Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I am in England right now to assist at two 'canonical visitations'. These visitations are legislated by the Constitutions of the Subiaco Congregation, to which the Monastery of the Holy Cross belongs. During the visitation, the Abbot Visitor (an elected office, presently held by Fr. Anselm Atkinson of Petersham, Mass.) and the co-visitor (presently yours truly) meet with each brother at another monastery of our province. We hear their vision for the monastic life and the particular house they are in, we hear their concerns, and we attempt to draw up a report that will strengthen our brothers in their efforts to follow Christ in the monastery.

The Monastery of the Holy Cross had its visitation this past August. It was an upbuilding time for us, and I hope that I can return the favor by assisting here at St. Michael's and next week at Prinknash Abbey in Gloucester, England.

We have finished the interviews, save for one with a brother whose age and health have made it necessary for him to live outside the cloister with professional assistance. Also a part of the visitation is the reading of the community's Chapter minutes and votes and the financial reports. All of this could sound rather intrusive and controlling. In fact, the visitors have a very limited canonical power; I can say with real assurance that the goal is nothing of the centralizing sort that might be envisioned, say by the Apostolic visitations of American seminaries and Mother Angelica's monastery a few years ago (I don't believe these are meant to be assertive of Roman control, either, though they tend to have more of that feeling, since Rome has more authority than either Abbot Anselm or I). I just finished an hour's visit with the Bursar of St. Michael's, discussing the ins and outs of financing not-for-profit ventures such as ours, including the tricky points of insuring priceless objects (their vestment collection here is eye-popping!) adn how to draw up a realistic balance sheet for public records. With my limits accounting ability, I was actually able to suggest some changes to the reporting scheme they presently have, and he was able to advise me similarly.

There are cases when visitations reveal real abuses and irregularities, but how much better to have friendly advice on a regular schedule than to wait for potential scandal to erupt! It is a real privilege to be a part of this, and a joy to be a part of a monastic confederation that has such helpful tools for building up our common life.

Peace be to you all!


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the UK.

I hope you have a blessed time and achieve all God intended for your trip.

In Jesus,
Maria Toth (a 6 day old blogger)

Joee Blogs said...

Who does say the Benedictine "nuns" of Erie's visitation Fr Prior? I'm just curious because if anyone with half a brain visited they'd say the abuses of the Rule etc. I understand there's vending machines installed in Erie :D


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