Monks Hailed for the “Art of Belonging”

Cardinal Visits Downside Abbey

BATH, England, MARCH 13, 2006 ( In today’s Europe of “believing without belonging,” where the family is fragile, monasteries teach the “art of belonging to each other,” the archbishop of Westminster told monks at Downside Abbey.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor spoke today at a Mass on the community’s patronal feast day of St. Gregory, as part of the Benedictine abbey’s 400th-anniversary celebrations.

In a society where people seek the “fruits” without the “roots,” monastic communities show by their lives that “it is the roots of our existence which need to be tended if our lives are to be joyful,” the cardinal said in his sermon in the abbey church.

He said a monastery “is not a flight from the fragility of human nature, but a way of meeting it and transforming it.”

It is a place of “mutual caring and covenant relationships” where “people learn to relate, to love others, to meet the person behind the label, to live tenderness, to communicate, to forgive, to grow in freedom and to worship together,” the cardinal said.

The cardinal praised the Rule of St. Benedict, which he described as “a rock, but not a hard place.”

He said he wished everyone could see the Church’s own rules and doctrines in the way that St. Benedict intended his: “as gentle prods to change, not weights and burdens; and as lessons in the school of love.”

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said it was “a very good time to be a monk,” to be part of “a great tradition which is a vehicle of abundant grace.”

Congratulating Downside on its anniversary, he told the monks: “Continue to make your monastery a place of joyful freedom, a sign of peace and a testament to the beauty of holiness — and we shall all be grateful.”

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