of the year, but the humidity of the south did not suit him either. It seems strange that he was then allowed to make a trip to Algeria, as a chaplain to the French troops, whose climate can scarcely have been more agreeable.
As with Père Jean-Baptiste Muard, founder of the monastery of La Pierre-qui-Vire in France which was to have an enormous influence on the future of the Congregation, Casaretto's most enduring ideas of reform came to him during a visit to the Sacro Speco at Subiaco (where St Benedict had lived in a cave). The latter part of 1833 and the first half of 1834 see him ensconced there with a growing desire for solitude
Even the beauties of Subiaco did not suit him for long, however, and he set off for St Paul's-outside-the-Walls in Rome, so that he could find medical care in the City. Reading between the lines, and with the greater psychological awareness of today, we may wonder whether the cause of his illnesses was partly psycho-somatic. His avowed desire for solitude is contradicted by his incessant wanderings. We shall discover a number of such contradictions as we proceed with the story.
Further changes were in store as, on 17 March 1835 he was assigned to the monastery of S. Severino in Naples. He never arrived there, however, and, instead, decided to petition his superiors for permission to return to his first love, the Camaldolese. Permission was granted by the Holy See and he presented himself at Fonte Avellana, where he was clothed again, this time in white, on 2nd June of the same year. It will not surprise us to learn that his health let him down again and he returned to his family at Ancona where, in 1836, he was assigned as Spiritual Director to the archdiocesan seminary.
History and politics intervened and, with the coming of the plague of cholera among the French troops then in occupation, he asked to be relieved of his seminary duties and went to serve as hospital chaplain for several months. This appears to have been a great success, indeed, it was one of the "golden threads" of which we spoke earlier. There are numerous testimonies to his devotion and competence at this time, leading eventually to his being decorated by King Louis-Philippe of France. The autumn of 1836 saw him back at the seminary. One can readily understand that the authorities of the Cassinese Congregation, however sympathetic they might have wished to be towards the young man, found him something of a problem. It was finally thought best to petition for an indefinite exclaustration (permission to live outside the monastery) which was granted by the Holy See on 2nd June 1837 The records of the same year give us some insight into his devotional life, especially with regard to the Blessed Virgin. He had exposed an image of her before the French troops in hospital and, on 8th December 1837, feast of the Immaculate Conception, solemnly consecrated himself to her, a practice which would later be repeated annually by his disciples and is still carried out in many Subiaco houses, including Prinknash. This fervour of devotion would go hand in hand with a rather minimal monastic observance on his part. We know that in 1842, his spiritual director, Canon Ubaldo Marini, renewed for life the various dispensations he had already received on account of his health, namely, he was never to fast, not even in Lent (something which was then obligatory even for lay Catholics) and he need only recite the hours of Prime and Compline from the Divine Office. In later years his enemies would seize on these and other points as evidence of his supposedly dissolute life
It was in this same year, 1837, that Casaretto obtained permission to go and live in a little old sanctuary called La Madonna di Portonovo, near Ancona, where he spent his time in prayer and pastoral ministry towards the local peasant population and fishermen. Judging by his previous pastoral experiments, one imagines that this was a success. He certainly appears to have been happy and the next few years would be a time of relative stability for him. In 1841, he was joined by a priest and a lay man who, it seems, did not remain very long.
But the peace was not to last and the Cassinese had not forgotten about their wandering monk. On the 10th March 1842, the Procurator General, Benedetto Tomasetti, sent Casaretto a letter, asking him to be ready to leave his beloved solitude of Portonovo and return to the parish at Pegli, where Rapallo, by now an old man, was looking for a replacement. We now see a characteristic move on Casaretto's part, who always knew how to seize a moment and use it to the advantage of his own projects. Instead of accepting the request tout court, he prepared a "memorial", addressed to the Holy Father and his superiors in which he states that he is willing to accept on condition that he is not left isolated from his brethren and that a "true Benedictine community with the entire observance of the Rule" be set up at Pegli. It would not be too much to say that he knew his request would find all the more favour in the eyes of the authorities since Rapallo's style of life, as a isolated monk in a parish situation, had latterly been the cause of some complaintand the spirit of the Cassinese was very much set towards the restoration of the glories of its past monasteries. A certain contradiction can also be seen here. Casaretto had, of his own volition, isolated himself at Portonovo and appeared to be happy with it, yet now he wants a community life which, up to now, he had not been able to live for any length of time.
