Building upon the old foundations
In an 1849 discourse on the Catholic mission, John Henry Cardinal Newman reminded us to “build upon the old foundations and you are safe: begin nothing new, make no experiments … lest in old age you bring your Mother (the Church) to shame.” Although Newman was not a Benedictine, here he articulates a principle dear to the monk’s heart: faithfulness to one’s history is assurance of stability for the future.
As the walls of the new monastery grow on the very same footprint of the old monastery, albeit with some new anti-earthquake technology, we try wherever possible to give deference to what came before. Are we so sure the friars who inhabited this land centuries ago were wrong about where to put the refectory and kitchen? Let us try it the old way first and see. How can we judge correctly without trying it?
That same spirit of reverence for the past helped us return to our annual visit to the Benedictine nuns of Norcia, following in the footsteps of our founder. You may recall the story of the time the holy twins, St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, were together one evening, and their visit was prolonged by rain. While for us there was not a cloud in sight, good cheer, good pizza and good beer (Nursia!) kept us together after a long pandemic pause.
We know many of you are still suffering with the ongoing material and spiritual effects of the pandemic. All of us can see that the world and the Church are in the midst of great trials. May the enclosed photos which bring the good news of the priestly ordinations of Dom Augustine Wilmeth (from South Carolina) and Dom Bernard Baca (from Louisiana), offer you some consolation and joy.
Dom Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B.