French Monasteries Drawing More Visitors

Many “Need Silence” to Seek God, Paper Reports

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PARIS, JULY 26, 2001 ( More visitors are flocking to monasteries and convents, in search of silence and contact with God, a French newspaper discovered.

La Croix contacted 322 monasteries and convents throughout France during its research. It found that the number of visits lasting several days and the number of group retreats are increasing. The number of individual retreats remains stable.

The Benedictine Monastery of En Calcat receives 60,000 visitors a year, of whom 4,000 participate in spiritual retreats lasting more than a day. The Beu-Hellouin Monastery receives 40,000 visitors, and 8,000 retreatants.

Among the Cistercians, the Abbey of Tamie receives 20,000 visitors, 4,000 of whom stay for retreats. The Great Certosa of Isere has 70,000 visitors a year.

Among the women religious, the 60 Benedictines of Pradinex in the Loire receive 10,000 visitors, and 3,000 for retreats; and the Benedictines of Jouarre, in the Paris region, received 20,000 visitors and 3,000 retreatants.

According to the religious in monasteries and convents interviewed by La Croix, people “need silence” and they need “to seek God.” Some nuns commented on the “religious ignorance” of many who go to these spiritual places.

The data also reveal that many who visit convents and monasteries are from other religions, and that many returned to Catholicism after having had a negative experience with sects.

In connection with the latter, Father Jacques of the Abbey of Landovennec said that many are “ruined” and “rootless” people. The experience of “great freedom” lived in convents is a good way to help them recover a life of faith, he said.

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