The young man got his way and the superiors apparently gave their approbation, although the documents are not now available to us. At any rate, Casaretto set out to see his new project on 12th June 1842, passing through Forlì, Florence, Livorno and Genoa. This last would be the scene of a particularly important meeting between him and the then General of the Jesuits, Fr Johannes Roothaan, who from that point on held a high opinion of him and supported him in various ways The Archbishop of Genoa, possibly influenced by the General's approval, gave his consent to the new foundation and Casaretto made his way to the Minister for External Affairs of the Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia, Count Solaro della Margherita, and eventually, to King Charles Albert himself, who gladly gave his approval, monastic reform in his realm being very much according to his wishes. Soon the necessary rescripts from the Sacred Congregation for Bishops and Religious and the Abbot President were obtained and, on 20th January 1843, Casaretto and the ex-novice master of Subiaco, D. Raffaele Testa having only a few coins in their pockets, arrived at Pegli, to take possession of the parish and monastery, and were received warmly by the local populace.
On 25th January, the "primitive observance" began. +PAX
From The Oblatemaster’s Desk :- As for the exorcism of individual souls so it is one could say by transference and extension and by analogy of whole societies and peoples and of the present ills of society and of humanity as a whole. The Church as a whole as it is in heaven is perfect and perfected, while on earth it is wounded, striving and imperfect. Even as wounded and imperfect it must strive against the ills of the time especially in their institutionalised forms—like attempts to pervert law, to destroy innocent life, or destroy and pervert marriage as the basis of society.
As with individual exorcisms so predictably (though it surprises some) when the Church confronts institutionalised evil, like rebuking the attempted perversion of law (law of course cannot be perverted—a false or unjust law, as Tertullian said, is not a law)—When the Church rebukes the perversion of law then predictably the devil replies in a parallel fashion except now the devil has a slightly larger armoury than with an individual exorcism. The devil can cast up institutionalised imperfections and failures of the Church at large and in addition each and all the sins of any of the "faithful" individually or taken together. Only the Church in heaven, the Sacraments and prayer can stand against this. Only Christ can stand against this vastly improved armoury. We see the truth of this in our own country today as the Church confronts the falsification of law on marriage and the devil replies not only by attacks on the Body of Christ of the Church as a whole but through the sins and failures of each of the faithful singling out of course the most heinous. Nevertheless this proves that the Church as “exorcist” of society like the exorcist of the individual, is doing her God-given job, to advance the Kingdom of God.
The Church should not expect peace on earth while she strives for perfection however seemingly ineffectually. If the Church on earth enjoyed peace it would be because she had given up the struggle and ceased to be the Church.
Even the devout and quiet and assiduous seeking of God apart from the world necessarily involves this spiritual warfare and confrontation of the powers and principalities on high
We are recently returned from our heaven-blessed, Oblate pilgrimage to Caldey Island in Wales where our monastic community began its pilgrimage. There you find a beautiful island and beautiful Abbey and ideal setting for contemplative peace. This peace our forebears gave up.
A hundred years ago was the fateful meeting where most of the Caldey community decided to become Catholics which led to their loss of the peace of the contemplative haven of their Abbey on Caldey Island ,that Abbey and Island that had cost them such effort to establish!
in the 100th anniversary of their sacrifice in response to God’s
call, a sacrifice that has given our brethren at Prinknash their peace and
given us our peace here at Pluscarden. Their warfare has given us our peace.
Their entrance by the narrow door has led us into our way at Pluscarden.
Or again there is the present-day story of the 12 sisters who were Anglicans until recently and temporarily housed at Ryde Abbey, Isle of Wight after “converting” to the Ordinariate. They too have chosen the stormy, "Caldey path" to peace, the narrow door to the way which still continues bravely on in hope as they have just left Ryde Abbey for their new home in Birmingham.
Yes my dear sisters and brothers let us not be fair-weather sailors or again to change the image, as soldiers of Christ let us not be surprised when the bullets fly! ( Alarmed, perhaps! Surprised, no!) If all were quiet for us on the Western spiritual front then as disciples of Christ we should have to be worried and ask ourselves in consternation, “Have I entered into God’s peace and entered by the narrow door or entered into the false peace of surrender to the world?" St John Chrysostom ( September 13th) stood out for the truth and died in exile.—In the words of prayer we plead “Graciously sustain us that in all things we may please You, Lord and not the world!” AMEN. May the Lord grant that it may be so!
Announcement: There is to be a weekend OBLATE RETREAT at Pluscarden, probably next Lent. Please let me know as soon as possible if you are interested 2014.
