Celebrating the 125th Jubilee of the Benedictine Confederation, Pope Francis addressed Abbot Primate Gregory Polan, Fr. Prior Mauritius Wilde and other Benedictines, expressing his gratitude “for the important contribution that the Benedictines have made to the life of the Church, in every part of the world, for almost fifteen hundred years.”
Sant’ Anselmo, the seat of the Benedictine Confederation, is the home of the Abbot Primate and eighty monks from over thirty countries around the world. It was a thrill for me to visit Fr. Mauritius Wilde, Prior of Sant’ Anselmo, for a tour of the academic center, prayers with the monks, and a formal address for the Fourth International Oblate Congress. It was Pope Leo XIII, Fr. Mauritius shared, who said, “You Benedictines need a place in Rome. He saw two things: he certainly saw it was difficult for him to control us Benedictines, so he wanted to have a representative in Rome and he created the office of the Abbott Primate, the highest representative of all Benedictines.”
On April 18, 1893, the first stone of Sant’Anselmo was laid on the Aventine Hill. “In this celebration of the Jubilee of the Benedictine Confederation we wish to recall the commitment of Pope Leo XIII, who in 1893 wanted to unite all the Benedictines by founding a common house of study and prayer, here in Rome”, Pope Francis said. On July 12, 1893, Pope Leo XIII officially established the Benedictine Confederation.
Pope Francis recognizes the various gifts of Benedictine spirituality, especially its motto “ora et labora,” prayer and work, and also study. An important part of prayer and listening to God is the practice of Lectio Divina. He states, “In our era, when people are so busy that they have no time to listen to God, your monasteries and convents become oases, where men and women of all ages, backgrounds, cultures or religions can discover the beauty of silence and rediscover themselves, in harmony with creation, allowing God to restore proper order in their lives. This makes it possible for God to bring a right order into their lives again.” Hospitality, St. Benedict’s instruction to, “let all guests who arrive be received like Christ”, the Benedictine charism of receiving strangers, Pope Francis stated, “is quite important for the new evangelization … There is no conflict between a contemplative life and service to others.”
The Pope also praised the commitment of the Benedictines in ecumenism, interfaith dialogue and education. Finally, he notes the principal of stability, “is also important for people who come to look for you. Christ is present in this encounter: He is present in the monk, in the pilgrim, in the needy.”
It is through the monastery and St. Benedict Center that I learned about the 1500-year-old Benedictine principals of stability, hospitality, obedience, conversion of life, and prayer. I am eternally grateful for the good prayer and work of the Benedictine monks, sisters, authors, and oblates that I walk this journey with. I believe as Pope Leo XIII said, “The more difficult the times are, the more we must reach our hands out to the Orders, both old and new, because all are necessary, in the north as in the south, in the East as in the West. […] For what concerns the Benedictine Order, the sap of this old trunk is not dried up. You will have proof of this.”
For more information and original sources:
Audience with the Monks of the Benedictine Confederation, 19.04.2018, Holy See Press Office