Monastic Life as "a Constant Search for God"

Benedictine Abbot Primate on the 1st Centenary of Douai Abbey in England

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PORTSMOUTH, England, JULY 3, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A key principle of monastic life is to see in the brethren of the community people who share the same constant search for God, says the abbot primate of the Benedictine Confederation.



Benedictine Father Notker Wolf gave an overall description of monastic life at Douai Abbey in Woolhampton, Portsmouth Diocese, when opening the celebrations of the first centenary of the community's presence in England.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster and Catholic primate of England and Wales, presided over a solemn Mass, attended by 500 faithful.

In his homily, Abbot Wolf said that there are periods of exhaustion in the pilgrimage of the People of God, of each monk and each nun.

"They have their doubts, and from time to time have to search once more for their true identity," he added. "St. Benedict describes the monastic way as a constant search for God. God is always greater than our imagination. We have never caught up with him and we can never possess him."

Hence, the "journey with God is an exciting adventure," he said. "At first we feel called by God and attracted by him. We grow in our vocation and get the impression that God has gripped us and will never let us go. We want to withdraw from him in order to escape his grasp. But he loves us too much to allow us to fall. He holds us fast, challenges us.

"Strangely, this is also the way toward becoming an ever-freer human person. Increasingly, we become able to see and understand our monastic brothers and sisters in the light of this wrestling. They are people who are on the same journey as I am. I recognize God's love in them, God's love working in them."

"And we can see and meet other people outside the monastery in this way," the abbot added. "We become able to see people as God sees them, and not filtered through ourselves and our prejudices."

A monastery is not paradise, he said. Rather, it is "a community of men or women who are fascinated by Jesus Christ and his Gospel" and try to live "this fascination as interpreted by the Rule of Benedict."

The Douai community was founded in Paris about four centuries ago. It sent missionaries to England to preserve and spread the faith.

Dispersed by the French Revolution, the community was refounded at Douai, in northern France, two centuries ago. The community had to move once again, in 1903, and sought refuge at Woolhampton.

Douai Abbey has published a commemorative volume on the history of the community as well as a CD. More details are at www.douaiabbey.org.uk.