THE THREE ANCIENT mainstays of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Needless to say there is a dizzying array of worthy objects of your almsgiving attention. Some are more obvious than others; some suffer for their lack of, for want of a better phrase, instant gratification.
One of the less obvious objects for almsgiving is a religious house or order. It used not to be so. Monasteries and convents used to be a standard target for benefactions, often to support a liturgical devotion for which monasteries were particularly well suited. The Reformation struck a grievous blow to that wholesome, if occasionally abused, tradition. Secularisation of western society has landed a second blow. Benefactions, legacies and donations are just not as common as they used to be.
In the midst of the gloom the monastic life is giving off small and tender new shoots. New foundations are springing up that seek to reinvigorate the monastic vine. The Benedictine life is far from dead. Some will fail; this is an historical reality. Some others will prosper: taking the right approach at the right time in the right place.
Particularly attractive to the modern mentality are those communities which, shall we say, recycle old houses. The Church has been doing this long before it was chic, mind you. Silverstream Priory, of County Meath in Ireland, is an example. A small cadre of monks has taken over a redundant Redemptorist house, and have grown steadily ever since, a community of Americans, Irish, Australians and others. Having laboured to purchase the property outright, they are now building to accommodate their increased numbers and their liturgical apostolate, which has a distinct Eucharistic focus—perpetual adoration—and a devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. They need financial assistance for their building work.
More traditional in its flavour of Benedictinism is Monastère St Benoît (MSB) in the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon in the south of France. With a particular focus on the traditional Benedictine liturgical charism, the community has been housed in a large presbytery, with the use of the parish church for their worship. The community now has a young junior and a young novice, and further growth is hampered by their restricted premises. Recently a 12th-century commandery of the Knights Templar in the area has become available. It is in habitable condition but needs work to restore it to the needs of religious life. First, of course, the brethren must purchase it.
So MSB is appealing for alms large and small to help them purchase the St Christophe commandery, near Brignoles, and then to undertake the works needed to make it into a modest and functional monastic house. They are able to receive donations in both the UK and the USA. If you want to read more about the project, the communities hopes and needs, then you can download a a brochure using the link below that gives you a great deal of information that is of interest in itself. There is also a feature on the project at the Catholic World Report.
If you can make a gift of alms, of a great or lesser size, it would be a worthy Lenten observance.
A Church without without martyrs or monks is incomprehensible. Martyrs will be provided by the world; monks need some a little more nurturing on our part. To help build a monastery is to strengthen the earthly Body of Christ. If you believe that a vigorous monastic life is a gift to all the Church please consider helping some small but already fruitful monastic saplings.