Notre Dame Priory

A Monastery in the Benedictine Tradition dedicated to Our Lady of Cana

Fiat, from Annunciation to Calvary

According to Tradition, 25 March is both the beginning and the end of the earthly existence of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Conceived on this day in the immaculate womb of Mary, He also expired on the cross on Good Friday some 33 years later (that's why it's also the feast day today of the good thief, St Dysmas).

It is no accident. The Word became flesh in order to redeem us, and that redemption goes through the cross. From the very beginning of His pilgrimage on earth, the Lord Jesus says to His Father, "Sacrifice and oblation Thou willest not, but a body Thou hast formed for me" (Ps. 39), and it is through that sacred Body that we are saved.

Our Lady pronounced her fiat at the Annunciation, but she pronounces it again on Calvary, accepting her mission, and all it entails for her. I was privileged to make my solemn monastic profession on this day 28 years ago. That year 1989, it was Holy Saturday, and so my solemn vows were pronounced during the paschal Vigil. That ceremony marked me for life, for it impressed on me that it is only by dying that we shall rise to new life, and that Mary is there at every step, teaching me to say unceasingly "Fiat".

Scienter nescius et sapienter indoctus.

Today is for all Benedictine monks and nuns around the world a day of joy and celebration, it being the “transitus” or passing of our holy Father St Benedict to the joys of Heaven. Standing in the oratory, surrounded by his brethren, having received the Sacred Body of His Lord, St Benedict gave back his pure soul to God and was received by the choirs of angels into the reward he had merited by a life of prayer and labour for God. 

Among the many gems to be found in St Gregory the Great’s life and miracles of St Benedict, there is the expression placed as the title of this post. St Gregory, explaining that the young Benedict, who was about to embark upon a career of learning in the Roman schools, pulled back, and preferred to go and hide himself in solitude in order to live for God alone. He gave up the education he could so easily have had, and preferred to remain “scienter nescius et sapienter indoctus” - “knowingly ignorant and wisely uninstructed”. The holy pope is referring to the worldly knowledge Benedict willingly left behind in favour of the Divine Wisdom which would be abundantly poured out upon him in solitude. 

In reference to this, Pope Benedict XVI, just days before his election as pope, in what is called the “Subiaco Address”, pointed out that Benedict was given the grace to save and transform civilisation by doing what would seem to be totally irrelevant. In the same way, it is precisely men of the same kind the we need today as we stand and look at the fast-dissipating remains of what used to be western culture. The then Cardinal Ratzinger said: 

“We need men whose intellects are enlightened by the light of God and whose hearts God opens, so that their intellects can speak to the intellects of others, and so that their hearts are able to open up to the hearts of others. Only through men who have been touched by God, can God come near to men. We need men like Benedict of Norcia, who at a time of dissipation and decadence, plunged into the most profound solitude, succeeding, after all the purifications he had to suffer, to ascend again to the light, to return and to found Montecassino, the city on the mountain that, with so many ruins, gathered together the forces from which a new world was formed. In this way Benedict, like Abraham, became the father of many nations. The recommendations to his monks presented at the end of his Rule are guidelines that show us also the way that leads on high, beyond the crisis and the ruins” (1 April 2005).

On this feast, let us pray that more men and women will come to value the hidden life of prayer and work that forms the mind and the heart and prepares the soul to be open to God’s merciful ways for humanity. Let us pray that our humble beginnings in Tasmania may take root and become a haven of peace for many souls in search of the absolute.

Our Holy Father St Benedict, pray for us!

From the Isle of St Joseph

As Fr Julian Tennyson Woods called it, Tasmania is the “Isle of St Joseph”. An extra reason for us, who have St Joseph as secondary patron of the Priory of which his Immaculate Spouse is the principal patroness, to invoke this extraordinary man on his feast day. From my 32 years at St Joseph Abbey in Flavigny, and especially through its founder, Dom Augustin Marie Joly (+2006), I received a very special devotion to this saint who was chosen by God to be both the guardian of Mary and the protector and provider for His own Eternal Son Incarnate. St Joseph is one of those saints whose grandeur should make you feel dizzy; a giant of sanctity whom one approaches with awe; the only man on earth Mary Immaculate could trust with her virginity to the point of becoming his wife, and knowing the he shared in her esteem for chastity, having made a vow himself; the only man on earth the Son of God looked up to and called “Papa”.

But at the same time, St Joseph is one of the saints in whose company you do not feel out of place, like you do when you get invited to a banquet with all sorts of celebrities. No, St Joseph is so humble, so gentle, so paternal, that when you enter his presence, you feel loved, respected, cared for. You just know that whatever you might have on your mind and heart, whatever it is you wish to ask for, he will receive the petition with open ears and open heart. Over the years, I have asked many things of St Joseph. Here at Notre Dame Priory we recite daily the following prayer composed by St Francis de Sales:

Glorious St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary, grant us, we beseech thee, thy paternal protection, through the Heart of Jesus Christ. O Thou whose infinite power reaches out to all our needs, rendering possible for us that which is impossible, look upon the concerns of thy children with thy fatherly countenance. In the troubles and sorrows that afflict us, we have confident recourse to thee. Deign to take under thy loving protection this important and difficult endeavor, the cause of our worries, and dispose its success to the glory of God and to the benefit of His faithful servants. Amen.

I have also been in the custom each year of asking St Joseph for some very special favours on his feast day, ever since I read about St Teresa of Avila affirming that whenever she asked him for anything on his feast day, he always came through. With her, I can say that St Joseph listens to prayers, and he grants them. So let us go with confidence to him on this great day, entrusting to him the great intentions of the world and the Church, but also all our particular intentions. 

I would ask that you keep in your prayers to him this very important and difficult task of finding the place to establish our monastery. At the same time, I assure you that the monks in formation here will be praying for you and your intentions through the intercession of our great and beloved St Joseph.

Happy Feast of St Joseph to All! Go to Joseph!