For the past 60 years, Nov. 21 has been set aside as a day of remembrance for those men and women who have answered the call to the contemplative life.
One of the final events of the Year of Faith, Pope Francis today celebrated the Day for the Contemplative Life – also known as Pro Orantibus Day – by paying a visit to the Camaldolese Monastery of Sant’Antonio Abate, located on the Aventine hill in Rome, which is home to a community of contemplative Benedictine nuns. The Holy Father led the community in Vespers, before joining them in Eucharistic Adoration.
During his visit, the Pope was led to the cell of Sister Nazarena of Jesus, an American-born Camaldolese nun, who passed away in 1990 at the age of 82. Born Julia Crotta in Glastonbury, Connecticut, she spent forty-five years in the tiny space where she lived as a recluse, participating in Mass through a grille in her room, and receiving only one visitor a year.
Fr. Geno Sylva, an official for the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangalization, told ZENIT that this year’s celebration of Pro Orantibus day is significant. “Throughout the Year of Faith, [we wanted] to demonstrate that prayer and action are both essential for the mission of the New Evangelization, and how thankful we are for the women and men who really, every day, offer their prayers for the world and for the Church,” he said.
Pro Orantibus Day, said Fr. Sylva, was instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1953 “to remember all those who have followed the call to the contemplative life.”
“It’s a beautiful opportunity to remember the women and men who have chosen to answer God’s call to that very special and unique vocation of prayer for the Church and for the world,” he said.
The Pope was welcomed at the convent this evening by Sister Michela Porcellato and introduced to 21 nuns of the community. He then presided at the celebration of Vespers according to the Camaldolese rule, followed by a moment of Eucharistic adoration and shared a meditation.
At the end of Vespers, the Pope met with the community of nuns in the Chapter House before returning to the Vatican.