Prayer Intentions :- For Abbot Anselm's and Bishop Hugh's intentions. For vocations at Pluscarden. For Br. Ben our new pre-postulant. For Br. Martin Junior here for his studies from Kristo Buase, Br. Finber. health. St Mary's, Petersham & Kristo Buase. For the repose of thec souls of Fr. Amrose’s mother, Mary Flavell, and of Oblate Jean Boylan.Br Gabriel’s mother and Fr. Dunstan’s parents, failing . Our new Oblates: John Ignatius of Loyola Wilson & Georgina Mary McKillop Quinn. We pray for the new Dominican Sisters in Elgin. Please pray for sick Oblates especially for Sarah Drever’s husband Leslie, Brigitte Mackay awaiting heart surgery, Mrs Maggie Barrett recovering from heart surgery, Paul Miller 90's and hernia, Margaret Rawcliffe, Mrs. Gertrude Corker’s two daughters, for Bob Barr, Brian Milne, Mary Buist, Gail Schmitz and her son Julian, recovering from kidney transplants, Maurice Dufficy, Mary Bradley, Graham Dunbar, Pauline Reid, Beth Fraser & her husband Chris, Marie Claire Hérnandez, Bob Clark(poorly), Nick Macrae’s son, Martin Macrae and wife Sharon, kidney transplants, Dr.David Paterson & his wife Angela, Jacqui’s daughter, Sally, Deacon William Joss, Poppy Sinclair, Ian Brodie, Carolyn Boardman & son Malcolm, Val Farrelly, David Braine, philosopher, Susan Stephen and all friends of the Abbey and for all oblates, friends and all the sick, and those who care for them.
Ugandan Seminarian appeal for Sponsors.
The Oblates currently sponsor two Ugandan Seminarians for the Priesthood. The first Seminarian, Dominic, is in his third of four years at the Junior Seminary. His funding is secure for 2014 and into the future as the Oblates have committed to sponsor him.
The second Seminarian, Josaphat, has funding only up until the end of 2013. It is hoped that in January 2014 he will go to the Major Seminary for 3 years of Philosophy & Theology. Presently there is limited funding for Josaphat thanks to further sponsorship.
I am therefore repeating my appeal for further sponsors for 20 year old Josaphat for 2014 and onwards in the form of “one off donations” or preferably small monthly standing orders. Please also remember them both in your prayers.
For further detail or clarification please contact me, Paul Costello at:-
4, Commercial Road, Ellon, Aberdeenshire AB41 9BD.
Phone: - 01358-721512 or Mobile:- 07762-432080
Events ----- There is to be another pilgrimage for the 100th Anniversaryof the Conversion on Caldey next month,16th -19th October ( 18th is St Luke the "Homecoming" day!)-- this time a monastic pilgrimage-- please pray for the success of this. Some of you contributed for a stone statue gift for the Abbey there. It is to be of St Aelred of Rievaulx ( Cistercian & hero of the Caldey monks) and it will probably be handed over then (if it is ready!)Abbot Anselm will be there, please God.
The Next Oblate Congress near Rome is October 10th to the 14th 2013. UK monasteries have been allocated 13 places at the World Congress of Oblates in Rome 10-14 October 2013 where the theme is “'Obsculta' ( first word of the Rule) - the Oblate listening in the World”. Martin Gardner and Jim Bradley are representing Pluscarden. Thank you both.
BOOKS and Media :- The community magazine Pluscarden Benedictines: Contact The Editor Fr. Bede to go on the mailing list at the Abbey.--£5. Caldey DVD-donation to Pluscarden, as before please & apply for your copy from Martin Gardner, firstname.lastname@example.org. Post:- Dunmoir, 18, Gurney St., Stonehaven,AB39 2EB.
"The Caldey Conversion"--A contemporary Chronicle. Pluscarden Publications--£6 +p.and p. from our bookshop. Original sources- highly recommended.
Highly recommended: books by Fr. Aelred Baker, the expert who knew 6 of the original community "The Flood-Gates of Memory"--The life of Abbot Aelred Carlyle and Community.--THe Eyre Press--Leatherhead. "All those Years in Exile"--The Life of Abbot Aelred Carlyle and his Community" " Abbot Aelred Carlyle"--The Diffiicuties in Writing his Life. "From Poverty to Prinknash" --A History of the Community at Prinknash Part !: 1896-1913. Some of these may be available from Prinknash Abbey.
