Rorate Caeli

Appeal! Please Help a Group of Traditional Monks in France acquire their permanent Home

Readers may know of the Monastère Saint-Benoît, a small Benedictine monastery in Provence in the South East of France in the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon founded in 2011, of traditional, classic monastic observance which celebrates the older forms of the Roman and monastic rites – including, with permission, the pre-1955 Holy Week rites. Later this month Bishop Rey will confer the minor orders of Exorcist and Acolyte on one on the junior monks in formation.

The monastery is an international English-speaking community and with a good number of vocation enquiries from young men around the world and is the home of the Sacra Liturgia initiatives. In recent years its annual liturgical summer school has welcomed Cardinal Burke, Bishop Schnieder, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, etc. As its latest newsletter details, Cardinal Sarah visited the monastery for a weekend last September and celebrated a beautiful pontifical Mass according to the traditional rites.

The monastery is currently housed in a rectory in a tourist village with practically no land to work, little room for growth in the community or to accommodate the increasing number of guests who wish to come and share in the monks’ life of prayer and work, particularly in the numbers who wish to do so for Holy Week and in the summer. In an age when there are many large monasteries without monks, they, ironically, are monks without a monastery as it were. Uniquely in France, the Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon has filled his diocese with communities so that there are no unused, empty ecclesial buildings available.

By God’s Providence the monks have the opportunity to purchase and restore a truly medieval set of monastic buildings set on approximately 100 acres of woodland that are in the diocese. Originally an 11th century chapel of the Abbey of St Victor in Marseille dedicated to Saint Christopher, the Knights Templar established the site as a Commandery and pilgrim hostel in the 12th century. Following the Templar’s suppression, the Commandery was in the care of the Knights of Malta for some four centuries before the property was lost to the Church at the French Revolution. It has been privately owned since and at one point used as a farm. The present owner has begun the restoration of the property including its eleventh century Romanesque chapel and twelfth century refectory, but because of advancing age he now wishes to sell to owners who will continue his work. The monks, with the blessing of their bishop, wish to restore these buildings and lands to the monastic use and Christian worship for which they were built after more than two centuries of disuse.

The monks work and pray hard, but in worldly terms that doesn’t pay. So they need financial help in realising this project. It is, of course, a very traditional act to endow a monastery and give it the means necessary to establish itself: it’s how monasteries were always founded. It is a great act of faith and to provide what is necessary to enable monks to rise in the night (as they do at 3.30 each morning) to pray for the Church and the world – and especially for their benefactors – and to continue to so throughout the other seven canonical hours of prayer each day.

The monastery has a USA 501c3 non-profit Foundation, a UK Registered Charity and a French Association which give donors the respective tax receipts and benefits. Donations can also be made through PayPal, Just Giving or directly by bank transfer. Details can be found on the monastery’s website. There is also a Facebook fundraiser which people can use (USA contributors will receive their 501c3 tax receipt through this). The monks have issued an Advent challenge to all its friends to donate 10 $ £ € or 10 units of their currency to the Appeal. If all our readers can do even just that the appeal will be successful.

The monks ask that donors record their name and the names of any persons in whose memory donations are made. All of these names will be included in the list of benefactors to be enclosed in the new altar of the chapel so as to be included in all the monastic offices and Masses offered therein.

Another way of supporting the monks is by purchasing their publication of Benedictiones Mensae, the traditional Latin prayers for before and after meals, newly typeset with Gregorian chant and the proper prayers for Christmas, Epiphany, Holy Week, Easter, etc.

The full appeal brochure is available on the news page of the website and can be downloaded  here.The ory of the property is available here. The monks are happy to hear from prospective benefactors and to discuss the project. They can be contacted here.

At a time when so much news in the Church is less than edifying, the life and growth of this faithful monastery is a sign of hope in our times. In this season of giving, please consider supporting this beautiful project so that, as the monks’ appeal brochure says, these buildings, in which the voice of prayer was abruptly and violently silenced by the French Revolution, “may be filled anew with the Glory of the Lord.”

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