The Benedictines constitute a fraternal union of monasteries. Each community is autonomous. It embraces 8,000 religious, in 346 houses and convents.
Q: We are very close to Easter. What provisions in particular does the Rule of St. Benedict make for this time?
Abbot Wolf: St. Benedict stresses that Lent is the time of hope in the Resurrection; hence, for him all our life is a Lent. However, in this Lenten period, we must have a special discipline of self-denial to prepare for Easter.
St. Benedict gives the instruction that the monk submit himself to the abbot to be stripped of all forms of pride and self-complacency, to prepare himself for the Lord, and to not be shut in on himself. So this time of the year makes us enter instead into a spiritual dimension, and not so ascetic in the strict sense.
Q: Benedictines are born to pray and work — difficult topics today when very often work is everything and prayer is often not harmonized with daily options. How do you see it?
Abbot Wolf: There are three elements for St. Benedict: prayer, study and manual work. I know many people who set time aside at the beginning of the day to reflect on the way to go forward and later, at the end of the day, to see how they fared. It is a way of placing oneself before God that is more important than the recitation of any prayer.
For us Benedictines, prayer, work and study are part of the balance of our day: Society also needs balance, something that is not easy. It responds to the need to place God at the center. But there is more to it: The time for God is a time that we give to ourselves. Prayer, more than a cry to God, is a being with God, a gift that we give ourselves.
Q: Is your confederation planning to open new monasteries?
Abbot Wolf: The government in China knows very well that we are prepared to collaborate to establish male monasticism because, to date, it has not been permitted. However, the key issue is that, if the Church is taken seriously, then the male presence is also required in consecrated life. And this request applies to all.