All the books by Peter Anson too may be recommnended (who was "there")-- but some are acknowledged to lack balance.
"Abbot Aelred Carlyle, Caldey Island, and the Anglo-Catholic Revival in England" by American monk Rene Kollar--Published by Peter Lang ISBN 0-8204-2469-2--quite a good bibloigraphy-- but not as close to the sources as the above.
Meetings of Oblate Groups:-
St. Peter’s Chapter Aberdeen. St.Peter’s Chapter Oblates Group Having a sabbatical while Brian Milne recovers his health ---please pray).
St Mary’s Chapter Dundee. Dates as announced, at St. Mary’s High Street, Lochee, Dundee. -------information from St Mary’s
St.Margaret’s Chapter Dunfermline..Pat Carrigan email@example.com
St. Monica’s Chapter, Thurso. Contact Jane Coll. "Scaraben”, Westside, Dunnet, Thurso, Caithness, KY14 8YD. Phone 01847 851467
St Mungo’s Chapter Glasgow. As announced. Peter Aitken 11, Maxwell Grove, Glasgow. G41 5JP. Phone:0141 4272084.
INTERMONASTIC EXCHANGE PRINKNASH/PLUSCARDEN 12 -14 JULY 2014 (draft)
Time? Oblates arrive where Collection by Stephen/Pam?
11ish Oblates arrive at Brownshill and settle in
12.30pm Lunch at Brownshill
2pm Minibus leaves Brownshill for Gloucester Cathedral
2.55pm Meet Frs Stephen and Martin McC outside Cathedral
3pm Tour of Gloucester Cathedral
Minibus returns to Brownshill
6pm Vespers at Brownshill
6.30pm Supper at Brownshill
9.00am Minibus leaves Brownshill for Prinknash
10.30am Conventual Mass/Oblate Annual Gathering
12.40pm Buffet Lunch in the Monastic Refectory/garden
4.30pm Vespers and Benediction
5pm Return to Brownshill
8.20am Terce followed by Mass
10.00am Farewell Brownshill
Minibus to Prinknash
12.30pm Mid-day Office
Lunch in Conference Centre
2.30pm Presentation in Conference Centre by Frs Martin/Stephen followed by presentation by Pluscarden Oblates
4.45pm Minibus leaves Prinknash?
Time Farewell ….
Booking form Send to: Mrs. Pamela Morey, 6, Cotteswold House, Gloucester St., CIRENCESTER, GL7 2DC
----------------------(Cut and send or copy/photocopy and send please)------------Name ………………………………………………………
E.mail address …………………………………………
Tel. Number ……………………………………………
I wish to occupy a single room …………………
I wish to share a twin bedded room with ………………………………………………………………
I shall be arriving at: Birmingham Airport/Gloucester Railway Station/Gloucester Bus Station
The suggested offering for the weekend accommodation at Brownshill Monastery
Brownshill has 14 rooms :
5 are twin bedded
Please cut, copy or photocopy & return
RENEWAL OF OBLATION OR INTENTION TO MAKE FINAL OBLATION AUTUMN 2013Oblates normally renew their promises on or about 21 November, the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady. Please indicate your desire to continue living according to the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict, in union with the monastic family of Pluscarden Abbey, by signing this form and returning it to the Oblate Master, Pluscarden Abbey.Delete as appropriate
(Either)For Oblates ( delete part 2) parts 1 and 3(Friends simple delete all of parts 1 and 2!--go to part 3. please)
1."Peace. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I renew my oblation and I offer myself to Almighty God, as an Oblate of the monastery of Our Lady and St John the Baptist, in the valley of St Andrew at Pluscarden. I promise, before God and all the saints, the conversion of my life, in the spirit of the Rule of our holy Father St. Benedict, according to the statutes of the oblates, and in union with the Pluscarden community.”or For postulant or novice Oblates delete part 1. & fill in 2 and 3 , please
2."I desire and intend to make my final oblation, offering myself to God according to the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict, in union with the monastic community at Pluscarden."
3. SIGNED: -----------------------------------------------------------DATE----------------------------------BLOCK CAPITALS(surname)-------------------------------(Christian name)-----------------------------ADDRESS-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------TOWN--------------------------------------POSTCODE---------------------------------- PHONE----------------------------------------------------------MOBILE-----------------------------EMAIL----------------------------@-------------------------
LOVE and BLESSINGS.,
MAY THE LORD FILL OUR AUTUMN WITH THANKFULNESS!
YOURS IN CHRIST and SPNB,