Men and women following their call to Monastic life today need the support and guidance of monks and nuns who are skilled in spiritual accompaniment and vocation discernment.
To this end, an initiative was proposed by the Benedictine Abbots’ Congress and approved by the Benedictine Primate and Cistercian (OCSO) Abbot General to set up a course to facilitate formators in monastic communities who follow St Benedict’s Rule.
In 2002 the Monastic Formators’ Programme (MFP) was established, directed by Fr Brendan Thomas OSB of Belmont Abbey, England and assisted by Fr Mark Butlin OSB of Ampleforth Abbey, England.
The programme, based in Rome and Assisi, Italy from March to June, is being attended this year by Sr Sarah of Glencairn Abbey.
The aim of the course, with invited speakers from both monastic backgrounds and varying disciplines and fields of expertise relating to formation, is to deepen our appreciation of the monastic tradition and its values to transmit effectively the treasures of our Benedictine tradition to new generations of monks and nuns.
In addition to input on a range of subjects given by important monastic teachers and guides of today, participants have the opportunity to visit on pilgrimage some of the key sites relevant to St Benedict and to the Christian and monastic tradition here in Rome, Assisi and surrounding areas.
A week of excellent lectures on the Rule of St Benedict given by Sr Acquinata Bockmann OSB, a foremost scholar on the Rule today, helped us to deepen our understanding of the period in which St Benedict lived and composed his Rule in the 6th century.
Midway through these lectures on the Rule, we spent a memorable day at Subiaco, near Rome, where St Benedict lived out his early years in these beautiful hills in his initial search for God. Here, many gradually sought his spiritual guidance and leadership. The constant showers of rain that fell throughout this chilly day reminded us of the demanding conditions that Benedict was exposed to in his monastic solitude in Subiaco!
We were privileged to celebrate Mass as a group beside the Sacro Speco, the holy cave venerated by pilgrims for hundreds of years as the site where Benedict first embraced the monastic way. We also traced Benedict’s journey to the site of his monastery at Montecassino where he concluded the writing of his Rule For Monasteries and spent his last days. Here we spent a lovely day in the company of the Benedictine community who reside there.
Halfway through the programme, the group will leave Rome and take up residence north of Rome in Assisi for the remainder of the experience where sessions and study continue.
Photo: Sr Acquinata Bockmann OSB with Fr Brendan Thomas OSB, director of the Monastic Formators’ Programme.